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Charcoal gasification for garden tractor?  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I can't stop dreaming up new ways to do things around my place with alternative energy.  I've given up on converting my John Deere 110 garden tractor to electric after reading some build journals on the subject.  One guy built a very servicable tractor but burnt up one motor, two batteries and some other equipment in the process, eventually spending over $1000 on the project.

So now I'm thinking charcoal gasification could be where it's at.  I have plenty of wood.  I can make modest amounts of charcoal in my wood stove so I get the benefit of the heat from producing the charcoal.  

I'd want to mount the reactor and gear on the ass end of the tractor but in a way that I can still hitch up a trailer.

Main questions are:  
  • How big a reactor chamber thingie would I need?
  • What type of reactor would be best for this application (simplest, safest, durablest)
  • What power loss do you get using charcoal (I'd be ok with exhaust reintroduction)?

  • The tractor is 10hp and I probably use a lot of that when snowblowing.  I rarely use more than 1/4 gallon of gas at a time so I'd aim for a similar charcoal capacity.  I think I've heard that I'd use 3 gallons of charcoal to do the equivalent of 1/4 gallon of gasoline.
     
    pollinator
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    Mike, are you thinking of using charcoal as the feedstock, or would you use wood and have the char as a product? Wood gasifiers were common during the rationing years of WWII.

    https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/01/wood-gas-cars.html
     
    Mike Jay
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    I'd use wood to create charcoal in my woodstove and then use the charcoal in the gasifier on the garden tractor.  From what I've read here and elsewhere, making wood gas with charcoal is much easier than from wood chunks.  
     
    pollinator
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    Mike,

    I experimented a bit with pyrolysis.  I eventually made a very small reactor out of a 1 gallon paint can and 3 soup cans.  Don’t get me wrong, I am liking your idea, but from what I understand about gasification is that you will have better luck by using wood and not charcoal as your primary feedstock.

    If you have the time, tools and dedication, I would think that you could have a workable system with something the size of a propane container or maybe a 30 gallon barrel.

    You might have to add weight to the front (not a big deal at all) and construct a sturdy frame for the gasifier and add a trailer hitch.

    I know of a couple of videos that might help point you in the right direction.

    One issue you may have is cooling on a compact footprint.  This may sound strange, but how do you feel about water cooling?  This could be as simple as running the wood gas through a very simple heat exchanger filled with water.

    When I get the time I will get some more specific information to you, but I think this is an extremely doable project.

    Eric
     
    Eric Hanson
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    Try this video for a starter plan,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6e3CprVTi8


    Eric
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks Eric, here's a video along the lines of what I'm after.  Only on the rear so the snowblower can still hook on.  The only "cooling" looks to be the silicone hoses and the filter.  Why do you think I'd have better luck with wood?  From what I've read, with wood you have to filter and/or crack all the tars in order to have clean wood gas for the engine.  With charcoal you lose some power but the system is much simpler and the gas is cleaner.
     
    Eric Hanson
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    Mike,  

    What I gathered is that wood contains many more of the more volatile compounds that is lost in the first round of converting wood to charcoal.  Essentially there would be energy lost (like hydrogen that gets cracked).

    Anyways, thanks how I understand how it works, but could be wrong and maybe we are looking at two different ways of doing wood gas.

    Eric
     
    Mike Jay
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    From what I understand, you get more energy out of a wood-to-gas system than you do from a charcoal-to-gas system.  Both are totally viable ways to make wood gas.  

    There is a lot of complexity with going all the way from wood to wood gas (tars, volatile components, etc).  If I break this complicated process into two parts, wood-to-charcoal (byproduct is heat) and charcoal-to-gas, I'd be putting the complicated first part in my wood stove and the simpler second process on the garden tractor.

    I think people use wood gasifiers for cars and generators due to greater amounts of power and not wanting to make tons of charcoal.  I think charcoal systems may be preferred for small mobile systems like tractors that don't consume as much fuel so the charcoal production is manageable.

    I'm hoping David Baillie happens along since he built a charcoal powered tractor and is on the forums here:
     
    pollinator
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    If you are looking to go this way by all means jump over to this forum.

    http://forum.driveonwood.com


    I have made a charcoal gasifier and ran my generator with it,   several conversions on that site and lots of helpful people to guide you along the way.

    Mart
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks Mart, I've poked around that forum and have struggled to get into it.  I try searching for what I'm after but either it's not there or I'm using the wrong words.  They talk about fancy things like Emberts.  I know that's a design but I don't know enough to make sense of it.

    I'll keep poking around on there but hopefully someone here can get me moving in the right direction (bullet points above)...
     
    Mart Hale
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    Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Mart, I've poked around that forum and have struggled to get into it.  I try searching for what I'm after but either it's not there or I'm using the wrong words.  They talk about fancy things like Emberts.  I know that's a design but I don't know enough to make sense of it.

    I'll keep poking around on there but hopefully someone here can get me moving in the right direction (bullet points above)...



    Yep just start a new tread and post what you are wanting to do.     They sure helped me.
     
    Mike Jay
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    Ok, we'll give it a shot...  Thx!  
     
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    Hi Mike, nice to see you've digested all the info and are ready to give it a try; welcome to the black hand gang!  When looking into electric conversions for tractors I came to the same conclusion as you. To restate some points for the new thread Charcoal gasifiers were as common as wood gasifiers during the second world war. The gas composition as mentioned is different then raw wood gasifiers. Its mostly CO but you could use a water drip to enrich it with hydrogen I use exhaust myself its simpler. The very simplified version of the chemistry is in a charcoal gasifier you are running an exothermic reaction (combusting Carbon) and an endothermic reaction (converting CO2 into CO) at the same time. That very odd double reaction is what makes the build so much easier. You are letting the endothermic reaction do the work of the cooling rails. In a raw wood gasifier you are running a mostly exothermic reaction which creates your charcoal as you go. Its more energy dense but you have to cool it in at least two stages, remove condensation and soot and run the engine in a fairly narrow window to keep it hot enough to make good tar free gas and cool enough to not melt. For your build I would say you would want to look for a vessel that would hold 9 or 10 gallons of charcoal. Its important for the white hot gas to pass through a certain amount of unreacted charcoal for the system to work. So you want your tank to be 3 times the size of the amount of char you want to burn down for maximum efficiency. On the drive on wood site most of the charcoal builds are under the small engine section. This link should bring you right there:   http://forum.driveonwood.com/c/small-engines/charcoal-gasification
    This one I think is the thread of the guy who built the garden tractor above. Jeff's work is awesome.   http://forum.driveonwood.com/t/air-carbon-fuel-cell/1640

    I'm around here and on www.driveonwood.com and can't help but notice a good charcoal thread so if there is any way I can help.
    Cheers,  David
     
    Mike Jay
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    Thanks David!  I just posted over there, we'll see what comes of it.  

    I was wondering why, on the charcoal builds, they tended to not have radiators.  They even seem to just use rubber/silicone hoses straight from the reactor.  Now I know it's due to endothermic processes
     
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