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New Year Power Pallet Upgrades, GEK CHP, Holiday Heat & Power Party

Welcome to the New Year. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last couple months, and some pointers to what’s coming in the months ahead.

This winter we’ve been deep in Power Pallet refinement in response to user feedback and general product maturation. The upgrades fortunately no longer relate to the core gasifier, but rather to details in the larger Power Pallet control system and integrated product.

The raw gasifier is what always gets the attention, but we’re finding that real usability is achieved (or not) across lots of details elsewhere. Once you get past the early demos and few hour runs, many details of gasifier/engine integration, start/stop procedure, mixture tracking/adjustment, system auto-diagnosis and general fuel/ash handling become central to the user experience. All the early issues of tar fade, and a many-fronted product design challenge begins to emerge.

Sadly, we’ve found the stand-alone gasifier attached to any available engine isn’t really enough. You need an integrated whole with all the parts working together for a regular use, hands off machine. So as we continue our movement towards a “lift lid, put in trash, push button, and out comes useful things” washing machine type experience, here’s some of the details we’ve been working through.

1. New high vac 12vdc blower for start up gas drive- replaces ejector-venturi.

We’ve long wanted to do this, but finding a 12vdc fan/blower with adequate vac (15+ inches of h2o) has proven challenging. We went through another long design process in house to (re)figure out the principles of fan design and make one. Then we finally found a new source with the needed solution, and cheap enough that it’d be silly for us to build it ourselves. The happy result is you no longer need an air compressor on your end to drive the ejector to start your Power Pallet. Also, the GCU controls the blower via an integral PWM, keeping the reactor at the correct pull rate throughout the start up process.

We’ve been able to combine this blower with the existing premixed gas/air flare for continued clean burning. There were some interesting new flame arrestor problems to keep the fire out of the fan, now solved with a simple constriction section.

More details are in the forum:

New DIY Blower tests by Nathaniel

The new “buy it” blower that is better.

Tests to keep the fire from backing up into the blower

2. Combined flare and engine exhaust for single overhead stack.

We decided a flare and engine exhaust integration would be nice to keep operators out of the flare gas on start up. This significantly reduces the potential for someone to make a mistake and get in the CO, and just generally improves air quality around the Power Pallet. The resulting combined flare/exhaust stack also has a 12vdc hot element lighter so a propane torch is no longer needed. The flare auto lights as soon as there is flammable gas.

The flare / engine exhaust integration is also the intended foundation for our future CHP plans. We want a CHP solution that allows for varying ratios of heat to electricity, which requires being able to run the flare in parallel with the engine, and have both heat sources go to the same heat exchanger. With both the flare and exhaust going to the same heat exchanger, we can run each independently, or together, or in any combination desired. More on CHP plans below.

The details on the flare/exhaust integration are here: http://gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=501

3. GEK CHP (combined heat and power)

We’re working towards a native CHP system built standard into the Power Pallet. The goal is to make available both the hot water from the engine cooling system as well as the hot exhaust after the pyrocoil towards off-board heating needs. We’re working on liquid heat exchangers to produce hot water for heating and hot shower water. We’re also working on hot gas-to-gas exchangers so you can get hot air for fuel drying and agricultural crop drying.

There are many fancy ways to do this. Bear will document those later. There are also some cheap obtainium ways to do it with stuff laying around the homestead. Here’s some tests we did recently on both fronts. The results now runs our local hot tube, pictures of which are at the end of this post.

CHP tests posted in forum
http://gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=498
http://gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=507

4. New gas/air mixing servo butterfly valve

The one we’ve been making in-house has worked well, but its longevity is under debate. We decided to get a custom one made at the small orifice size needed. There are not regular sources for the small size servo butterfly we need, at tolerable prices. Now we’re having some custom made overseas. They’ll soon be available for your own DIY projects too.

5. Electronic governor to replace mechanical governor

Mechanical governors are robust, but we’re unsatisfied with their speed accuracy. It seems to be the nature of the mechanical governor beast, thus we’re going electronic. The mechanical governor will continue to be there for a backup if needed.

6. Grate shaking and ash auger.

These systems continue to refine to better purge bell packing with finer fuels. The latest round of changes creates a bit of upward grate movement while shaking which significantly improves fines purging. Adding an upward movement to the shake is surprisingly effective, and it has was interesting to learn the historic Imbert gasifier did this too. (thank you Deutsches Museum)

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Holiday Heat and Power Party

Seeing that the above improvements cumulatively produce lots of hot water, we decided to have a party. Thus our company holiday event this year was the “Heat and Power Party”. The Power Pallet lit the event, made gas to cook the crepes, and heated the hot tub water to stew the humans. Other fire assemblies appeared (as usual), Kimric shot the monkey cannon at all non-moving targets, and someone brought a very tasty chocolate cake that I ate a good deal of. The building was still full when I left, and some were still there in the morning. A successful CHP event– hopefully the first of many.

Here’s the photo set from the party: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=49


More news soon. In the meantime, I hope you will keep up with our progress by visiting the GEK forum. We’re there every day. Come and join us: http://gekgasifier.com/forums/index.php

Jim Mason

CHP on the Cheap

we’re working towards a native chp system built standard into the power pallet. the goal is to make available both the hot water from the engine cooling system, as well as the hot exhaust after the pyrocoil, towards off board heating needs. we’re working on liquid heat exchangers to produce hot water for heating and hot shower water. we’re also working on hot gas to gas exchangers so you can get hot air for fuel drying and ag crop drying.

there are many fancy ways to do this. bear will document these later. there are also some cheap obtainium ways to do this. here below are some of the cheap hacks you can do with stuff laying around the homestead.

1. burn the flare into a salvaged on demand water heater.

these on demand heat exchanger sections are surprisingly efficient. in the picture here we’re sending 800c flue gas into it, and you can hold you hand over the top of it without too much pain. i put a piece of crumpled paper down inside the exchanger and it didn’t catch on fire. didn’t even get fully pyrolyzed.

the water coming out is about 80c in this picture. bear is using it to pasturize some wood chips so he can grow mushrooms. yes, the eating type.

2. put the swirl burner down into a bucket of water. look at that blue flame!

this is darrel’s new gasifier hot tub heater using the standard gek swirl burner. it is using the standard gek type ejector with a elbow at the end so the feed pipe comes back up parallel to the burner. this makes it easy to put it down into a bucket. we should really add a longer flue on the swirl burner and get it even further underwater. but it works surprisingly well at the stock length.

as you can see, the water comes to a rather vigorous boil. the swirl motion motivates the hot gas to the heat exchange surface, minimizing the laminar layer.

for the brave, you can sink this right down into your hot tub. for the less brave, you can run a second pump moving water between this hot bucket and your hot tub.

these and other new CHP systems will be put to work this weekend at the APL holiday hot tub party. more info on that in another post.

We tested Darrel’s heater again last night.

We got ~30 gallons of water to a rolling boil in about 50 minutes.
A few folks were interested in how to use water to calculate energy input, I’ll show work below.

Using those numbers:
30 gallons * 3.785 L/gal * 1000 mL/L = 113,562 mL

The density of water is _very_ close to 1 g/mL:

113,562 mL * 1 g/mL = 113,562 g

A calorie (small c) is the energy it takes to raise one 1 gram of water by 1°C (at standard temperature, but this holds pretty well at other temperatures):
deltaT = Tfinal – Tinitial = 100°C – 15°C = 85°C
113,562 g * 85°C = 9,652,800 calories

One calorie is 4.184 Joules:
9,652,800 calories * 4.184 J/cal = 40,387,315 J

Coverting to kWh:

1 W = 1 J/s
1 J = 1 W for 1 second
50 min * 60 sec/min = 3000 sec
40,387,315 J / 3,000 sec = 13462.44 W = 13.4 kW_thermal (net)

We had a number of losses off the barrel, so with fine tuning the heat retained in the water could be brought up. Accounting for losses (barrel bottom conducting with concrete, sides radiating heat, steam evaporating from the water surface) probably brings the heat going into the water up to 15-20 kW .

The flue gas was still pretty hot off the top of the flare, so there’s more there to be captured as well.

In theory, the GEK should be putting out up to 40 kW thermal (total gas chemical heating value) for a 10 kW electrical system. If we fine tune a water heating system (eliminate or calculate the losses), we can get the raw gas heating/power value from a system without needing to run an engine.

Here is what jim identifies as a boat heat exchanger that we’re using to capture heat from the coolant loop of the engine. There are also a number of plate exchangers that are affordable, some in 3×8" form factors that should fit nicely below the radiator.

APL at Pacific Nut Producers Expo

APL had a booth at the Pacific Nut Producers Expo on November 16th, 2010 in Turlock, CA (Stanislaus County).

We brought the Power Pallet there, and had it running outside on walnut shells with the other nut harvesting and tree care equipment on show. The power pallet ran without issue from 8am to the end of the show around 1:30pm, powering an array of halogen lights.

For many of the farmers, it seemed this was a new idea, but there was a good deal of interest. A few thought the contraption was some sort of still. A few knew about cars running on wood in Europe, but the idea seemed largely unknown.

Process heat is needed for drying walnuts, electricity or torque for water pumps, and there are large supplies of walnut shell and tree trimmings available (one nut processor generates 15 million pounds of walnut shell annually). That’s 6,000 MWh per year, or 700kw of power run 24 hours a day, 350 days a year. At $0.15/kwh, that’s US$900,000 in electricity.

The California Air Resources Board has been phasing out the open burning of agricultural residues (like rice straw, orchard trimmings), so the materials that used to be piled up and burned, are either getting mulched, sold for polishing media, or going to cogen plants hundreds of miles away for $16/ton. As electricity, the shells are worth $120/ton.

Here are some photos from the event:

No Time For Beer In Munich- There’s A Real Imbert Here!

before i left germany, i thought it’d be good to go see the deutsches museum- the german museum of science and technology. the deutsches museum is somewhat like the louvre of industrial engineering. it’s absolutely stunning. every room there’s another mona lisa of an early industrial process, machine or technology. most all the early internal and external combustion engines are here, starting with the first- the lenoir that fired up (barely) on town gas in 1860.

in the transportation building, there is an original imbert holzsvergasser mounted on a 1938 adler diplomat. this is the first actual real imbert brand gasifier i’ve ever seen. here’s the pictures so far (until i got caught removing too many caps to take pictures of the insides. museum curators just don’t understand what’s at stake here.)

http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/b…mages.php?c=46


the first and lasting impressing is these things were really rough. there is so much mythology about this machine, and really, and really, mike la rosa could give it a good run for the fabricating money . . .;-) i. somewhat like the saturn V rocket at johnson space center- just basic steel and surprisingly mediocore welding. it was funny to see so many of the same problems and needs solved on the imbert in the same hack manner many of us still do with a welder and a hammer. i saw little lost knowledge to rediscover. i saw lots of expedience, simplicity, and band aids.

still, it was completely fascinating. the base was still full of charcoal, likely from the last time the vehicle was run over a half century ago. (note to biochar enthusiasts- charcoal does not degrade at least in 70years).

i got one of the side ports off and could see the houglass hearth, air preheating circle tube, and char sitting up around the bell. i got a bit dirty, spilled some char/ash on the floor, and felt right at home.

can’t get under the hood yet to see the carb and reheating parts. i’m trying to ask for permission (now that i’ve asked for forgiveness) to get more access to the unit. i’ve been given the contact info for the director of the transportation museum. hopefully i can talk my way under a few more caps tomorrow, with proper oversight and assistance. we’ll see.

until then, enjoy the pictures. its a real treat to see and touch the details of how the ancients solved the same problems we suffer today trying to build these things.

jim


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UPDATE 10-30-10

i need to somewhat retract the statement that the ancients had nothing on us “moderns”. there were some unusual and unexpected things in the imbert. things i’ve never realized from the drawings and the reports. nothing game changing, but some of the details and integrations between internal reactor components was more mature than we’ve realized.

i’m going to need to write this up in a series of reports, going component by component. i have pictures of everything, as well as complete dimensions that i can translate into cad files for the entire system. in the interim, here’s a portrait of the researcher at work . . .

also, there turned out to be another vehicle with an imbert gasifier in the vehicle part of the museum. this one was a ford truck with behind cab unit. same basic architecture and components, but some significant differences in execution.

i didn’t get to spelunk the ford gasifier. i only got to dig through the one on the adler. but fortunately i got to dig all i wanted. three hours worth. i was rather wonderful, in a somewhat disturbingly geeky way. the musuem staff was excited that someone actually cared about this. the docents wanted to learn lots of details of why and how, as they gives tours of this machine regularly.

reports will start soon. in the meantime here is a link to the picture gallery:

Imbert at Deutchesmuesum
jim

Berkeley workshop winds down. Germany workshop starts in 5 days.

Thank you to everyone who came out for the workshop and made it such a pleasurable success.  As usual, we had a very interesting cross-section of biomass thermal conversion enthusiasts, about 60 in total over the weekend.    Where else but at a wood gas and biochar workshop can you find hippies and rednecks, liberal academics and AM talk radio jockeys, grumpy old guys and well dressed financiers all mixed together, turning wrenches together, and getting along reasonably well in the process.  In fact, most of them get along so well they and were still trickling out on Thursday– over a week after the first enthusiasts started arriving.

Kelpie Wilson of the International Biochar Initiative wrote a nice article and posted a nice gallery of the full show.  It was published in the Huffington Post and Truth-Out. See here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelpie-wilson/post_1050_b_760217.html

The goal of the longer workshop format this time was to take on some long-anticipated projects requiring more than the usual weekend to finish.  In the end, and as usual, none of the 4 main projects got exactly to the end state we wanted, but all of them pushed the ball significantly down the road.  We’re extremely happy with what was accomplished, the details of which are elaborated below.


Kubota 10kw Power Pallet Report

The big news of the weekend/week was not the impress of ALL Power Labs’ engineering, but rather the impress of the engineering on display by Kubota.  I’m amazed how smooth running these kubotas 3 cyl engines are.  It is very odd to have a proper industrial design engine at this small of size.  Kubota does very impressive work.  All the workshop attendees stood around and talked about the same.  Given things were so quiet, it was easy to have regular conversation right at the genset.

Pictures of the power pallet and other workshop events are in the forum gallery here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=44

Our long runs tests, however, turned out to be not as long as desired.  The power pallet worked without hiccup for each of the 5 days we ran it, but fuel preparation, instrumentation and datalogging proved to be more than we bargained for.  Keeping a full instrumentation suite up and running, along with tracking the fuel mass and moisture input, energy output, and char/ash byproduct, proved much more difficult than just operating the gasifier.

This was complicated by our starting with fresh cut cedar wood chips at 100% moisture (dry basis), thus quite a bit of drying was needed to get the fuel to the under 30% range which the GEK can handle.  I’ve been surprised how much higher fuel moisture content a gasifier can handle with a full heat recycling rig like the Hot TOTTI.  We’re regularly seeing good operation in the 20-30% moisture range, which is about twice what is typical.  It is easy to get to the 20-30% range with just air drying if you presource and store your fuel for a bit (which we didn’t).  Still, you can’t run freshly cut wet wood.  We ran out of ready fuel on Thursday afternoon, right about the same time everyone fell over exhausted anyways.

Nonetheless, we put in 5 days of 6-12 hour runs.  The cyclone catch jar was still without any black goo at the end of the 5 days of running.  Just dry soot and ash.  The last two days had the fuel and power monitoring fully online and reasonably accurate.  Here’s what we learned about our “fuel in to energy out” efficiencies, while running at an average of 4kwe.

10/13 (Weds)-
Dry Mass Consumed: 31.4 kg
kWh Produced: 24.75
kg/kWh: 1.3
Average MC: ~24% (mass weighted average)

10/14 (Thurs)-
Dry Mass Consumed: 26.6 kg
kWh Produced: 21.75
kg/kWh: 1.2
Average MC: ~35%

I’m thrilled to see “fuel to power” ratio of 1.2-1.3kg per kwh for this small of gasifier-genset.  Remember that each component in the system (gasifer, engine, genhead) gets less efficient as their size decreases.  High efficiency is always more difficult at smaller scale.  The above “fuel in to energy out ratio” is at the better end of the numbers reported for much larger units.  The power pallet efficiency is mostly made possible by the Hot TOTTI thermal recycling system.

We’ll be continuing these long datalogged runs in the coming weeks.  Now that the fuel tracking and instrumentation solutions are fully set up, ongoing proving runs are much easier to do.


Lister spark conversion

After some technical drama with a cut trace on the ignition control board, the spark converted Lister finally came to life Tuesday eve.  Ron Ohler, Mike LaRosa and Jay did the honors, but Ken Boak, Marcus Hardwick, Michael Shiloh and Peef did much of the preparation that made it possible.  Pictures from the first run are in the workshop gallery here:  http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?do=browseimages&c=44&page=3

This time the spark plug it in the COV valve on the side of the head.  The diesel injection was left intact so we can switch back and forth easily between the two.

For the first run, we fired it on diesel then switched over to woodgas while running.  It was surprisingly easy to switch over, much easier than with a carburetor on gasoline, as you could get a sharp switch off of the diesel via the shut down lever.  No usual fuel wandering back and forth as the carb runs out of fuel.

The timing was fussed with quite a bit.  We ended up with it about 45deg advanced, and it still didn’t seem fully enough.  One problem we found with the coil over plug arrangement is you can’t get a timing light on the spark plug wire, as there isn’t one.  The inductive clamp won’t work over the plug boot.

We had the kill-a-watts hooked up on each of two legs and topped out at 2.9kw.  That was pushing the absolute max. 2.5kw was easy to maintain.  This was at about 600rpm.  A little below the standard 650rpm.  Shaky shake started above 600rpm.

The compression is the 13.3:1 of last time.  The injector is leaking a bit too.  We’ll likely get a bit more power once we return to 17:1 and get the injector better sealed.

All in all, i’m happy how much power it made, and how smooth it ran. It seemed to run about the same as it did with the spark plug in the injector hole.  The biggest difference was in the timing adjust. so given the lack of good control on that last time, it is difficult to compare properly between the two modes.  But it was clear that it works just fine in the COV valve, and this is good news, as this is a better place to put it.

The ability to start on diesel then switch over with a hard “fuel off” switch was very nice.

Thank you Ken, Marcus, Ron, Mike and the others that made it go.  Another very impressive effort by all of you.

The rest of the Workshop: — Biochar making and Planting– Fischer Tropsch experiments

Many interesting things happened.  We’ll report on them in the next Geknews.  This is getting too long already.

In the interim, there pictures of the 350.org 10-10-10 biochar planting in a Berkeley community garden here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=44

The biochar talks were fabulous too.  All the talks are available on the APL YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/allpowerlabs .

Germany Workshop, October 22-24

The Germany workshop starts in about 5 days.   We’re hoping this workshop will be easier for the GEK interested in Europe to get to than flying all the way to Berkeley.

The Power Pallet arrived in Frankfurt on Friday.  It should be at the workshop site by mid week.   We’ll be on the plane over on Tuesday.

Holger Roswandowicz, the sponsor of the workshop in Germany, has posted an update on the event here:
http://nrg-consultants.com/biomass/15kwbiomassbackuppowergenerator/workshop-zellingen/index.html

excepted text:

Jim Mason from Allpowerlabs, Holger Roswandowicz from NRG-Consultants.com and Herbert Hornung from Hornung Energy have planned to do the first EU GEK-workshop in Zellingen near Würzburg.

It is planned, that Jim is speaking about the Basics of Gasfications on Friday 22.th October in the eveneing.
If possible a GEK run with the new Kubota Motor is planned for the evening

On Saturday, the major workshop day Jim plans to make 4 RUNs in a day
He will make explanations before, during and after a run.

Meanwhile Holger Roswandowicz will explain the major differences between the markets and properties of the wood gasifier power gens and chps.

Holger is CHP-project consultant / engineer and has many experiences with standard chps,
Biomass CHPs from Talbotts and the Biomass CHP from Stirling Denmark and has experience with many applications out in the industries.
He is specialized in flow and heatmetering solutions in different applications (metering).

Herbert Hornung is the owner of the large Store Möbel Hornung and naturally the founder of Hornung Energy.

He is the owner of the GEK now with the Kubota Motor and allows us all to make this workshop at his loctaion in Zellingen.

On Sunday the 24th we will repeat the runs and go more in depth with the technology of gasification and speak about the capabilties of your planned applications, if you like.

Jim, Herbert and Holger are williing to serve the GEK-owners and its later modifications in the EU.

The workshop starts on late Friday after 6.00 pm (18.00 Uhr).

You can call Holger under ++49 171 1988 926
His mail is info@eea-eu.com
Follow on Twitter twitter.com/nrgconsultant
Follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/nrgconsultant

Workshop this weekend — Lister spark conversion — 6 Gas Analyzer now in house

Gasification and Biochar Workshop this coming weekend- October 8-11

Last chance reminder!

The next quarterly workshop at ALL Power Labs is coming up this weekend.   We hope you will join us for what is always a very enjoyable descent into (and back out of) the deep recesses of biomass thermal conversion.

The workshop offers education, research reports and hands-on experience to bring more people to successful operation of small scale gasification and pyrolysis units. The event is open everyone, not just GEK or BEK users/owners. So come and join us while we progressively make small-scale gasification and pyrolysis a reasonable proposition, adequately advanced for everyday use.

This fall we’re running the workshop in an extended format so we can take on some long-anticipated projects requiring more than the usual weekend to finish. The main event will be four days this time (Friday through Monday) but with one of the projects continuing until the following weekend. (yes, we’ll have a live webcam so you can watch the whole process, even if you’re not here).

There are 4 tracks/projects during the workshop.  Everyone can participate in all of them.

1. GEK Power Pallet 7 day endurance test with new Kubota engine and Mecc alte genhead
2. Syngas-to-Liquid experiments via Fischer Tropsch
3. Lister spark conversion
4. Biochar database samples generation with the BEK

Workshop Details:

Opening Intro/ Lecture: Friday, October 8, 7:30-9:30PM
Weekend Build, Run and Test: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 9-11, 11am – 7pm

Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Contact: jim ^at^ allpowerlabs dot org
Cost: Free if you are a GEK or BEK owner, either through self build or purchase. Otherwise, $100 for weekend. Pay via paypal here.

For more information and RSVP instructions for the workshop, see: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=413

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Wuhan Cubic 6 Gas Analyzer for workshop, with talk by its developer Dr.
Dr Youhui Xiong

Bear is happy.  We finally have a proper real time 6 gas analyzer in house with which to monitor the produced gas in GEK tests.  Actually, we have two of them now– one 19″ rack mount and one portable.  Both of these are NDIR machines, designed and built by Wuhan Cubic in China.   Having two of then will allow us to monitor and datalog the produced gas in both the GEK and BEK projects this weekend.

We’ve long been suggesting these Wuhan units as the best value we’ve found to date for low cost gas analysis.  They cost about $8,000, which about half of the next best proper EQ options available.  And now that we finally have one inhouse, we can attest from direct experience how well they are designed and built.  Of course the first thing we did was disassemble it, and the inhouse electronics geeks signed off with broad smiles.

Details on its specifications are here:  http://www.gassensor.com.cn/English/products.asp?class_id=325

Dr Youhui Xiong, the developer of these units and the founder of Wuhan Cubic, will be here for the workshop and is giving a talk Friday night on gas sensing/analysis technology.  This should be very interesting.  We’re honored to have him all the way over here from China.

We are now reselling these units for Wuhan Cubic through the GEK store.  Write us if you would like more details on getting one.  And of course, come see it in action this weekend.

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Lister spark conversion

Ken Boak and Marcus Hardwick have created a new wiki page with good documentation of the Lister spark conversion project for this coming workshop.  There is full doc on the electronics and code, as well as the machining dimensions to modify the COV valve to hold the spark plug.

This time we’re going in through the COV plug on the side of the head, so we can keep the diesel injection system intact, and have immediate dual fuel capabilities.  No wrenching to go back and forth between diesel config and 100% wood gas spark config.

see the details of here:
http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/Spark-conversion-for-Lister-slow-speed-diesel-engines

On other less technical fronts, the lister is now removed from its previous MAXIMUM resonance mounting pad, and is now just on its C-channel skid frame.  It should shake much less this go around.  Everything is in good order and ready to go on the lister front.

Workshop Oct 8-11 — BEK in Brazil — New Kubota engine for Power Pallet

Gasification and Biochar Workshop- October 8-11

The next quarterly workshop at ALL Power Labs is coming up in less than two weeks.   We hope you will join us for what is always a very enjoyable descent into (and back out of) the deep recesses of biomass thermal conversion.

The workshop offers education, research reports and hands-on experience to bring more people to successful operation of small scale gasification and pyrolysis units. The event is open everyone, not just GEK or BEK users/owners. So come and join us while we progressively make small-scale gasification and pyrolysis a reasonable proposition, adequately advanced for everyday use.

This fall we’re running the workshop in an extended format so we can take on some long-anticipated projects requiring more than the usual weekend to finish. The main event will be four days this time (Friday through Monday) but with one of the projects continuing until the following weekend. (yes, we’ll have a live webcam so you can watch the whole process, even if you’re not here).

There are 4 tracks/projects during the workshop.  Everyone can participate in all of them.

1. GEK Power Pallet 7 day endurance test
2. Syngas-to-Liquid experiments
3. Lister spark conversion
4. Biochar database samples generation with the BEK

Jay has started a journal in the forum to track progress on the Gas-to-Liquids test rig.  See here:  http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1539#post1539

The Lister diesel spark conversion discussion is mostly in the yahoo woodgas forum, but with the highlights copied over to the gek forum here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=312

The Power Pallet and Biochar disccussions are less localized.  However, one recent page of interest is the recent grate shaking tests Bear has started to compare and characterize the performance of various grate shaking modes and perf hole sizes.  See here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/Grate-Shake-Testing-20100922

Workshop Details:

Opening Intro/ Lecture: Friday, October 8, 7:30-9:30PM
Weekend Build, Run and Test: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 9-11, 11am – 7pm

Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Contact: jim ^at^ allpowerlabs dot org
Cost: Free if you are a GEK or BEK owner, either through self build or purchase. Otherwise, $100 for weekend. Pay via paypal here.

For more information and RSVP instructions for the workshop, see: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=413

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APL and BEK at International Biochar Conference in Brazil.

Jay and Rachael just returned from Brazil where the held court for several days in the APL booth with the new BEK biochar maker.  Jay has written up a short report on the proceedings as well as posted a very interesting gallery of photos.

The report and photos include the post conference trip up the Amazon with a boatload of biochar enthusiasts to survey some real Terra Preta sites.  This sounded highly enjoyable, and i’m very sad I didn’t get to go.

The full report is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1540#post1540

The gallery of conference and trip photos is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=42&userid=

General info the BEK biochar unit is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/reactor-options/pyrolysis-biochar/

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New Kubota spark fired 3cyl 962cc engine for Power Pallet

Recently we learned Kubota has launched some spark fired versions of its legendary compact diesel engines. Fabulous news!  Thus we’re now offering a Kubota engine upgrade for the GEK Power Pallet, paired with a Mecc alte genhead.

Kubota diesels are generally considered to be the best small diesel engines available today. The refinement of their engineering, high power density, smooth operation and extreme longevity are long established and universally acknowledged.  The new Kubota spark fired line is built on these same diesel blocks, with most parts interchangeable between the spark and diesel versions.

The spark line has already become a favorite of natural gas field pumping operations. Our local distributor tells stories of the prototype engines to date running non-stop for three years in a Montana gas field (over 20,000 hours).

While we very much like the Kohler engines, the Kubotas are clearly a superior offering (though also more expensive). With the Kubota, we can reasonably expect a 10,000 hour service life, and see justification for this in the maintenance schedules Kubota offers for their nameplate gensets. Of course your actual mileage will vary depending on your service, but at least we have a baseline reference with some support for the claim.

More information and photos of the Kubota engine are here in the forum:
http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1544#post1544

The Kubota engine and Mecc alte genhead are are offered at 10kw for $1,000 over the standard Power Pallet prices.

General info on the GEK Power Pallet is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gasification-store/gasifier-genset-skids/

Power Pallet Price Reduction, Update from The Philippines, Farm Show, Germany Workshop Dates

While Jim and Nick are in operating gasifiers in the Philippines, the rest of the APL team is here in Berkeley, CA holding down the fort and setting up the logistics for our upcoming series of workshop around the world.  Our date for the workshop in Germany is now set and Power Pallets now have a new, lower price.

Power Pallet Price Reduction

In response to the flood of interest coming in and our desire to make our products as affordable as possible to anyone interested in generating electricity from waste biomass – we are lowering the price of the Power Pallets.  Each size is now $2,000 off the base price, putting them in the $1.30 – $1.50 a watt range for the capital cost of the equipment.
2900 – 10 kW Automated and Assembled – $15,995
3001 – 15 kW Automated and Assembled – $20,995
3002 – 20 kW Automated and Assembled – $25,995

More details can be found here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gasification-store/gasifier-genset-skids/

Jim’s report from Tuwa the Laughing Fish, an ecovillage a bit north of Manila in the Philippines


here’s some pictures from the power pallet set up and first day of the workshop. http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=40

we have a very interesting collection of people from local govt, ag development agencies throughout the philipines, and business folk. about half of the audience is involved with other gasification projects in the philipines, most all rice husk gasification projects.

the big topic of concern is the waste water from wet scrubbing based solutions, and the large size of typical gasification plants. seems we’ve heard this theme before. most all the rice husk gasification systems are using open top downdrafts of one sort or another, feeding it with a low void space fuel, and thus getting a very dirty gas out of the reactor. the dirty gas problem is “solved” in the filtering, but at significant cost, size and disposal complexity.

the potential for a small compact system that can be made mobile and put along side threshing, drying or milling machinery, and moved from site to site, is of great local interest. new things are possible when you move a gasifier towards a washing machine size object, away from a typical industrial plant size.

of course the current gek reactor will not handle small granular fuels like rice husk. we have other ones in process that will, and do so with good tar conversion in the reactor, so the same minimized clean up system will still be possible.

currentely we are running wood chips made locally, at about 30% moisture content. the totti heat recycling systems are giving us much more tolerance to run higher moisture content fuels. everything here is extrememly wet. air drying seems to only get things into the mid 20s moisture. our moisture meter on the fuels we’re chipping is reading 30% on average. that is the driest we can find without purpose drying the fuel.

even with this 30% moisture fuel, the restriction in the hearth is staying at 850-930c on a 3kwe load. this corresponds to 1200c or so at the nozzles most likely (but unmeasured). these are the temps we want to see for full tar conversion. we had a white filter and unmolested sawdust after our first runs yesterday.

the chipped fuel we’re running looks like this. we’re also using it in the bottom of the filter, as you can see here. the rest of the filter is filled with rice husk and sawdust.

today we’re going to experiment with chipped bamboo, rice straw, and rice husk. the bamboo i expect will work ok. the straw and rice husk much less so. but it should be interesting learning.

the big issue with the rick husk is the over 20% silica content. at high temps this forms silicon dioxide, or crystobalite, which is a bad nasty. the particular dynamics of its formation and deformation, as well as the nature of its health issues, i have not got caught up on. i am not clear if our high temp tar conversion strategy is going to create silicon dioxide problems. as i’m internet challenged locally, if someone(s) could go figure out the dynamics of its formation, and summarize the issues here, it would be highly helpful.

i’ll report more as i can.

jim

Power Pallets in Farm Show

In the most recent issue of Farm Show Magazine there was a great article about the Power Pallets.  We spend a lot of time reading Farm Show around the shop.  Also included in this issue were some very informative articles on other topics of general interest including “How to Make Money With Skunks” and “Deer Urine Business Pays Off.”  If you are not familiar with Farm Show Magazine – we highly recommend it.


Upcoming Workshops Around the World

The dates for our workshop in Germany are set.  Kenya is soon to follow.

Rachael and the APL Team

Fall Workshop, Oct 8-11: Power Pallet 7 day test run- Biochar Database – Syngas-to-Liquids

Gasification PowerExchange Workshop #9

Opening Intro/ Lecture: Friday, October  8, 7:30-9:30PM
Weekend Build, Run and Test: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 9-11, 11am – 7pm

Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Contact: jim ^at^ allpowerlabs dot org
Cost: Free if you are a GEK or BEK owner, either through self build or purchase.  Otherwise, $100 for weekend.

RSVP in the forum thread here, so others know you are coming.
http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=413
Pay via paypal here


The quarterly workshop series at ALL Power Labs offers education, research reports and hands-on experience to bring more people to successful operation of small scale gasification and pyrolysis units.  The event is open everyone, not just GEK or BEK users/owners.  So come and join us while we progressively make small-scale biomass thermal conversion a reasonable proposition, adequately advanced for everyday use

This fall we’re running the workshop in an extended format so we can take on some long-anticipated projects requiring more than the usual weekend to finish.  The main event will be four days this time (Friday through Monday) but with one of the projects continuing until the following weekend. (yes, we’ll have a live webcam so you can watch the whole process, even if you’re not here).

This round we’re elaborating the guest lecturer contributions, given how enjoyable the talks by Dr. Devinder Mahajan (SUNY, BNL) and Dr. Kyoung Ro (USDA, ARS) were during the June workshop.   We’re also adding a poster session for GEK/BEK owners and other researchers to present their work and machines.   In previous workshops, the combination of intro information, hands-on project building/running, and reports on current research has proved to be a great mix– thus we’re further elaborating things in this direction.  If you would like to give a talk or poster presentation during the weekend, please contact us at [EMAIL=”gek@allpowerlabs.org”]gek@allpowerlabs.org[/EMAIL] and we’ll get you on the agenda.

Here’s the list of projects for this round of the workshop.  All four will run simultaneously over the weekend.  Everyone can participate in all of them.

1. Power Pallet 7 Day Endurance Run:
A 168 hour around the clock run of the GEK 10kw Power Pallet.  This will include full data logging of the fuel input, gas output and power produced, as well as all internal reactor conditions.  The goal is to fully characterize the performance the GEK 10kw Power Pallet a long, continuous run operation.

2. Biochar Database Sample Generation:
Characterized biochar and bio-oil making with the [URL=”http://bekbiochar.pbworks.com/”]Biochar Experimenter’s Kit (BEK)[/URL], using attendee provided biomass.  Bring your own biomass and we’ll convert it to biochar through a variety of process conditions, temps and residence times.  Samples will be analyzed post workshop to seed a public biochar samples database.

3. Syngas-to-liquids workshop:
Experiments in reactor design, catalyst making, and system control with various guest lecturers from the field.  We’ll explore and assess the potential for small-scale DIY gas-to-liquids solutions, and look at some new ways around the long-standing hurdles for making it reasonable.

4. Changfa diesel and Lister spark conversion for Woodgas:
More run tests and electronics hardware hacks towards an easy DIY spark conversion solution for Listers and China Diesels. We all have a soft spot for these engines, but dual fueling them is annoying.  A ready-to-go spark conversion solution is needed.

Click on each of the above for more info on the project.

The workshop begins with a Friday evening talk on the science of gasification and pyrolysis, and the new engineering solutions embodied in the GEK and BEK.  Both beginning and expert reactor assemblies will be presented, with pointers to further reading and opportunities in the field. Everyone will get a packet with lots of explanatory graphics and core data charts relating to gasification and pyrolysis.  These info graphics are also posted online here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/Gasification-Graphics

Saturday, Sunday and Monday are full days of building, running and testing the physical particulars.  Wear clothes that can get dirty. Come prepared to turn wrenches, shovel char, weld and generally get your hands into the details of biomass thermal conversion.

Sign-up here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/about/workshop/sign-up/

Travel information can be found here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/about/workshop/travel-and-accomodation/

CNC Laser and Stainless GEKs. BEK at Iowa Biochar conference.

CNC Laser Cut Parts and Stainless Steel GEKs

We’ve recently moved to a CNC laser cutter solution for sourcing the raw gek metal parts.  For the last two years we’ve been making these in house with a CNC plasma cutter, but our throughput has outgrown the reasonableness of the plasma cutter solution.

Fortunately we can use the same files to outsource to a CNC laser cutting house, and have everything show up done, clean and nicely taped together in bunches on a pallet.  The locals find this MUCH superior and do not miss the de-slagging, re-drilling and general fussing with each piece off the plasma cutter by hand.  Abram, Nick, Ben and Johnny would’ve been here for the above pictures, but they were out celebrating at the local bar, telling war stories of our CNC plasma table (tales of both love and hate).

So hurray for desktop manufacturing and outsourcing (all the way to southern California).  It continues to amaze me how accessible CAD/CAM/CNC tools have made complex manufacturing processes that used to only be available at the mass scale with large capitalization.  The GEK manufacturing process would not have been possible just 10 years ago.

The full gallery of CNC laser cut parts is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1409#post1409

As you can see, we’ve sourced the parts in both mild steel and 304 stainless steel.  We can now provide GEKs in all stainless for those who want it as such.  The default and value optimized GEK is a mix of mild and stainless steel.  We only use the exotics where they are really needed, and minimize stainless for price optimization and reduction in shop health issues around working it regularly.  But for those who really, really can’t live without their stainless indulgence, and find it pleasing to pay extra for the indulgence, we now agree to indulge.  We can now provide any GEK reactor or add-on you want in stainless, finished with a fancy brushed surface.  Prices are on average about 50% more for the stainless versions.  Inquire to gek@allpowerlabs.org for the details.


BEK at Biochar Conference at Ames, Iowa State University

Full gallery here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=37

Bear Kaufmann Reports:

All Power Labs attended the Biochar 2010: U.S. Biochar Initiative Conference in Ames, Iowa this past week.  We brought with us a full GEK TOTTI and Biochar Experimenters Kit (BEK) for consideration and Q&A.  We now have the BEK in 5 university and research sites, and hope it will soon become a meaningful platform for comparative biochar research.  Recently we launched a BEK wiki, which will soon grow into a parallel biochar information resource like the GEK wiki and forum.  See here for the beginnings: http://bekbiochar.pbworks.com/

The conference was host to many major researchers on biochar including Johannes Lehmann, Christoph Steiner, Stephen Joseph, and others exploring the potential for biochar to be a potential component of sustainable agriculture and energy production, including Gloria Floria and Hunter Lovins.

There were a number of recurring themes in the presentations at the conference.

  • Use of biochar to improve nutrient recovery and cycling in agriculture: filtering and capturing nutrients from manure lagoon effluents with biochar, reducing weight of manures through charring to make return of nutrients from over concentrated animal farming operations to fields more viable, and the necessity to manage phosphorous in agriculture wisely as it becomes a limiting nutrient.
  • Integrating biochar creation into systems to capture the various product streams: biochar, heat, bio-oils.
  • How to source biomass in a sustainable manor: cropping systems that yield biomass with low inputs and yield other ecosystem services, biomass sources.

One of the final plenary talks was given by Laurens Rademakers of Biochar Fund which is working to reduce deforestation in Africa (Cameroon, Congo) by improving agriculture yields and minimizing the pressure by farmers to clear additional forest for farming.

Iowa State hosted the conference, feeding attendees with ample supplies of local and corn-based foods and showing their facilities and research on bio-energy and biochar.  More information on the conference is here:  http://www.biorenew.iastate.edu/events/biochar2010.html.  Hopefully the papers and posters will be up here soon.

The gallery of all our photos from the conference is here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gallery/browseimages.php?c=37 If you were there, feel free to add more.

Get your own BEK and join the learning and testing over the biochar proposition.  Details of acquisition are available via email post to gek@allpowerlabs.org.