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Mark

(1)

You don't have to go as far back as the article's examples to find regular use of gas-bag vehicles. We were lucky enough to travel in Vietnam in the late 1980's, before tourism was officially allowed (how we obtained our visas is a very long story). Around Hue, we saw many gas-bag buses with far more dangerous contraptions than shown in this article. Stranger still were the charcoal-powered Citroen buses, complete with charcoal burner at the back, feeding the resulting gases to the modified engine. These buses dated fom the French occupation of the country and I estimated them to be from the late 1940's.

Gj

(2)

Coupling this with a methane source seems to be a nice cottage option to vehicle fuel generation. Indeed the calorific value of biogas is 24 MJ/m3 vs. 18 MJ/m3 for town gas.

I particularly like the fact that you can use it without having to compress the gas. With a cheap and ultra-sturdy HDPE gas bag, this seems to be a great low-tech approach to opening up poor rural communities by giving them cheaper farm-to-market transport based on local waste transformation.

alex

(3)

That's how the regulator used in scuba diving was invented. Gagnan and Cousteau adapted a regulator for the gas bag vehicles Gagnan had previously invented.

peter

(4)

Wouldn't it have been better to tow the gas bag because, as the article mentioned, the aerodynamics of being on the roof were so poor? Seems pretty obvious solution, but I guess this was before the time of recreational trailers.

Terry Sanders

(5)

Looks like something better suited to stationary-engine use in rural areas. If you don't have to move the gasbag, it would be a lot easier to maintain. And if you have a source of methane nearby (a pig farm and a digester, for instance)...

Furlongs per pint

(6)

I’m a bit confused about the arithmetic regarding the Dutch old-timer’s energy efficiency. If it held 13 m³ of town gas, and had a range of 50 km, then its energy efficiency would be 26000 l per 100 km, or 0.011 miles (19 yards) per Imperial gallon, or 0.009 miles (16 yards) per US gallon.

Oh, perhaps you’d meant that 13 m³ of town gas per 50 km is the equivalent of 13 l of petrol/gasoline per 100 km? If so, then I’d recommend clarification of that sentence. And 13 l/100 km (rather than 13 l/km) = 21.7 mi/gal Imperial = 18.1 mi/gal US.

peter, towing the gas bag could have made rear-end traffic accidents much more dangerous. During World War II, tyres were in short supply for civilian vehicles due to rubber rationing, so that could have been another reason why roof racks were used rather than trailers.

Paul Nash

(7)

@Terry,

It certainly is far easier for doing a stationary engine, and is commonly done with anaerobic digester units at piggeries and cattle feedlots. But generating electricity and selling to the grid, does not help you to power a vehicle.

It is interesting to note that modern natural gas buses (usually) have the high pressure (2-3000psi) storage tanks on the roof. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metrobus_powered_with_CNG_5198_DCA_03_2009.jpg)

But like the French example in the article, this is considerably more expensive, and likely more dangerous in the case of an accident. There is no real reason they could not use the bags instead.

The trailer idea is a good one for highway trips where longer range, speed and aerodynamics are important, but it would be a bit of an inconvenience for driving around in town.

With NG at an energy value of 38MJ/cu.m, it is equivalent to 1.15L of petrol, so a Toyota Prius with an aerodynamic 5cu.m trailer would get over 100km on it. At the Canadian residential rate of about $8GJ, this is equivalent to paying $0.30 for a litre of petrol!

The gas bag system also eliminates the $4000 home compressor station needed to fill car CNG tanks from home.

Paul Nash

(8)

On further reflection, I think the best application for this system, and certainly the one with the least government regulations to hinder the process, would be for powering of farm equipment.

>The gas bag could be installed on a frame on top of the tractor, or on a trailer behind, or a carrier in front or to the side, or some combination of these.
>aerodynamics are a non issue, and neither is the height of the bag
>There are no road safety rules to be dealt with
>The short range is often not an issue, the refueling station is never far away and the diesel engines can still operate on diesel alone if need be.

And, of course, the farmer can produce the fuel himself, from waste material - manure, straw, even wood chips, instead of using the harvested grain for ethanol or biodiesel.

A wood gasifier could also do this, but needs a warm up and cool down period - the gas bag can be used instantly and for short duration running - a common situation on farms.

T.M. August

(9)

@Paul Nash
A big worry with peak oil is how to keep the combines and other important bits of farm equipment running-- discussions on The Oil Drum about that were leaving me feeling pretty pessimistic.
Low Tech to the rescue! Diesel-to-biogas conversions shouldn't be terribly difficult, or expensive.

tp1024

(10)

You can always run anything with electricity. Just put a couple of overhead wires over the fields and use electric combine harvesters - or use cables rolled out on the ground of the field and a system of pulleys along the side of it.

It's a bit of a hassle, but much less so than insisting on the use of internal combustion engines after running out of easily accessible, suitable fuels.

Why do people keep insisting that we are inextricably dependent on oil? It's not the only solution, it's merely often the cheapest and most convenient. There is no problem at all with running the Haber-Bosch process on nothing but electricity, still the peak-oil-is-doomsday crowd keeps insisting we will run out of fertilizer without oil.

Please. Stop it.

T.M. August

(11)

You could have trolly-combines, but the problem is the grid would need overhauled. Rural circuits aren't built for that--those big combines are few hundred horsepower; at least a couple hundred kW, then. Too many amps, when we're used to splitting up 1000 amps between a couple hundred users.
We could overhaul the grid, sure. Any work being done along those lines? Not in any farm country I know.
Politically, by the time we realize we need it it might be too expensive to implement.

Likewise, Haber-Bosch--there's a few proposals for wind-driven plants, but they'd only provide a fraction of current demand, provided they get do financed in the current environment.

Peak oil doesn't have to be doomsday, just like winter doesn't have to be doomsday-- if you're an ant. For a civilization of grasshoppers, it's much less fun.

Paul Nash

(12)

And to make it worse, during harvest season you will often have several combines working on one farm, several on the neighbouring one etc. You would quickly be into the MW range of electricity, and the distribution reinforcement for that would then sit idle for most of the rest of the year.

Harvesting is truly a "peak" load, and would be quite fine to power on biofuels if need be - the EROEI of harvesting is in the order of 100:1

Electrification of other operations, like ploughing, could be done, but much better is to go to no-kill cropping, and never plough in the first place. Then the energy requirements to pull a seed drill are such that it can be done by a small tractor, be it diesel or biogas.

Examples of tests on dual fuelling biogas are here;
http://www.fao.org/docrep/T4470E/t4470e09.htm

systems for nat gas/diesel co fuelling are now in production;
http://www.cleanairpower.com/

Electrification of farms is an appealing idea, but it is a lot of infrastructure for occasional use. there will be some niches where it can work, but for most farms, on site fuel production by biogas, or biodiesel or ethanol is likely a better option, along with changing techniques to use less fuel in the first place.

Paul Nash

(13)

I saw today an example of a high tech solution for buses that could be replaced with the gas bag one at a tenth the cost (or better). The ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada has a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses (a demo project from the 2010 olympics). These things use liquid H2, stored in rooftop tanks, to run the fuel cells.

The cost of the 20 buses and H2 equipment - $89m. buses were $2.2m each.

The longest run is 20km round trip. A gas bag(or box) on top of the bus could store 30cu.m of nat gas, or about 1GJ (equivalent to 28L of diesel). Buses on diesel get about 5mpg, or 2km/L, so this bus would have a range of 54km. It could be refuelled at the end of every 2nd run, in about one minute, from a standard NG line. Such a system would have cost about $400k per bus and be far cheaper to operate and maintain.

We do indeed need less tech, not more.

Johnny Payphone

(14)

The reason for the uncompressed gas is that with the low energy density you spend more energy to compress it than you get out of the tank. Also, since it is comprised of loose H and O and C, they tend to reassemble into hydrocarbons that form tar on the inside of the works.

The bag is necessary rather than a box because the weight of the bag helps feed the gas. These are still found on buses in China.

A good rule of thumb is that 20 lbs of biomass will produce the equivalent energy of 1 gallon of gasoline.

MikeR

(15)

Coal gas wasn't a by-product of making coke for iron and steel production - it was the primary product.

Almost every town in Europe had their own 'gasworks' which supplied so-called 'town gas' or 'illumination gas' for heating and cooking right up until the late 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, it was still used for its original purpose of street lighting in some towns until surprisingly recently. The coke was sold for domestic and light industrial use. Coal gas was phased out in Europe when the huge North Sea natural gas fields came on stream, which gave much better quality, cleaner energy.

Jonharson

(16)

Interesting, insane, but interesting...

Vladimir Menkov

(17)

A small correction to the caption of one of the photos: Shawan (沙湾) in Sichuan (not too far from Chongqing, which before 1997 was also part of Sichuan), not in Shandong. The caption of the original photo (looks like a postcard) specifically identifies Shawan as being in Zigong Prefecture, to which indeed it must have belonged back in 1965. (It has been transferred to the nearby Leshan Prefecture-level city).

Fascinating photos, anyhow. When you first see them, you wonder if the technology would have been better suitable for dirigibles rather than for ground vehicles! (Probably not, though).

Incidentally, in Seattle much of the equipment of the erstwhile town gas plant is preserved in what's known as the Gas Works Park, on the north shore of Lake Union.

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