Learning About Biomass Thermal Gasifiers in India

Article written by Ranjit Deshmukh

Ranjit lights a Gasifier

Schatz Energy Fellow Ranjit Deshmukh fires up the GAS-11 gasifier during a four-day training at Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies in India. (Photo courtesy of Ranjit Deshmukh)

India’s economy is growing at a tremendous rate, but corresponding rise in energy demand has left the country in a severe power crisis. Blackouts and brownouts are common, with rural areas experiencing the bulk of it. Decentralized village electrification projects offer the possibility of predictable electricity supply for rural areas as well as a source of community income by feeding electricity to the grid. The Indian government currently offers up to 50% in capital subsidies for electrification projects using biomass thermal gasification. For those of you new to this technology, gasification is the incomplete combustion of biomass that results in the production of combustible gases that can be cleaned, filtered and fed into an engine running a generator to make electricity.

This summer, I had the opportunity to visit one of India’s leading gasifier manufacturers, Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies. Established in 1986 by Dr. B.C. Jain, Ankur has supplied over 50 percent of India’s gasifiers to date. I attended a four-day training on their GAS-11 system, a biomass gasifier coupled with a gas engine and electric generator. The gasifier used in this system is an air-fed downdraft gasifier with a thermal output of 20kW. The overall system provides an electrical output of up to 11kW.

Biomass is becoming an increasingly important source of renewable energy. In light of this, SERC plans to acquire the GAS-11 system and test it with the woody biomass available in Humboldt County, as well as with other feedstock such as bagasse, the waste plant fiber from the sugar industry. The staff at Ankur was extremely helpful in providing all the information about installing, operating, and testing the system. This information will prove invaluable to SERC as we take our first step in researching and testing biomass energy systems. We’ll keep you apprised of our research findings in future newsletter articles.