Wood gas generator, gasifier gasification from The Colony

If you watched The Colony season 1 from the Discovery Channel you will remember that they powered a small engine from the fumes of heated wood.  Is it possible? what’s your opinion?

In this video, John the scientist explains how he is going to create a gassifier. skip to 7:39 if you like.

PART ONE

PART TWO

 

This is the video of their first attempt.  Not enough heat and the container is too large:

I have not found the video of the working gasifier yet, it is on youtube somewhere, I will find and post it here right away.

 

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COMMENTS:

Junior Member

 
One of the reasons why I like the show is that it gives me some idea how to construct stuff in case of a real emergency like the wood gas generator made out of a 5 gallon gas can tossed into a fire. 

However, after doing some research, that couldn’t have possibly worked. The gasses produced by such a device are just the volitile wood compounds like tar and would quickly be sucked out of the can. You could torch it like was shown, but after that, it is just a charcoal maker and you couldn’t run an engine on it for any length of time.

Interestingly, the web site shows a real FEMA design styled downdraft wood gas generator that would have worked and must have been what they were really using. I am disapointed that they showed a completely unworkable gas generator in the show, yet had a real generator on hand. In a real emergency, what they showed was useless and I would have rather seen a demonstration of something that actually worked. Maybe they couldn’t build a real generator in a day, so they showed the unworkable one.

Another thing that was strange to the point of irresponsible was showing the use of engines in an indoor environment. That is an instant recipe for carbon monoxide poisoning and I am surprised the producers wouldn’t have at least put in a mention of how dangerous that is. They shouldn’t have been worried about their gas generator blowing up, they should have been more worried about gassing themselves since wood gas is largely composed of deadly carbon monoxide.

I am wondering how much of the other stuff they show wouldn’t actually work.
 
Registered: 09-03-09 Reply With Quote

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You can’t call John C. a liar. He has too much integrity.

In John C.’s blog, he writes:

"I remember how absolutely amazed I was that we were actually making electricity out of wood fumes.. .. I hope the sense of ‘can that really be working ..?!?!’ came through. For those who are wondering.. we got about 3 hours of generation from every charge of wood. .. which was sufficient to top off our batteries. One thing I really loved about the show was that everything they showed that worked.. actually worked.. if it didn’t work.. they’d show that it didn’t work.. That was really important to me."

John also talks about the gassifier in a podcast. I had kind of wondered if he had read up on gassifiers before the show to prepare himself, but actually he had heard about them in his younger days in Austria, listening to two old women talking about using a gassifier for a car, I think during World War II. My recollection is hazy, but as I recall, the interviewer asks, "Wouldn’t the tar gum up the engine?" And John C. says yes, for extended use you’d need filters, declining to say more, explaining that we’ll just have to watch and see what happens.
 
Registered: 09-02-09 Reply With Quote

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Well, with respect, before you someone a liar you should seriously know the facts.

As to gas powered engines and carbon monoxide in a building. Buildings all over this country are running gas powered engines indoors!

Ever been in a factory? As long as the air quality remains within approved margins, they’ll run lift trucks and semis right past you…indoors.
 
Registered: 07-29-09 Reply With Quote

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plus that plaace is drafty (full of air holes) and very tall ceillings.
 
Registered: 08-04-09 Reply With Quote

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if i remember correctly there was an open window just above the generator where the fuel tube came in
 
Registered: 08-12-09 Reply With Quote

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FEMA’s design will pump out tar if not properly sized to the motor. Myself,I was actually surprised that they didn’t use a filter. without a constructed filter for the engine it will tar up something fierce.
Also to be considered, the distance traveled by the hose at an up grade may have been enough to keep the tar flowing backwards to the gasifier.
Where it would be consumed.
The 5 gallon unit will run an engine. It’s just not a sophisticated as other updraft / downdraft designs. Also before you decry any design, you might look around on the web and find that some folks who have built the fema design can’t get their gas to light/flare.
 
Registered: 09-14-09 Reply With Quote

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tar build up also depends on the type of wood used. 
now a cord of pine will produce 15X the amount of tar a cord of oak will make. 
most of what they are useing are oak pallets.
 
Registered: 02-25-07 Reply With Quote

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You can’t see or smell Carbon Monoxide. The only way to be sure that it’s a safe is to use a gas detector. I certainly hope there was at least one being used off camera at all times. 

CO builds up in the blood stream in such a way that exposure to even small amounts over time can cause problems. OSHA recommends exposure to no more than 50PPM continuously over 8 hours. 800 PPM can kill you in 2 hours.
 
Registered: 01-09-08 Reply With Quote

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Ya’ll better look up more info on wood gas.

The exhaust from a small engine running it is—-?
It’s definitely not the same as running the engine on gas, diesel, or propane.

The gas from the gasifier is more dangerous than the exhaust from the engine.
Hence they operate the dangerous part outside and run the generator engine indoors.
In a large building like they have, You could operate more engines and also not worry about the smoke from the cook barrel.

I’ll repeat that again…there is more CO and CO2 from the gasifier direct than from the exhaust of the engine it’s running…Look it up.
 
Registered: 09-14-09 Reply With Quote

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You just can’t know for sure it’s safe without a detector. You can guess, like when John C. drank the ozonated water, but you don’t know for sure. All I’m saying is that if I were the insurance company behind the show, I’d want gas detectors in the building.
 
Registered: 01-09-08 Reply With Quote

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Running small engines in a shop this size is a not an issue. Running big diesels would be, even with the doors open. 
I question the design/size of the gasifier.
The engine on the old Ford is 460-507 ci, with that big pump sucking in the gas, the fire box is going to be more like a blast furnace! What they were using for the genny was fine for a 100 cc engine but for the truck it would need to be closer in size to that of a small steam Loco to run the truck,especially with the load of passengers,cargo, wood and added body. 
I wouldn’t want to think about adding climbing a grade like Grapevine or Cajon Pass. Wouldn’t do it, period.
 
Registered: 09-03-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
You just can’t know for sure it’s safe without a detector. You can guess, like when John C. drank the ozonated water, but you don’t know for sure. All I’m saying is that if I were the insurance company behind the show, I’d want gas detectors in the building.


After a disaster, a detector is a bird or just someone in your crew that no one likes.
I can’t help you understand that you are worried about one small engine in a building that would see the operation of several forklift engines in the course of a normal day.
The volume of the building is very large…In a situation such as the colony…I would have set you out on the curb and locked the door already.
The one thing that drives me nuts about the show . Is they portray every situation dramatically. Totally inaccurate. There is no time for drama in a do it now situation. Fact is there is no time for the chalk board discussions… I find them hilarious. Still need a CO detector. For realism, Use a Leetle bird in a leetle cage and hang the cage near the exhaust of the genset. ****I know for sure you didn’t look up the stats for emissions from engines operated by wood gas.

 
Registered: 09-14-09 Reply With Quote

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Since birds are kind of hard to catch, I would say they shouldn’t have eaten all the rats, one could’ve been their "canary in the coal mine"
 
Registered: 08-05-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
Originally posted by Dieseldog13:
Running small engines in a shop this size is a not an issue. Running big diesels would be, even with the doors open. 
I question the design/size of the gasifier.
The engine on the old Ford is 460-507 ci, with that big pump sucking in the gas, the fire box is going to be more like a blast furnace! What they were using for the genny was fine for a 100 cc engine but for the truck it would need to be closer in size to that of a small steam Loco to run the truck,especially with the load of passengers,cargo, wood and added body. 
I wouldn’t want to think about adding climbing a grade like Grapevine or Cajon Pass. Wouldn’t do it, period.


The gassifier required would be about 16-18 inches at the grate.with about 70 lbs of fuel in the hopper. going by the 460. that would fit in a 50-70 gallon water heater tank.
The engine will have to be operated at higher revs around 3 k and I hope its a standard to get the max outa the wood gas. They develop around 70% of the horsepower that gas does @ a rate of 1-1.5 pounds of wood to the gallon of regular gas, so that equates to about one gear lower for climbing hills. now they are gonna need several hundred pounds of fuel to make the trip in a 9 mpg(?) truck. That trucks gonna need some serious filters to keep from Gooing up the motor on the trip. I can’t wait to see how they did it.

 
Registered: 09-14-09 Reply With Quote

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I’m also interested in seeing how it works out. If if it slow, even almost walking speed, that truck can carry a lot more weight than they could possibly carry, the biggest question I would have would be range…..better take an axe and stop to "refuel".
 
Registered: 09-12-09 Reply With Quote

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John V. stated a range of 150 miles.

I do suspect that tar will play a role in the finale. Even if they remember to use a filter on the truck’s gassifier, the filter is going to gunk up, so they better remember to bring spare filters.
 
Registered: 09-02-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
Originally posted by Maiklas3000:
John V. stated a range of 150 miles.

I do suspect that tar will play a role in the finale. Even if they remember to use a filter on the truck’s gassifier, the filter is going to gunk up, so they better remember to bring spare filters.



Design often conflicts with reality. If it was designed and manufactured in better circumstances from non-scavenged parts, I’d be more prone to believe it would make it that far. As it is, regardless of how far it goes, it will carry a great deal of weight much farther than the colonists could ever hope to carry it on-foot. I personally think the idea is pretty ingenious.

 
Registered: 09-12-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
Originally posted by RedLeg_1_7:

quote:
Originally posted by Maiklas3000:
John V. stated a range of 150 miles.

I do suspect that tar will play a role in the finale. Even if they remember to use a filter on the truck’s gassifier, the filter is going to gunk up, so they better remember to bring spare filters.



Design often conflicts with reality. If it was designed and manufactured in better circumstances from non-scavenged parts, I’d be more prone to believe it would make it that far. As it is, regardless of how far it goes, it will carry a great deal of weight much farther than the colonists could ever hope to carry it on-foot. I personally think the idea is pretty ingenious.



There are some wood gas groups on the web.
And I have been playing with the idea since gas went to 2 bucks a gallon.
Right now I’m planning a conversion to my jeep.

To answer several of the questions:
Yes the filter is gonna gunk up but can be burnt in the gas reactor as fuel…filters can be constructed from fuel for the gassifier. such as wood chips or straw. some folks use two filters the first of combustible material to catch tar and a fiberglass one to catch dirt.

Better carry all the dry fuel they can because the process works best on dry fuel. fuel also can be the charcoal they made with the small unit.

Scavenged parts: most of the gassifiers running the roads in America today are from scavenged materials. The reaction does not depend on what you construct them from, It is rather how you construct it.You have to keep air out of certain areas of the system.

Engine size: The bigger the better as the engines ability to vacuum or suck the gas improves with size.

Top speed: Similar to its gas engine counterpart. Difference being, long wind up to speed and having to climb hills in a lower gear.
The truck they are using should top out at about sixty.

The main components are:
Gassifier/reactor vessel.
Cyclone or settling tank.
at least one filter with medium to catch tar and dirt. a properly constructed system produces very little tar.
blower to prime the system.
flare tube to check the quality of the gas. Produced gas is flared before turning off the flare and opening the system to the engine.
cooling apparatus
Misc piping
mixing valve to control fuel air ratio to engine.

It is tricky to do but I expect them to be able to make it work well.

 
Registered: 09-14-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
Originally posted by Elderdragon:

quote:
Originally posted by RedLeg_1_7:

quote:
Originally posted by Maiklas3000:
John V. stated a range of 150 miles.

I do suspect that tar will play a role in the finale. Even if they remember to use a filter on the truck’s gassifier, the filter is going to gunk up, so they better remember to bring spare filters.



Design often conflicts with reality. If it was designed and manufactured in better circumstances from non-scavenged parts, I’d be more prone to believe it would make it that far. As it is, regardless of how far it goes, it will carry a great deal of weight much farther than the colonists could ever hope to carry it on-foot. I personally think the idea is pretty ingenious.


It is tricky to do but I expect them to be able to make it work well.


Interesting. In the last 5-6 weeks since mike and john got the truck running we’ve yet to see it move under it’s own power. The driveline is untested. What is the Tranny? 5 speed? Does it have a 2 speed split rear? What about brakes?
I drove a few gas jobs back in the day and with good HO fuel you could get out and walk faster.
The after cooler will help but with a fire in a
moving truck there are just too many variables.
In my PAW I would find heavy cylinders of CNG.

 
Registered: 09-03-09 Reply With Quote

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quote:
Originally posted by Maiklas3000:
John V. stated a range of 150 miles.

I do suspect that tar will play a role in the finale. Even if they remember to use a filter on the truck’s gassifier, the filter is going to gunk up, so they better remember to bring spare filters.


150 miles in what direction? South is none/light grades. North is 6% grade unless you run 101 along the coast.(my choice) Canyon brush would burn hot and fast, as we so often see with the wild fires.