Wood Gas Generators

10-19- 2010 update.  News flash! Berkley Gasifier Developments covered by Huffington Post’s ?Science Editor?  Kelpie Wilson. 


Up to now, I’ve found it difficult to find any hard figures on recent DIYer Gasifer power output done with any certainty. We have seen people promote products in the past that weren’t ready for prime time, some sell gasifier parts branded as “experimenter’s parts” and make no claim as to their ability to provide some kind of return on investment, I respect their efforts to be honest about that.

I do receive updates from some of the folks who work on gasifier development, and of  course I try and supply parts or ideas passed along from others in our DIYer group that might be helpful. Younger people think adding processor control can quickly turn an old unworkable idea into something magic. In reality, as per the understanding of these gases, their BTU value and how best to put them to work, I can find little that wasn’t done by the end of WWII.  If we review methods of control prior to the microprocessor, there were elegant solutions available, albeit more expensive. During WWII there were gasoline engines likely more efficient than most in production now. Of course the engines I reference were built as part of the war effort and cost was not part of the engineering exercise. The point? I need help in understanding what’s new since WWII, and why every large furniture factory with tons of low moisture content wood fiber (a most desirable fuel for a gasifier) isn’t running their factories off Wood Gasifiers? I believe this question is part of critical thinking, and it’s a trade mark of seasoned DIYers.

About: Kelpie Wilson

 Here’s an article I found that she wrote in the Huffington Post:


Now let’s look at her coverage of the recent Berkeley Gasifier Meet:


Nice work Kelpie, it’s exactly what kind of coverage we expect from a young liberal.  A lot of us just want to know if there’s a return on investment. Let’s take this report and compare it to a report on a toaster. Would Kelpie ever get around to whether it made toast or not?

For many that frequent pages here, (likely older people than Kelpie). We’d love to see someone slap a ‘power analyser’ with a name we recognize on the generator attached to the “10KW power pallet” and tell us the sustained power output. We know it will light a light bulb or two, but we get these reports that engineers are involved.  One Author references Liberals in Academics attending. My question at the end of the day.. Isn’t there at least one Engineer in this group that’s not a little embarassed by the fact that they keep meeting and never seem to get around to deliver the basic facts? Am I expecting too much?

I have a therory about AE, much of what is presented as a solution will never provide a return on investment….. but… the way it’s reported on makes it seem we’re ready to abandon other forms of energy “if only we would do so”  Soon we have the delusional and uninformed voting in favor of the impossible based on Kelpie style reporting.

One last Question, “Liberals in Academics” It just dawned on me.. I’ve made an assumption that these folks had backgrounds in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering and had little excuse for not borrowing some test equipment. Now that I think it through, these folks could be from the political science department, and it’s likely no one would trust them with a decent power analyzer.


Previous comment below… 

I’ve opened this page to discuss this technology here.  Many of us understand that the gas plants in cities hundreds of years ago light the town square, and the town crier often lighted the lamps at night and extinguished them in the morning as part of his routine. He served in other capacities as night watchman and more.

 We also know that there’s been little discovered regarding the operation of these units since WWII, and a lot of the current efforts are attempts to make them function as well as they once did.

What I need your help with is finding information regarding ‘power out’ figures, we all know that watching an engine idle, or watching a vehicle move forward in it’s lowest compound gear does not impress the engineer or the seasoned DIYer. Neither does mowing a lawn that doesn’t need mowing.  Many of us in the DIYer community want to know the facts. In one demonstration  I saw a wood gas powered generator referred to as a 10KW generator for no apparent reason other than the gen head was capable of delivering 10KW.

The more seasoned DIYer realizes there are easy ways to figure the theoretical maximums in generator output, and we start with the known basics.  What is the bore and stroke, what is the operating RPM? Are we using a supercharged engine, or are we stuck with a normally aspirated engine?

The DIYer might identify the particular engine the wood gas experimenters are using, identify it’s typical fuel and the power output at rated RPM. Knowing the BTU value of they typical fuel, we might compare it to the wood gas fuel and it’s BTU value and arrive at a theoretical maximum power output at any given rpm. We realize that the maximum horse power has everything to do with the BTU value of the fuel, and we know we have an optimum fuel air mixture to work around.  We all understand that wood gas is very low in BTUs compared to SVO, and most other fuels for that matter.  It leads us to believe that we’ll need a lot of additional cubic inches or a supercharger to get enough energy into the combustion chamber to make equivalent power to the normally reccomended fuel.  When you see a 24 horse power NA engine attached to a 10KW generator head and the Experimenters touting it as a 10KW gasifier, alarms might go off in your head. It’s not such a disappointment if they’re all ultra green thinkers who have never stepped foot out of the class room, but if they’re boys from the ranch or farm with practical experience, or professional engineers, you wonder if the intent is to sell something not quite ready for service?  Just how much effort would it take to put a resistive load across the output of  the generator and measure the power output with a clamp on and decent volt meter? I’d also love to see a gasifier power an engine for an hour or so. If you can help educate me, please do,consider this page a potential advertisement for your favorite gasifier..  

So here it is, my page to discuss this further, I have a lot of questions, I’m hoping you have the answers, and you’ll offer some comments to this post.  

All the best, and thanks in advance.

George B.

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3 Responses to Wood Gas Generators

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  2. Russell Furzer says:

    I was trawling through the GEK website (I have lots of fallen branches and already have a PTO woodchipper- also the local forestry guys have lost a Japanese contract and they have a mountain of woodchips with no home)

    Those guys in the “art space” seem to be working like real DIYers and are publishing some data.

    They did a run with a 10kw generator over 10h and seemed to put out some power (I note that it does fall to zero a few times – not sure what was up then)

    This link is 18 mo old and they seem to be contunuing to work on the project


    They also have a listeroid with a spark plug in the compression changeover valve that will run either-or. (as well as “and” presumably). They havent tested it at 17:1 compression yet but say that they will soon- they have attracted a Brit DIYer called Ken Boak who has a nice CHP plant in his shed.


    Maybe those guys are not as crazy as we think

    • George B. says:

      Russ, got an email from Ken Boak the other day, he will be over for the new meet, I was invited last year, and this year.. I am old, cynical, and very much a skeptic, I just think it’s a lot of work and effort to keep a gasifier on line.. but I guess we’ll see.. I like the idea of using diesel as a pilot fuel, it solves a few issues..

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