Gearing Up for the Biomass Gasifier

Article written by Ranjit Deshmukh

Gasifier Start Up

SERC staff gathers for the much-anticipated initial system start-up. (Photo credit SERC).

These are exciting times at SERC as we prepare for the arrival of the biomass gasifier system from India. The gasifier system is an air-fed downdraft gasifier coupled with a gas engine and generator, designed and constructed by Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies in India. The gasifier has a thermal output of 20kWth while the entire system has an electrical output of 11kWe. It will be housed behind our present premises in a new carport structure, which is near completion. We are also diligently working on the instrumentation and fuel drying aspects of the project.

SERC, in collaboration with the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory group at UC Berkeley, will perform various tests on the gasifier system. We will study the response of the gasifier in terms of its thermal efficiency over a range of fuel moisture contents. We will also make tar measurements in the gas, as tar is the biggest impediment to the use of the product gas in end-use applications. These experiments will help us better understand the gasification process and further our research in biomass energy technologies.

Biomass thermal gasification is the incomplete combustion of biomass that results in the production of combustible gases consisting mainly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. These product gases, after being cleaned and filtered, can be fed into a gas turbine or an internal combustion engine to drive an electric generator or directly combusted for thermal applications. This technology has numerous end-use applications; SERC is currently pursuing two. The first is utilizing woody biomass from fuel reduction activities such as those in the forests of Humboldt County. The second is electric and thermal energy generation using sugarcane residue, called “bagasse, ” from the sugar industry in Indonesia. Stay tuned for future updates on this project in subsequent newsletters.