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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:

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

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)


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:

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:

Jim Mason

2 Responses

  1. Can anyone answer my question please.We are currently paying 68p for red diesel and burning between 5 and 10 ltr per hour to make wood chip to run heating systems,is there a wood gasification system available with the capacity to use the chip that is being produced and then the gas being in enough volume to power some form of 150hp engine?

  2. I’m going to answer your question here as well as by email. The largest engine we sell bundled with our units produces something more like 60 HP when running on woodgas. It does have a power take-off that can run a wood chipper. 2.4 kg of woodchips will equal 1 liter of diesel. This means you need 11-20 kg/hr to run the theoretical gasifier that can power your woodchipper.

    However, I encourage you to think about it another way. If your heating system is inefficient, the gasifier’s syngas may provide more energy per kg of chips (it will not if your combustion is efficient). You might reduce your chip need, and be able to run a smaller chipper off the Power Pallet. The woodchips will replace your diesel & the Pallet will provide shaft power for the chipper, gaseous fuel for the burner, and electricity as a byproduct. I’m guessing, however, that you have made a considerable investment in your chipper.

    In the next few years it may be possible to produce diesel from woodchips using a small-scale Fischer-Tropsch reactor. We already offer a bio-oil condenser, but that oil is unrefined. Keep an eye on this website for such a development.

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