Hello, my name is Curt. I have been researching wood gas for weeks now and I have lots of questions.
First of all let me tell you what my end goal would be, but keep in mind that I am mostly into this because of the wow factor of being able to be able to take something like wood and be able to run an engine with it. It would simply be a bonus if I somehow were able to save money and to be able to be self sustaining for my energy needs. I envision a stationary wood gasifier system hooked to a genset powering my house and shop with the waste heat being used to heat my house and shop. I already have a outdoor wood boiler so the infrastructure for having the underground insulated pex lines is already there. I also have a supply of free scrap wood that is dry and already mostly in smaller pieces. When I throw this wood into my boiler it wastes a lot since its not a gasification stove aka. lots of black smoke. Consider these efficencies of probably less that 70% on my wood stove and in theory if an engine has 25-30% efficiency in converting fuel to mechanical power. With these numbers if I have a gasifier running an engine which would be burning very clean, in theory wouldnt I have almost 99 % efficiency in converting my fuel into thermal and mechanical energy combined? So if that was the case I possibly would not be burning any more wood in the winter time. I would capture as much heat as possible from the engine. Even a heat exchanger at the exhaust. Whatever heat is left over if there is any would just be wasted out a radiator, or stored in a tank. If I get real elaborate with this system I could somehow design and build an automated feed system using Arduino microcontroller technology to monitor and control the whole system in its entirety, but thats really a pie in the sky dream. If I get there it will be 10-20 years down the road, lol. For now I think I’m just going to build a gasifier and see if I can get it to run one of my gas tractors and hook it to my PTO standby generator and see what it will or wont do.
And now for the questions. I already have a set of gasifier plans from Mother Earth News when they built that gasifier in 1981, how many of you have built one like that and how well does it work? How similar is it to Wayne Keith’s designs? And are Wayne’s designs far superior to where I should really buy his book and plans to build his gasifier? I understand the concepts of how the gasifier works, but at the same time there is no point in trying to design something that someone else has already figured out pretty well. Basically I would want to start with something that is known to work and then make improvements from there.
Anyways sorry for the long winded post. And thanks for listening to my pipe dream, lol.
I have to say I thought it was impressive that Wayne’s gasifiers are designed to be able to allow the engine to be just idling around his farm continously or to be pulling loads at highway speeds. He seems to have it figured out. I like the idea of the hay filter system. Cheap easy yet effective filter.
After struggling to decide what design to build, I ended up building a mini WK. It is simple enough for me to understand yet can power an engine without the worry of ruining the engine with tar. As a stationary unit it needs a grate shaker. I’m amazed even though it is scaled down to run a 15 hp engine, it runs similar temps as the trucks. Without a doubt if I had to build another small gasifier to run something specific, I would build another mini WK.
I also would suggest a life membership to maintain the support of this community.
I would estimate I would need 15 or 20 kw to be able to start my 5 hp air compressor and then be able to run some other things. I should really just see how many total amps I am using when I have a number of large appliances that could likely be running at the same time (refigerator, washing machine, electric dryer, electric range, dishwasher, air compressor, ect). Do you know if gasifiers are generally able to have an engine go from an idle to sudden full throttle to be able to keep up with the sudden demand?
Generators both large and small have been successfully run on woodgas. Several on this forum are doing it. Youtube is full of examples. The problem is that you can’t run a generator full time. If you truly want to be off grid you will need solar, wind, and generator,charging battery banks. Why? You would soon wear out a good generator running 24/7 and the fuel use would be astronomical. Here is a link about wood consumption. http://northernselfreliance.com/biomass/woodgas/making-fuel/fuel-data/
Owner of that website is member here @sabbadess
True I can’t run a gasifier 24/7. But I could probably run one 50% of the time and have 2 available where 1 is always down to be cleaned or for maintenance. Is this all practical? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure sounds like a neat idea. I calculated it out a couple weeks ago, but I believe it was about 50,000 pounds of wood needed at 15% moisture to handle my electricity requirements only for a year. I might be close to that already with my current wood stove just for heating in winter. Thanks for the link. I will double check my requirements.
Forgot to mention, I have probably $5000 a year to play with for my energy costs. If I need to rebuild my genset over the course of 2 years I probably could do that myself. I know it sounds good in my mind right now. But things never work as good as they sound. And there is a reason why there are not many people doing this. If nothing else its still a neat experiment and could find some practical use for powering a vehicle or tractor.
Ultimately we each have to do what works for us in our unique circumstances. We offer suggestions etc, but you do what works for you.
It has often been recommended here that you don’t really start learning woodgas until you do it. Start small and build from your experience to where you want to be. I started with an old junk lawn tractor which I already had out in the weeds. Some start with a small used generator. There is a pretty good chance you will gum it up with tar while learning so start out with an engine you don’t mind sacrificing.
God morning Mr. Kilsdonk and welcome to the DOW site .
I Agree with Andy , your first gasifier my be a learning experience . Also each will have different needs from the gasifier and our availability of wood will be different.
Sure wish you were in or close to Alabama . I could show you what we have going on and take you for a ride but from hearing your heating needs sounds like you may be to my north .
Mother Earth News are some good folks . On a 1700 mile trip several years back the senior editor for MEN ( John Rockhold ) run us down in Kansas ( where I first met some good people that are regulars on the DOW, Doug D and Doug B, Billy, Mike B , Jim and many others ) I showed the truck and took him for a ride . Later that year Mother Earth ask if they could sponsor me for a run at the Salt Flat.
Below is a link from Mother Earth News . They have put 9 videos together . The videos are old and there have be several improvements over the years .
Good morning Mr. Keith. It looks like you and many others have built a good community here. I see there are MANY years of combined experience here, valuable for anyone building a gasifier.
You are right I do live in the chilly north. I actually live in east central Wisconsin in a rural area. I am surrounded by farms and woods. I have a pretty good supply of dry wood scraps from a local paper factory that builds their own skids. These pieces I believe are ideal for gasification. They also have scrap OSB board that I find gives off quite a bit of heat. Anyways thanks for the message. I have enjoyed watching your videos, they are an inspiration to me.
I think the key to long life on those engines is that they are slow speed engines that are probably not pushed to the limits. I believe thats key to long life on any engine. If I do this I might choose to oversize the engine to my generator somewhat and have it direct drive to run 1800 RPM only. Something similar to what MEN did in the early 80’s. May even be able to take a diesel engine and convert it to gas by lowering the compression some. Of course I will loose some efficiency though from the heavy mass of internals in the engine. All about finding that balance between longevity and efficiency. I know from my research that compression can be higher to improve performance. Or how about turbocharging? Anyone try that on a wood gas engine?
Both diesel conversion and turbo’s have been thoroughly discussed on this forum. Use the search function to find them.
Since you are a student of old mother earth news, you might remember a fellow who ran a 4 cyl pinto? engine for a couple hours every other day to pump water into an overhead tank and charge a few batteries, and that supplied all their power. At that time (early 80s?) he figured a dollars worth of gas each time he ran it. Now imaging running that on wood.
Hi Curt welcome to DOW. You are probably at a much better starting point then most so getting to your goal will be more likely. With that in mind I thought I would respond. I don’t want to be preachy or try to portray my self as experty but I think that The trick to off grid that most people never seem to talk much about is you must alter your demands to match what you can make as opposed to trying to hammer the system into the life you have now. That is anathema to much of us here but Ignore that rule and expenses will drive you out of it eventually. Yes you can run a wood gas genny 24/7 that will match your peak load but designing a system large enough for starting a 5 hp compressor and running the steady loads of house and shop without batteries or inverter locks you in to a size that will idle most of the time wasting wood and possible causing high Temp, low temp conditions in the hearth. All my opinions of course.
Good luck, David Baillie
You will be amazed at what little power you can live with off grid and amazed how much power you have used when you were on grid and just left the lights on. When I get to fire my gasifier up to run my generator, rather than gasoline, then I will be even more aware. This is my ultimate goal. Drive on wood, power and heat with wood and run my tractor on wood. It all will happen in due time.