Carbon negative combine harvester

I’ve written many e-mails and letters pushing this idea and have only received a few responses but now I’m preaching to the choir and assume you will see the beauty of this idea.
The idea is putting a continuous feed gassifier on a combine harvester making it run on the byproduct of harvest like corn cobs and wheat chaff.
You guys have advanced a technology and are probably the experts in this field. However cars of the future will run on hydrogen, batteries, fuel cells, in all likelihood. These technologies are compatible with renewable energy systems like using wood gas or solar to generate electricity to make hydrogen. I feel wood gas technology is best suited for places where the fuel is already there like generating electricity in Alaska or running machinery like this combine harvester where there is fuel as far as you can see.
More on this harvester as I imagine it. Harvesters already separate the grain from the by-harvest and throw it on the field behind them. Some of this material could be diverted into a gassifier that would run an engine of some sort. Most gassifiers are designed to be as efficient as possible. This gassifier could be as inefficient as you like because of the huge amount of fuel stock. Also being inefficient might make it more carbon negative because you could just char the fuel stock leaving lots of bio char left over to be thrown onto the field. This is all sequestered carbon! The more bio char you make the more carbon gets worked into the field and sequestered for a long time.
Bio char is a great soil amendment. Terra pretta of the Amazon basin is some of the most fertile soil in an area of not so good soil. This soil owes its name to its carbon content put there by humans over thousands of years. So not only would this harvester be carbon negative it would enrich the soil allowing for less fertilizer use which would provide more environmental benefit.
Any farmers here? Anybody know where to get a cheap obsolete gas powered harvester? Anybody want to slap a gassifier on it just to prove it works? Anybody want to invite the media to see “new” machine? Anybody want there name connected to the technology that saved the planet earth?


Ok so I’ve accomplished a little more. I’ve started a go fund me campaign with a goal of $100,000 to buy an old obsolete but functional gas powered combine that you guys could attach a gassifier to. Here is the link for the campaign. I don’t expect any of you to donate any money. Time and expertise maybe…Your the experts. If anything you will be reimbursed.

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Interesting idea! I think it has merit.
I believe one issue with this type of fuel is in feeding it without bridging in a hopper. This is not insurmountable though. if the stalk matter was chopped it could be augered into the reactor as needed. I’m also not sure of the moisture content as harvested. I know it has dried down but to what extent. It could be pre dried further with exhaust heat. I don’t believe you would want to dispense the new char directly in the field since it would possible still contain a glowing ember to start a fire.

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Thanks Andy for your input. Some harvesters are set up to chop up byharvest before dumping on field. Yes part of the continuous feed would be drying material as necessary and also having an oxygen free chamber at the end to extinguish all embers. There could also be a water collection component from distilling exhaust and from air conditioning which could be used to further extinguish biochar. There are lots of ways a combine can start fires without dropping biochar off the back of it and fires seldom start because of good design.

Hi Charles,

Your idea has always been my end game. When Jim Mason asked me what I was trying to achieve eight years ago this is what I told him. I am just taking the long way around in order to come up with the money.


Hi Stephen, funny enough my original interest in gasification stems from off grid energy and agriculture. I turned to charcoal for simplicity and weight savings. My theory was always that charcoal was a refined wood product much like gasoline is refined oil. I now understand that my original theory is full of holes but I still love my charcoal burner. The reason I bring it up is charcoal burners taught me that splitting the separate industrial processes to make it easier is not an evil thing. In the case of the combine forget on the fly usage. Compressing the stover or straw into pellets for furnaces is an established industry, your pellet gasifiers have a proven track record, marry the two and you have achieved your goal and taken out a lot of the variability problems by using two mature technologies instead of creating one new one. I’ll admit you lose some cool points but when you work those machines you are BUSY; add more things to worry about and wide scale adoption might not happen. All opinion of course wish you nothing but success.
Best regards, David Baillie

Hi David,

I need to ping David S. for some ag residue pellets again. They gave Isabella indigestion due to slag but I still think it is a problem I could work through with enough time. I have until Eagle Ford plays out.


I see the earth saving properties of this machine to be it’s ability to sequester carbon. Carbon negative not carbon neutral. How else to reduce Co2 in atmosphere. Even “carbon neutral” technologies usually are not really neutral, just improvements. Not knocking improvements but without reducing co2 in air we are still in trouble environmentally. Some statistician should crunch the numbers to see how much carbon could be sequestered in soil. If it is just the amount the combine would have burned in diesel then cost would outweigh benefit. However if the amount of carbon is significant, offsetting other co2 emitting things like power plants and cars then it’s something that has to be done unless someone has better idea.
Thanks Stephen Abbadessa for referring to an idea you had before me as “my” idea. I was sure many people had thought of the same thing and don’t consider it my unique idea nor have I made any attempt to protect or patent any of it. It would infuriate me to think that people or companies would be sitting on solutions to global warming waiting for the time when money can be made. I think my fundraising campaign would be better suited on an environmental crowd funding site. Go fund me is mostly personal feel good campaigns. If anyone has a better crowdfunding site please let me know.

More on the harvester as I imagine it. I was thinking that the current one pot gassifier is for convenience, size , and the amount of gas needed. Cleaner syngas is probably produced when material is heated in a sealed container. So I imagine material continually flowing through a heated chamber and maybe a computer controlling the speed of flow and amount of heat to get everything coordinated simply. The syngas would be burned in an engine. One option is a micro turbine powering a generator. Micro turbines can’t handle hydrogen right now so today it won’t work. The micro turbine would power a generator that would run combine and charge a large battery. I imagine the combine to be able to fire up on electric alone. The heat for gas chamber would be electric so it would take a while for everything to be warmed up and running on syngas.
So basically I imagine a large syngas burning hybrid. Micro turbines are smaller and lighter than piston engines and have one moving part. The barriers to this machine are many. Micro turbines won’t handle hydrogen right now and there probably isn’t a suitable battery yet. However these obstacles will be lifted soon and one could build a more conventional machine which would probably function now. I just see it as being too big. It would be adding to the size of current machines . Space savings could be had by using these more modern advanced systems.

Sorry, You’re getting into pie in the sky territory here.
My suggestion is to start at the beginning. get yourself an expendable engine and build a simple gasifier. then when you have learned a bit about it, you can attempt to make it run on your chosen agricultural waste. Much later you can work out the automation etc.


I see this as being open source. Like Wikipedia being a non profit. It’s going to take a John Deere or International Harvester to build one of these maybe with federal help. So what am I doing? Trying to speed things up. Are they working on it? Big companies send form letters back saying they don’t accept unsolicited ideas and can’t discuss future technologies research for obvious reasons. So I laugh that somebody really important might read this and get nervous that they may be beaten to the punch by some amateur hobbyists.
So yes it is stated in first posts and in fundraising that the goal is to build a crude functioning prototype so many more people learn of this technology and think about it.
This doesn’t mean I am not thinking about what future generations will look like just like we know once we develop a better battery for cars many more will become electrically driven.
Whoever builds and shows one of these machines first will be forever associated with its development. We’re human. We love this stuff (being remembered of fondly) almost as much as we love money. It’s sure to bring fame and maybe some money.

Hi Charles,

I am half with Andy. I would get a small machine like Arvid’s tractor running on ag waste then look for an angel investor who would be willing to sell out to venture capital group who would in turn sell out to John Deere. That is how the process ACTUALLY works today. Companies like JD don’t take big R&D risks anymore. They buy technology in the form of companies so others have taken the risks. Managers are too worried about successfully completing their assignments and minimizing risks to their bonuses. (Please note: This semi-rant is coming from an unemployed R&D engineer who wants a job.) The company’s valid argument would be that at $125/hr per head they can’t run projects too long without seeing a cash return or it cuts into the bonuses of the executive staff.

EOR(end of rant)



EOR… Must remember that one

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Carbon credits would help. How much carbon could a combine like this sequester? Harvesting the crop might be secondary if this machine could make money sequestering carbon.

FIRE! Yeah no one in their right mind would add a fire to a fire hazard. It is a dusty flammable environment. You have enough fire hazards like the grain bin to worry about.

You can buy a used combine for a few grand off but I would highly recommend running 2nd gen biofuel in it. Then you don’t even have to mod anything.

If you want to try a gasifier IN this environment I would -highly- recommend getting a pull behind implement that runs off the tractor and mod the tractor so your fire is in front of most of the dust.


All combines run on internal combustion engines, combustion being the operative word. I imagine they all have spark arrestors on exhaust and other fire preventative systems. And they occasionally catch fire. I don’t think all risk can be eliminated but the machine I imagine could be as safe as current combines and be carbon negative.

Gassifier ideas. I get why the one pot gassifier is so efficient. The heat is being generated inside the gassifier. So I imaginne a continuous feed gassifier in a sealed oxygen free environment and the heat being generated from center of tube where auger is moving material through this tube. Insulate that gassifier tube and have little heat loss. Also won’t have the dirty combustion gasses of the restricted oxygen gassifiers. I imagine by just controlling speed of auger and amount of heat an ideal coordinated amount of gas can be produced in different environments and conditions.

UM!!! The hearth geometry, fuel size, and pull rate all decide when the fuel can pass through the grate. If I try to ram in more than the gasifier can vaporize, I am going to bend something. What am I missing???

Restricted oxygen = reduction

It might all be fine, but I am just not seeing it.


You can put todays design gassifier on an old combine today and operate it come Fall. I want to do that. I also want to discuss the future of this machine which is wide open and interesting. The auger gassifier is just an idea. I imagine material could move through it even if nothing is getting gassified and raw material will come out no change. Augers move everything in agriculture it seems like.
Now apply heat maybe through red hot electric rod in center of auger tube and now you are conducting Pyrolysis to material no? Gassify down to nothing with high heat and slow moving auger and ash comes out end of machine. Pyrolyze less with less heat faster moving auger and bio char comes out. No heat and fast auger same material comes out no change.

" I imagine they all have spark arrestors on exhaust and other fire preventative systems"

Have you ever even looked at a combine in detail or driven one?