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James

(1)

This is a very interesting article, but i would offer the following obervations:

If you attach the wood gas generator to the car, thats two sets of mechanisms that have to be maintained, the engine and the generator. That will be difficult without parts, lubricants etc, provided by crude oil. Plus you have weight considerations, which will inhibit efficiency, and initial purchase and installation cost. Peronally, i wouldn't bother.

Second, You discount Hemp oil as a resource for this type of propulsion system. Surely a more profitable and sustainable biomass resource is Hemp, which will provide a new yield every year as opposed to 25 years for trees to regrow. Surely Hemp oil would remove the need for a converter to turn the wood gas into combustible gas.

If you look at any civilisation in history, if they chop down their trees, they don't last too long. Haiti is a good example of this, the damage from this earthquake would not have been as bad if trees where around to absorb the mud etc that landlides.

James

Martin

(2)

I've written my Diploma Thesis (environmental engineering) about wood gasification in Bio-to-liquid strategies.

One obervation about the use of wood as fuel:
Wood gasification uses Biomass that's rich in lignine, which doesn't decompose anaerobically, which you can't gasify or liquify easily. Wood gasification turns this biomass into something that can be handled by an internal combustion engine, and there are lots of those about.
Diversification of biomass sources can (that's not a purely technical question) help to gain energy in a more ecological way.

To the previous poster:
The gasifier has hardly any moving parts, so lubricating isn't so much of an issue there. Sides, how many kilograms of oil does your car (should you own one) use, compared to it's consumption of fuel?

Tony

(3)

This brings whole new meaning to "fire up the engine".

But I agree with James' comment. We are already chopping down our trees at an alarming rate. We need energy with a more infinite supply than either oil or wood.

Anonymous

(4)

Couple of points:

* There should be some mentioning of the possibility of carbon-negative transportation via biochar. This is fine-grained charcoal powder that is permanently sequestered from the atmosphere. http://www.biochar-international.org/

* the syn-gas could be cleaned up and split into its various components. Some of the combustible gases can be compressed. (see: http://openfarmtech.org/index.php/Compressed_Fuel_Gas ). This would eliminate some drawbacks such as the long start-up time for a woodgas car. Applications for this also exist in agriculture (syngas-powered tractor). I have talked to farmers who are promoting this idea, so that they can use their farm residue as fuel.

* the possibility of small-scale fermentation of woodgas exists. Again, this would be an application for non-mobile use. The syngas is fermented into ethanol (Coskata is commercializing this process)

* the yield of syngas from biomass can be greatly improved by making use of an external heat source (such as solar thermal or nuclear). This way, none of the syngas would have to be diverted for thermal use in keeping the reaction going.

* As will all automotive ideas, much lighter materials are possible, allowing for complete redesign of the automobile (see: Aptera)

* of relevance: http://www.gekgasifier.com/

Mike LaRosa

(5)

One of the better articles I've read on the subject. Thanks ! Only one "mistake" that I caught ("coal" monoxide). I'm glad to see Dave Nichols and Vesa in the article and of course, John. These folks have spent piles of time trying to get the word out and also present a clean and professional image with their units. I'm dissapointed that my trucks or cars or Wayne Keith's trucks didn't appear in it but then I'm not trying to market anything and my stuff is made from junk and Wayne does his bit in the southern US. I just enjoy being part of the scene and every mile I log on woodgas is a grin. I have many thousands behind me now. Regards and BBB, Mike LaRosa, Linden, Wisconsin, USA

Thornton Kay

(6)

Robin Hunt, Simon Chippendale and I built a producer gas unit using old second world war plans at Walcot Reclamation in Bath UK in the early 1970s. I was the boffin and they were the mechanics. After many hair-raising and eyebrow-singeing experiments we finally got it going, welded to chassis extensions looking very similar to your pics, I think to an old Singer or the like.

It had to be run on small blocks of wood, around 2ins or 3ins cubes, otherwise the pieces did not have a large enough surface area to generate enough gas. We tried it out on public roads, but its main disadvantage was that each time it went over a bump there was a large release of a massive bubble of gas which had nowhere to go, apart from out of an overhead relief valve which immediately lit every time it released the gas, rather like a jet engine.

The local traffic cops were bemused. They could not decide which laws we were breaking but they were certain we were. We gave up trying to work out the bumping gas release issue and the last I heard the mechanics took the car to a field, jammed the steering wheel over and the accelerator down, and shot at it until it stopped going. Who knows it might still be in a hedgrow somewhere outside Bath to this day.

Tim Auld

(7)

You might want to review your position on ethanol after digesting David Blume's material on the sustainable cropping and production of the fuel. Corn is one of the worst performing crops, but there are many others yielding in the order of 2000 gallons per acre.

Because much of the crop is not fermented (the roots) and the nutrients can be returned to the soil, it can be both carbon negative and sustainable. Many crops can be grown on marginal or arid lands, on waste streams, and without cultivation, fertiliser, herbicides or pesticides. If the US stops wasting grain on feeding ruminants, and employs much more productive, ecology based production systems such as permaculture, there won't be a shortage of arable land.

Ethanol burns cleaner, cooler, and can get better mileage than gasoline, requires only minor engine adjustment, and you don't have the disadvantages of wood gas. Farm grown ethanol powered America's auto fleet into early last century, before gasoline got the upper hand by crook. It even helped powered Nazi Germany. For a quick but comprehensive introduction to the topic I recommend the Alcohol Can Be A Gas DVD. He answers your concerns. It can be done poorly, and it can be done extremely well.

http://www.permaculture.com/book_menu/360/518

Alexander Healy

(8)

Wow! My only question is how to make it sustainable - how do you upkeep the supply of fuel?

Roger

(9)

The word "almost" in the first sentence has to be unwarranted. That cannot be true. The Russian, German, American, British Armies, etc., did NOT run their vehicles on wood gas.

Dutch John

(10)

Alexander,

We cannot. It is impossible to plant and harvest enough biomass to maintain the present milage per capita. For mobile applications, biomass remains a fuel for crisis times, despite it's carbon negativity and low other emissions.
Making your own fuel makes one humble. Making your own fuel reduces unnecessary trips to nil. Making your own fuel is hard on the muscles, but sweet for the mind. It both allows and forces you to think about how to contribute to a more sustainable world.

Kris De Decker

(11)

Roger (#9): it were civilian vehicles that were powered by wood gas, not army vehicles ( although some were, see this link for instance: http://www.missing-lynx.com/library/german/holzgasantriebdm_1.html )

Aleks

(12)

I just received a link to Low Tech from my friend and I'm free to say: this is the best blog I visited. Ever! Please, improve your visibility in search engines, there are a lot of people worldwide who would enjoy your articles but no opportunity to find you.

rick

(13)

So can you use wood pellets, like they use in pellet stoves? Could you feed them in a few pellets at a time (like a pellet stove)?

Pellets can be made from grasses, sawdust, scrap wood, seaweed, and other cheap renewable biomass. You can buy them in bags, or maybe at some refueling station of the future.

Would you really need such a large contraption if you fed your system with a measured amount of pellets?

Dutch John

(14)

Rick,

There are a few small gasifiers powered by pellets. Auger feeding them is possible, but that's too heavy and complicated for mobile applications. Besides the fact that pellets are too small for medium car gasifiers, you still need a large storage to get some milage. And the gas is still dusty and humid, so you also need that large cleaning train. Personally I prefer wood above pellets, because pellets require more fossile fuel for manufacturing and transportation and they make you dependant on suppliers. But you are right on the advantageous fact that pellets also can be made of other biomass.

Ben

(15)

Great Job John! The next evolution of the woodgas car is stationary refining of the syngas into liquid fuels for longer travels and better mileage without the extra weight.

http://www.VictoryGasworks.com is a community focused on gasification with lot's of videos and links for those of you that find this interesting.

Rick

(16)

Thanks Dutch! You can make your own pellets too. If you look on eBay there are pellet machines available. They are a relatively low tech device. Agreed about the added complexity of an auger or archimede screw pump for the pellets. Engineering challenges at the least, showstopper at the worst....

Johnny Payphone

(17)

"They could not decide which laws we were breaking but they were certain we were."

This is a very telling sentence. I first experienced this factor when trying to commute by bike. As a bicyclist is clearly a bum, punk, or escaped convict, I was often harassed by police who were completely uninformed about the law. ("You need a driver's license to operate a bicycle" "You're going slower than the law allows" "your bike trailer exceeds the width allowed for bicycles" etc etc) When it comes to vehicles, any hearse or art car owner knows that the police will ticket a noticeable vehicle 100 times more than the green saturn that they just don't see.

Political activism and police relations are key to alternative fuel use! It's that, or stealth. Community relations must be undertaken to educate the public and make them friendly to the technology, and antique laws must be changed to allow for new tech.

nutcase

(18)

What would happen if you ran it on waste plastic?

Dutch John

(19)

Plastics contain a lot of nasty stuff, like chlorines. You do not want these poisonous pollutants blown into the environment.

Money_wise

(20)

What I'd like to see is a converted electric home generator that can run using this woodgas system. In case of a grid power failure one could just use the woodgas generator as backup. Imagine, no storage of diesel or gasoline which goes bad after several months time. If the grid failed then gas stations couldn't pump fuel anyway. If this was small enough you could attached it to your RV and camp in way out places where there wasn't any electricity.

jamesmallon

(21)

A good technology for the fall of a civilization, but not for its permanence.

Thornton

(22)

re Johnny Payphone

Could it be that in some quarters in the developed world some of the present day DIY low tech is seen as subversive and threatening, while other low tech is politically and commercially non-threatening?

Suggested low tech types and their acceptablity:
1. Low tech from the past = politically-correct and not threatening today's commercial status quo
2. Low tech in the future, post apocalypse, mad max scenarios = nonpc and nonsafe
3. New sexy non-threatening low tech in developed world, eg strawbale building = pc and safe
4. Present day new age DIY low tech, eg producer gas cars = nonpc and nonsafe
5. University research low tech = pc and safe
6. Industrial and commercially developed low tech disaster relief technology for third world use = pc and safe
7. Third world development low tech = pc and safe
8. Developed world war time low tech = pc and safe
9. Undeveloped world low tech = pc and safe

From this you can see that anyone running a home made mobile producer gas car in peacetime Britain is seen as akin to Mad Max by the local magistrate.

Dutch John

(23)

Thornton,

How recognizable. I am allowed to drive on woodgas in the Netherlands, although customs already sees me as a threat. Once ten others also start to drive on wood, the party will be over.

Developing a small woodgasgenerator to power an electric genset for the third world is however encouraged...

Uncle B

(24)

Do a site on "Consumer Gas" from humanure and barnyard wastes - Consider that the Average American's humanure is richer, by his diet, and larger by hid physical size than any pig manure found in Asia! Do we have a fuel source here? A free fuel source? Oslo, Norway runs city buses on sewage! Parts of Sweden also? India does this? San Antonio Texas is purported to take advantage of humanure also? Factory Farms produce copious amounts of Manure, why not bio-gas it into fuel and fertilizer? By law? This topic, low tech in nature but possibly highly rewarding for a full site!

Jim Mason

(25)

We’re running two 10 hour endurance tests on the GEK 10kw Power Pallet
for the workshop weekend, this Saturday and Sunday. Peef set up a
webcam so you can watch the proceedings online. See here:
http://www.gekgasifier.com/web-cam/

The Power Pallet is running with full automation of fuel feed,
woodgas/air mixture and grate shaking. All temp, pressure, and flow
rate particulars are being datalogged for presentation after the run,
as are the specifics of biomass in to electricity out. The fuel is
regular wood chips. No exotically produced chunks. We’re running a
variety of loads usually in the 3kw-6kw range.

Yesterday's run went well. We ran somewhere between 10 and 11 hours
without problem, no hands required to keep it going. We had one
unplanned shut down to tighten a plumbing plug on the ash port that
was leaking air. Air leaking by the grate mixes with hot gas and
starts a bit of combustion. Always check your caps and plugs before
you start. Doh!

Otherwise, everything worked happily. Not a single bridge or fuel
blockage over the whole run. Filters looked good at the end too. It
all seems annoyingly simple, given all the challenges to get to here.

Then again, bear isn't annoyed. he's just happy all his automation
work is finally working so we don't have to any more. Congratulations
goes to bear for many rounds of deeply impressive mechatronic control
work. And congratulations to jay for figuring out the bridging issues
so the wood chips continue to flow without issue.

We'll be posting more info in the forum as we go, so see here:
http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=392. Yesterday
someone brought over a gas analysis machine and we finally got some
real gas composition numbers. There is a picture of the read out in
the forum at the link above.

We're here until 11pm or so tonight. Come over and enjoy wood chip
margaritas if you are in the area.

Cory Gohm

(26)

We throw away a lot of wood at the dump, and if we change our habits, such as and when we grow corn, we grind up the stock and throw that behind the combine which could also possibly be used as well. These are just two examples off the top of my head. Yes, it won't be simple but it can be done.

Darcy

(27)

Biomass gasification should only be used for stationary combined heat and power applications which increases overall system efficiency doubles (at least). There are vast areas where this technology is very practical - particularly in managed forests where the fuel is a byproduct of forest maintenance. Wood gas cars are an interesting novelty and a good demonstration of this old technology but of course they're not a solution for sustainable transportation. I've read that when woodgas was a widespread alternative to unavailable petrol around the second world war various European governments had to ultimately legislate to ensure the countryside wasn't stripped bare

Charles V. Greene

(28)

I would like to know how coal would work in this kind of burner? Would it produce a greater energy; Increase the overall speed and distance capability?.

Jonathan Spreadborough

(29)

In the United States there is a quite a few people who have completed successful woodgas projects. Woodgas is great stuff not just for automobile transportation but for electrical power generation.

http://www.woodgas.net has some great info on woodgas, member pages with examples of their work, links to other useful woodgas sites and forums for discussing woodgas.

sano

(30)

Bamboo has many advantages over timber. It can be harvested 3 years after cultivation. It will regrow without replanting.

test

(31)

We don't haul petroleum refineries behind cars using fossil fuel, so why burden down a biofuel car with extra equipment?

If we leave the gas generator stationary at a gas station, we can make it bigger and more robust. This makes it more reliable (no rattling about to loosen the pipe fittings), and a larger burner means less heat loss, so greater efficiency.

Next, filter the gas to remove the tars, and pass it through a rubidium catalyst. Hydrogen leaks easily, and carbon monoxide is toxic; the catalyst will combine them to form methane and water.

Pass the gas through several filter beds (lime, zeolite) to remove the carbon dioxide and water. Regenerate the filter beds using waste heat from the burner.

Finally, compress the gas so you can separate out the methane from the remaining carbon dioxide and the nitrogen.

Store the gas in cylinders, and swap them for empties when cars come in to refuel.

Andres Mauricio

(32)

Making your own fuel makes one humble. Making your own fuel reduces unnecessary trips to nil. Making your own fuel is hard on the muscles, but sweet for the mind. It both allows and forces you to think about how to contribute to a more sustainable world.

chris

(33)

I use a wood gas camping stove its a great piece of kit, these things are monsters in comparison.

Jason

(34)

I just wanted to inform you guys about logging in north America. I'm a logger, and we burn the top 30 feet of almost every tree, and any tree that is not straight enough for the mill. So if you guys could see the amount of wood that could be used for this, that is already being burned anyway, I believe many would be shocked. I hope that these cars become more common, I see a large surplus of this fuel being burned already, just to dispose of it.

Mark Garrabrant

(35)

I went to Germany in 1946 as one of the 1st military dependents and was fascinated by all the wood powered trucks. A lot or them used a dual chambered burner with a sealed gasification chamber and an open wood,charcoal or coal burner to heat the wood in the sealed chamber. The charred wood from the sealed chamber would be burned later to heat more green wood. A lot of the trucks were small 3 wheel pick-ups. I was 9 years old at the time. I went back at 14 years old and wood powered trucks were gone.

Ken Driessen

(36)

If you make the gas by destructive distillation in the absence of air like I do, compressed wood gas works great; it is basically natural gas. You don't have to have psychotic hypocrite disorder (a PHD) or even a Masturbator degree to understand the Energy Bootlegger(tm), plain old common sense works fine. My invention, which is patent pending, as the Rural Residential Energy Harvester(tm). The Energy Bootlegger will change the world for the better as soon as the people demand the monetary manipulating, energy monopolizing, war profiteering spawn step aside. Yes I call them ZioNazis and certain Jews collaborated with Hitler while their less fortunate working class countrymen died so they could profit. See http://localideas.org

DC Kerr

(37)

Whoa - gettin' kinda deep...speaking of alternative feed stock for gasahol - check out melon-water. Very high in sugars & we dump millions of gallons each year. There are as many viable alternatives to fossil fuels as there are excuses for not using them. Ignorance shouldn't be on the list. With co-generation...construction, demolition and other wood-waste shouldn't be in our land-fills -dc

greenleaf rivers

(38)

does any body have an any ideas on producing a small amount of wood gas in the kitchen as a supervised experimental demonstration for my children?

Bryan

(39)

This is a great article. Although running a car on woodgas is a cumbersome affair, it would be great to burn scrap wood and be somewhat free from big oil. I'm going to be converting a second truck I own to do just that, thanks to a high school kid with access to a cad based plasma cutter.
To the posters above concerned about trees: I am a professional forester and we have more treed acres with more trees on those acres than there were here in 1492. Our problem isn't cutting too much, our problem for the last 40 years has been cutting too little. Our forests are falling apart because of high densities of trees and species conversion due to lack of fire (and/or management). Contrary to popular belief, you can't just let nature takes it's course, unless you're willing to watch things just fall apart and burn up. In my opinion, it's better to log (create and maintain jobs) and use this wood for fuel, heat, or whatever than to let it fall apart and inevitably burn up.

Just my two cents.
Bryan

Mimi

(40)

Instead of wood, could you use bamboo instead? would it still have the same benefits?

d2r

(41)

Well, there is no way this would work on any scale in market-driven economy, not at least as far as any volume of fossil fuel is available... You'll have to MAKE people use this (a common problem with all such thing, yeah).

May be the only area it could be usefull is - fuelling small / medium trucks in remote rural areas, where gas is not only quite expensive in comparison to the income of the locals, but also difficul to get. However, in practice that didn't work, not even in Siberia where this technology has been tested from 1940s to 1950s.

Another possible application of this tech would be in a post-apocaliptic scenario, with anything else beyond reach.

Mike

(42)

Ridiculous! If you want to use wood for car fuel, make methanol from it.

Kris De Decker

(43)

Mike: making methanol introduces an energy penalty that would make a methanol driven car much less efficient than a woodgas powered car. You would need much more biomass to drive the same distance.

Richard Hiner

(44)

I am making a documentary video about a wood gas propelled truck and its builder. "Art" drove wood gas trucks 200,000 km on the Russian/Finnish border during WWII. The video will contrast the "Mad Max" post-apocalyptic world where people kill for fuel with my vision. I see of a bunch of new age multiracial "hippy" types sharing a wood gas powered truck pulling loads of local vegetables, fresh fish, kegs of beer and handicrafts to town for trade.

For now, this technology is only of interest to hobbyists, cranks like me, and, of course, you. That's just fine. When the collapse arrives, let us share our knowledge to construct a more gentle and egalitarian society.

Daniel Girald

(45)

Regarding vegetable-based biofuels, I'm actually more into vegetable oils (either raw or waste cooking oil), biodiesel (which can eventually include waste fast from meat processing in the blend) and at a lower extent ethanol. But I can't deny that I would like to perform some experiences with wood gas too.

Peter Lawrence

(46)

My back of the envelope analysis suggested that it could be worth while running farm equipment off gasified crop waste, particularly if the ash were recycled via settling ponds to grow green manure from nitrogen fixing pond weed.

With that, non-renewable farm inputs go way down, making it a lot more practical to grow other biofuels that are more convenient to use in other vehicles (it wouldn't be anything like as practical to use the convenient biofuels to run the farm equipment as too much of the yield would have to be re-input, but that issue doesn't come up with gasified crop waste).

anders

(47)

Why not combine an Electric car with a trailer with a Wood gas driven Engine powering an Electric generator feeding the car att all times, even while driving, while burning gas fumes.

There would be no need to put out the fire while parking since the charging is Active as long as burning is Active. This would improve range of car an efficiency of Wood gas burner.

Erwin Lapschies

(48)

Looking for a reliable gasifier.... Please let me know where I can buy one...

paul mccombie

(49)

Erwin I am a newbe on woodgas but I joined drive on wood wayne keith has a unit that works rather well I took 4 monthes to build and add to a 97 gmc with good results.now driving and love it.check it out .

Bill

(50)

The latest cutting edge gasifier I've heard about involves putting the dirty producer gas through molten metal, which cracks all the tar molecules to produce a very clean gas. This method allows for gasification of biomass other than just wood, since reduction zones are not necessary (molten metal cracks tar molecules) and the heat range of the material as it gasifies is also less stringent. Waste (trash) can be gasified, put through molten metal, and come out cleaner than the best wood-only gasifiers on the market today.

Wonder how this new gasification technique would rate on an environmental level if concentrated sunlight (parabolic dish or trough) were used as the heat source for both gasification and the heating of the metal to its liquid state. 2 birds with one stone; efficient trash processing sans landfills, with the byproduct of fuel gas.

But, of course, a solar powered refinery for waste gasification is a combination of two separate systems and hence, too complicated and creative for realistic consideration. Just ask the oil and coal companies and I'll bet they'll tell you all about how impossible this would be. ;)

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