Wrong track?

Am I on the wrong track?

I’ve been making charcoal products for a few years now, biochar, potting mix, and charcoal for cooking. I use a T.L.U.D. like Gary Gilmore. I’ve also distilled the smoke to get wood vinegar. I’ve been looking at ways to utilize the waste heat.

Most recently I set up a top lit downdraft 55 gal drum with connected to a 55 gal cooler/cleaner pulling the smoke/gasses with a 12v boat bilge blower.

The smoke/gasses would not ignite and my cooling cleaning did not work so as to end up with stinky watery tars through the blower (sucker)

Might I be right in thinking that burning wood this way is not going to give me enough heat or does it sound like I just need to improve the filter system.

I know this is asking a lot without pictures or much more information but I have had trouble uploading pictures. I will try and send a picture/s again.

Regards all from Vince Smith, Ingham Nth Australia.

I’m somewhat of a newbie in this, but you are burning wood in one barrel and trying to suck the smoke down through that into a second barrel, correct? All that heat, fire, and smoke wants to go up and I don’t think a 12v bilge blower sucks enough to battle that.

Also, where are you putting your sucker? Is it inbetween the barrrels or after the cooling/cleaning barrel? If it’s between the 2, would it be able to withstand the heat?

Top lit updraught will work and bottom lit downdraught will work but top lit downdraught would not be passing through a charcoal layer and will produce smouldering pyrolysis gas not clean wood gas…
Best regards. David Baillie

Hello Vince, I agree with what David said. I have converted 124 barrels of wood (using Gary’s method) into charcoal, using the TLUD system. I have even tried putting a another retort on top of the first one, to use some of the tremendous heat that is being wasted. In the second retort, I placed pieces of charcoal that were not entirely “done”, in an attempt to finish them off. The heat is enough to sag 1/2" rebar. Now that I have bags and bags of charcoal, and we have a burn ban due to a drought, I am making smaller amounts of charcoal while cooking on a 9" diameter, 17" high TLUD that I built into a part of a water heater tank. A while back, I made a very short slide show that I posted on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHms7E0VAio Watching the last couple of minutes is sort of boring, because it is just a non-smoking slow fire. Notice the flames just barely tick the bottom of the pot. According to my calculations, this is putting out 7000 watts. It will heat water, cook pot after pot, and will handle a very large cast iron wok. At the end, I remove the innards, and dump the charcoal. However, it does indeed make use of the waste heat. Ray.

Hey Ray I had not seen that one before. Good use of insulation. Vince just because ray is cooking with it does not mean you can’t harness it for home use. Just imagine a car heater core as a heat exchanger sitting on top of the tlud pumping hot water to a storage tank. It is the route I am pursuing scaled up to the 55 gal size. The trick I think will be in insulating the bottom barrel and afterburner to limit wasted heat then suspending a great big heat exchanger above it once it really kicks in… I need a lot of heat around here come winter…

Thanks for the replies gentlemen.
Brian. Your mrntal picture is very close except the barrels are side by side.The “sucker” is after the cooling cleaning.

David. You just saved me wasting time on improving the cooling. thanks again.

Ray. I found your you tube by your name and we have tried similar ideas.I also insulated my retort but by fitting an oversize skin filled with pink
bats.Your system looks easier.I have a wood fired hot water system in an outside bathroom.Big fuill bathtubs with solar lighting and country music playing.Best wat to end a day.
I’m in the tropics and don’t need house warming. I do make charcoal in a clearing near my solar pump. (Underground water) and thouight if I could generate electricity while I made charcoal after dark I could also pump water for free.

Regards Vince Smith.

Hello VinceB
SteveU the woodgas fueling IC engine guy here. Can you clarify this please: " . . . thought if I could generate electrcity WHILE I MADE CHARCOAL after dark I could also pump water for free."
Does this mean you are proposing to engine fuel and generate shaft power to make electricity with ONLY the smoke and steam volatiles and save the then freed up charcoal for outside perposes other than engine fueling?

Steve Unruh

Vince in the tropics…if I understand this correctly, you are smiling when you say you might get enough light off of the charcoal making process to activate your PV panels to pump water at night? I live in the sub-tropics and get enough sunlight (5 1/2 hours/day) during Spring, Summer, and Fall to make large amounts of very hot water with my solar water heater. (Several hundred feet of ten year old hose laid in an old satellite dish.) My charcoal retort has a second barrel for a chimney on top of the lower barrel which holds the wood. These barrels are separated by two pieces of 1/2" rebar to allow secondary air. I don’t get much light off of the process. I tried a second barrel around the bottom barrel with fiberglass insulation between them, but the insulation melted, and what didn’t melt attracted mice, plus it made it hard to keep my primary air holes clear, so I stopped using it. It is much easier to dump the charcoal without extra insulation or cylinders slowing down the process. My charcoal making process is absolutely smoke free since I learned to use wadded paper balls and small branches to light it, and to add as needed during the process, always maintaining that glowing bed of char on TOP of the barrel of wood. TLUD --a real smoke burner.

Hello Steve, Yes thats exactly what I hoped I could do however If it is not possible I have so much charcoal I could still .make a simple-fire charcoal gassifier to power the pump to water the paddocks for the cattle. If this is a pipe dream please tell me so.

Regards Vince Smith

Hello Ray, Oh no.I hadn’t event thought of light on the solar panels. The downwell pump they power can also be powered by a generator, its just both processes work best in a clearing both for light (natural) and fire safety. I use 1" x 3/16" fms where you use reo between retort and after burner and I dont put breathing holes in the retort but a pipe bend in the larger drum hole with a baffle made from a drum end fitted inside. I think if you google images for Charcoal retort + tractor some images of my retort will come up. I set mine going and go back 2.1/2 hours later.

Regards Vince Smith.

Found your page with all the photos: http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/build-yourself/202953-charcoal-retort.html I might try using the bung for primary air as you did, as sealing up all those little holes around the lower bottom of the barrel takes a lot of clay, else the stuff keeps burning.
If you build a Simple-Fire to power a small engine, you may have to build a charcoal “processor” grinder. I copied Gary Gilmore’s grinder, using the crank from a child’s bike to turn the grinder. You want charcoal no larger than 3/4" and no smaller than 1/8" (or even 1/4"). For engine grade gas, you don’t want any unconverted wood, just pure high-grade charcoal. If you try to put half-done hardwood through the grinder, it goes round and round, and you can see the “brown”, and you pick it out for use in a stove. I bust a lot of it up with gloved hands before putting it in the grinder. If you can’t “explode” it with your fingers, it isn’t done. Reject anything that isn’t pure black! Use it on the top of the next load in the retort. The fines from the grinder get screened through 1/8" hardware cloth, and go into the compost pile.

Hello Ray, If you ever build one this way use a pipe piece to get away from the heat a bit. I don’t use a cap or plug anymore, I just shove a bit of rag up the pipe with a stick. I have just the thing to convert to a charcoal processor. It started life as a conical screw wood splitter, then by coupling a meat mincer into a charcoal crusher, you wouldn’t believe just how fine the finished product it produces is. I presently use a trommel to get my 3 grades/sizes of charcoal. so the old splitter will be the bees knees.

pic of failed attempt.

Hello back VinceS.
Two ways you can internal combustion engine safely fuel to run based on your set up.
#1) Easiest. Do just grinder convert your already made up charcoal and Gilmore Simplefire or other charcoal fueled gasify for motor fuel using your pre-made-up charcoal. The guys are here to help with this as a known system.

#2) You could make up an actual downdraft raw wood fueled gasifier that will then suck the now internally kept enclosed produced kept hot volatiles (your fuel wood chunk released smokes and watery gasses) down through a heats zones close coupled self-replenishing bed of hot glowing woodchar. This will convert these volatiles into clear motor grade fuel gases with some doable post cooling and filtering. Your countryman Kurt Johanesen (sp) discribes discovering and using this very well for vehicles 40’s to 80’s.
Dutch John shows and describes this very well on his site for small generator systems here:
www.woodgas.nl then open up MicroGasifiers it is in English with lots of pictures.
The 2nd way is much more complex to set up and even tricker to operate well admittedly. But then you will than be putting the majority of that charcoal making now wasted heat to use internally converting the heat energy to motor fuel gases chemical potentials.
Use up at least half of this gasifiers internally made char doing this - maybe more - depends on the actual fuelwood used. The internal char gets used up converted to the motor fuel gas of carbon monoxide. Same as in a charcoal gasifier where all the char there eventually being used up naturally.

To just fuel run an IC piston engine on heat produced smoke and watery gasses will work for one engine run. Then cooled down these will condense and stick the intake valves and pistion rings unmovable.
Most all of us tried this at least once. Use a non-critical, easily cleaned up, or a throw-a-way engine to prove this to yourself.
Good learning experience - then you will believe.

Oh yeah. Third way. External combustion engine. You then just over aired burn up all of the volatiles/tars plus ALL of your chars to make the extra heat for thier poor cycle wood to shaftpower conversion of 11-16%. You have one of the best modernized steam builders down there in Strath Steam Engines. Expensive for all of the system componets. A well fired and hot steam system makes no smoke and is surprizingly quiet. Absolute water hogs though. And all good steamer builders will state it really is best for people needing a lot of external heats from the exhaust steam for other purposes. Space heating, drying, ect.

Steve Unruh

Here’s a slightly different approach to the issue… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsometer_pump

A pulsometer pump runs on low steam pressure to pump water. No moving parts. I’ve often thought these should be mass produced and distributed in third world countries.

Basically you get to bypass the whole generator issue and directly use the heat for water pumping. Of course the hard part is going to be getting/building one.

EDIT: Here’s a really good explanation of how the pulsometer works. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=BxNAAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&authuser=0&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA243

and here’s a video of one running! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brkCXDF6i-k

Here is a modern modification using air to pump, via 2 diaphragms, and plastic ball valves. It seems like steam could replace air and do the same job. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6To-bgL4GE These are on Ebay too.

Thanks Steve U, for the information, I have a much clearer idea of my options and I like option # 1. best, sure I have to find another use for the waste heat/energy, maybe drying out bones (animal lol) to use as “P” in the garden.I don’t want to put any engines at risk.

Regards Vince Smith.

Hello Chris S. Interesting reading, Beyond me I reckon and I have to stay with the electricity because the down hole pump takes up most of the available space in casing.

Regards Vince Smith.

Hello Carl Z, Thanks for the reply, tidy workshop by the way not like mine. My bore has space limitations,and at 60 odd ft my water would be too deep also I suspect steam would condense and end up with little force.I could be very wrong.

Regards Vince Smith Ingham Nth Qld Australia

Hi Vince, Charcoal is GREAT, isn’t it? Several ways to tackle you problems, but as long as you have lots of material to make charcoal, a charcoal fueled gasifier is by far the easiest. The Simple-Fire can be built in less than a day and have your pump engine up and running. Here is a link to a document about on this site. http://adaysdream.com/photocart/index.php
Using wood to run your engine is more efficient, but the gasifier is more complex, heavier and must be sized for the engine you are running. Charcoal is a highly processed fuel, but you have removed the hydrogen from it. Trade offs. I also made a batch of wood vinegar last year. How do you use it? I find slugs hate the stuff and fall off any plant that gets sprayed with it.
Got to get to bed, but until later,
Gary in PA