Wood Gas - Production


A wood gasifier takes wood chips, sawdust, charcoal, coal, rubber or similar materials as fuel and burns these incompletely in a fire box, producing solid ashes and soot (which have to be removed periodically from the gasifier) and wood gas. The wood gas can then be filtered for tars and soot/ash particles, cooled and directed to an engine or fuel cell. Most of these engines have severe purity requirements of the wood gas, so the gas often has to pass through extensive gas cleaning in order to remove or convert (i.e. to "crack") tars and particles. The removal of tar is often accomplished by using a water scrubber. Running wood gas in an unmodified gasoline-burning internal combustion engine may lead to problematic build-up of unburned compounds.

The quality of the gas from different gasifiers varies a great deal. Staged gasifiers, where pyrolysis and gasification occur separately (instead of in the same reaction zone as was the case in e.g. the WWII gasifiers), can be engineered to produce essentially tar-free gas (less than 1 mg/m³), while single-reactor fluid-bed gasifiers may exceed 50,000 mg/m³ tar. The fluid bed reactors have the advantage of being much more compact (more capacity per volume and price). Depending on the intended use of the gas, tar can be beneficial as well by increasing the heating value of the gas.

The heat of combustion of producer gas (a term used in the U.S. meaning wood gas produced for use in a combustion engine) is rather low compared to other fuels. Taylor reports that "producer gas" has a lower heating value of 5.7 MJ/kg versus 55.9 MJ/kg for natural gas and 44.1 MJ/kg for gasoline. The heating value of wood is typically 15-18 MJ/kg. Presumably, these values can vary somewhat from sample to sample. The same source reports the following chemical composition by volume which most likely is also variable:

  • Nitrogen N2: 50.9%
  • Carbon monoxide CO: 27.0%
  • Hydrogen H2: 14.0%
  • Carbon dioxide CO2: 4.5%
  • Methane CH4: 3.0%
  • Oxygen O2: 0.6%.

It is pointed out, that the gas composition is strongly dependent on the gasification process, the gasification medium (air, oxygen or steam) and the fuel moisture. Steam-gasification processes typically yield high hydrogen contents, downdraft fixed bed gasifiers yield high nitrogen concentrations and low tar loads, while updraft fixed bed gasifiers yield high tar loads.

Read more about this topic:  Wood Gas

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