Wood to Gasoline?

Nazi Germany turned coal into diesel fuel and gasoline. They mostly used the iron based Fischer-Tropsch process. But they also used a lesser known process to make gasoline using cobalt for a catalyst. Unlike an iron catalyst that needs very extreme pressures to do its magic, cobalt was able to turn gasified coal into gasoline at atmospheric pressure. Eventually, the sulfur in the coal poisoned the cobalt, which ultimately had to be dissolved with acid to reclaim and reuse it. While cobalt isn’t rare, it is much less common than iron, so the high pressure Fischer-Tropsch process was used more. At atmospheric pressure, the H2/CO gas flow was passed over 200C finely divided cobalt, then gasoline was condensed out afterward from the flow. The cobalt not only worked at atmospheric pressure and a lower temperature, but also selectively catalyzed for a narrower range of molecular weights corresponding to what was and is now used for gasoline. Woodgas has way less sulfur than coal gasses, which should result in a much longer lifespan for a cobalt catalyst. There is a guy on YouTube named MrTeslonian who makes gasoline from wood by using a crude non-catalyzed distillation column setup. His yields are rather low, however, and I have to wonder if he were to use finely divided cobalt (as was done in the 1940s) whether his yields would be boosted to more practical levels. I personally have a few pounds of cobalt which could be thinly electroplated onto stainless steel scrub pads which could be stuffed into a stainless steel pipe for the reaction, then condensed out with stainless tubing into a container. I’ve always wanted to try it, but never got around to it. Thoughts?


as nike tell’s us:
Just DO it… :grin:
ow, and don’t forget to post results here … amongst many here, i am eager to learn…


Very intresting, thanks for the info!

I have not followed mr teslonian a lot but if think about same video as you then I don’t think he made gasoline but just destructive distillation of wood wich would yield methanol, acetic acid, methane, aceton, tar and water.

I had the idea of making methanol from wood but the yield would only be 1.5% of the wood, so it’s not really worth it for myself.

Ficher-Tropsch process is something that I have search info about but I have only found theoretical information and I have never seen a “hobby-diy” setup.
I do however think KristijanL here on this forum have done some expriments.

Who knows this may be the cheapest way to do it yourself liquid fuel!


This was my graduation research project actualy. Couple of mistakes thugh Mark. Usualy lron based catalyst does work at athmospheric pressures just fine. But, it favors a CO/H2 ratio of 1:1 in contrast to syngas being 2:1.
Only time pressure is required to rise is when you want hevy oils to form, but thats the same with any catalyst.
True on sulfur.

The catalyst isnt just a bag of steel or cobalt fileings or turnings. It is produced chemicaly. You take something inert and absorbent like diatom earth and soak it with a metal salt, along with sone other “seasonings” that work as “catalysts for catalysts”. Usualy potasium. Then you bake the catalyst and reduce with pure hydrogen to achive a surface of nanoparticles of metals. But this is done in the reactor it self becouse once reduced, the catalyst may never see oxigen again! It will ruin it instantly.

If anyone is interasted l am glad to help them make the catalyst, it isnt realy that hard as it sounds. Or alternatively, it is possible to sorce Haber-Bosch catalyst for making ammonia. Its composition is wery similar to the original iron catalyst for FTS.


Great info!

Hove important are the 1:1 ratio of mo/h2?

Then I wonder where do you put the catalys, is it just a tube that you fill and then pump the syngas through it?
I guess it needs a very large surface area?

How much liquid could one expect from one cubic meter of woodgas?


Far from it. The easiest/cheapest liquid fuel to make at home is moonshine (grain alcohol). it’s been done here in the mountains of Kentucky for generations … :champagne:

For small portable engines which are impractical to run with a solid fuel gasifier, alcohol is probably the best DIY option. No chemicals needed, just grains water and fire.


Hello Kristijan; In college we always spoke of chemical engineers as “cook book” engineers. This posting explains a lot.

That sure sounds like something out of a cook book; more than a chemistrial equation. TomC

Speaking of Diatonatious earth; When I had a hot tub, I would throw a hand full of it into my filter and it would make the water crystal clear. Would it hurt my house hold water if I did that to the whole house filter I have? TomC again


I didn’t think that was why people made moonshine. :wink:


Well, maybe not “Wood”, but how about oat hulls and corn stalks?
40 years ago I played around with furfuraldyhyde, a liquid made by treating certain crop residues with various chemicals.
I had the idea that, if a farmer could have his own on-farm processor, he could raise the protein level of oats to around 19% by hullling them, reducing his cost of purchased protein, while also using the hulls as feedstock for the fuel conversion process. I built a 150 bushel per hour oat huller. I got a few sample gallons of furfuraldyhyde from Quaker Oats and it did run in my old John Deere spark ignition dual fuel B, once I got it warmed up. Then I got too busy with my day job.
Years later, woodgas started looking good so I messed around with that, too.
Currently, there seems to be new interest in furfuraldyhyde as a motor fuel:

Pete Stanaitis


Good article. Kinda amazing what alternative energy systems pop up out of history as soon as oil gets costly, or scarce…


What introduced me to biomass gasification a dozen years ago was a startup hoping to commercialize a university’s research on a nanotech angle of Fischer Tropsch. Let’s just say it’s easier said than done. I recall their process needing to compress the syngas to 400psi. Going from memory, the H2/CO ratio they wanted was 2:1 though that’s reaching way back in my quickly fading memories.

The PhD chemist I worked most closely with crunched the numbers and felt unless oil was at least $80/barrel, it wasn’t cost effective.

I’m with Chris, the best liquid fuel available for the individual is ethanol. And, from what I can gather, the modifications to optimize an internal combustion engine to run best on woodgas are the same mods for ethanol. High compression, advanced timing. That’s my ultimate goal… build up the 318 in my Dakota for high compression and advanced timing for a non-petroleum vehicle.


The problem with ethanol is that without a distiller’s license from the government you can go to jail for years and pay huge fines if caught. And the licenses cost tens of thousands of dollars. I’ve seen info that $30,000 is typical. Plus regular visits from government inspectors. Don’t want such people on my land. Not worth it.


I attended a couple of ethanol courses by David Bloom (Alcohol Can Be A Gas author). I got the idea small scale licenses are affordable. The difference between commercial and personal use volumes, my guess.


For small distillers which is 10k proof gallons a year. The federal permit is free, and west virginia it is 5 dollars.

Here this info is pretty close to what I have heard. Apparently, according to the comments you will need an EIN for the federal application. The feds are trying to stimulate ethanol businesses.

West Virginia it is a 5 dollar license fee for making fuel.

It will take a few months, but it isn’t impossible. You do need a secured location ie a lock on it.

If you are planning on making and bottling liquor to sell in a fairly large quantity, that might be 30k.


Thanks for the above info. I found a seed source for ten pound sugar beets which would yield high amounts of fuel per acre. The only negative about distilling ethanol for fuel is the fact that I would be opening myself to unannounced inspections from disapproving law enforcement officers who undoubtedly would try exploit the situation to find something on my property they could utilize to shut me down. I’m not so naive as to believe that all guys with a badge are honorable. I’ll have to look deeper into this.


One more thing to concider is FTS petrol has extremely low octane number and is more or less useless on todays engines so 10-20 percent ethanol has to be added anyway. Diesel is of premium quality thugh, with a high cetane number (ignites easyly).


That is why you make it on someone else’s land. :wink:


The formula’s for both gasoline and diesel have changed since the 40s in the US. I believe twice and one other time for high smog areas. They are both lighter and have a lot less sulfur allowed. The EU uses heavier formulations. I don’t recall the exact details of the differences. But in any case they aren’t exactly the same.


I cant sasy for sure what it was but one thing both me and @JO_Olsson noticed on our US trip is car exhaust smells much worse in US. Allso, l was surpriced to see your fuel stations sell much lower octane fuel. Here l never saw less thain 95 octane, 100 octane, wich l never saw in the US, is on every station here.


Making clean fuel is not a problem… but think about how much profit they want to make and you’ll understand…

Once the new rules imposed by someone in charge, you’l notice who’s getting the benefits; if its the common person, Joe average or some presidents friends… Big difference…