Bear Kaufmann, Jeff Tiedeken and Jim Mason are at University of Minnesota, Morris this week installing the Powertainer and setting it up for its initial runs onsite. This has been a long haul, and we’re very happy to finally have it here and soon begin pumping biomass power back into the grid. A big thank you goes to Lowell Rasmussen, Jim Barbour and Dave Aronson at the UMM for making this project possible, as well as their general dedication to proving small scale biomass energy for midwestern ag applications. As well a huge thank you to APL team member Nick Monahan for taking on the complexity of managing the overall construction project and CAD sheet metal origami that rendered it to real.
There is a formal opening and demonstration onsite this Thursday from 1-3pm. It is open to the public so if you are in the area, you are welcome to attend. More information on the opening and the project can be found in the press release here: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/06/23/university-of-minnesota-morris-demonstrates-new-power-technology.html
For the next 6 months we’ll be learning and refining the installation onsite, and hopefully ending with a daily running installation. There are many details to work out, and surely many things yet to learn. However, we are very satisfied with the fundamentals, and the general proving that one can compact and integrate the full gasification system (gasifier, filtration, engine and hopper) within one 20′ shipping container. The goal is the total system in a box, drop it off the truck and go. No onsite construction. Fill the hopper with a conveyor, skid steer or bucket tractor.
The architecture for this system is essentially the TOTTI vessel and heat exchange relationships scaled up, with an additional stage of using the engine radiator blast for predrying the fuel. The hopper is open to atmosphere, with a louvered base, so we can pass the hot radiator blast through the bed. This should significantly extend the fuel moisture range beyond the 30% or so top we can tolerate in the standard TOTTI on the Power Pallet. We’ll be running corn cobs at UMM. Most of the testing at APL were on wood chips.
As usual, what started as a gasifier project turned into a fuel handling project. Getting a 24hr hopper integrated into the shipping container, with airlock and secondary heated auger to the gasifier, turned into a non-trivial 3D LEGO puzzle. See the galleries for the details for how we finally solved it.
See here for the full gallery of photos from the install at Univeristy of Minnesota, Morris http://gekgasifier.com/wpgallery/powertainer-at-university-of-minnesota-morris/
See here for the full gallery of photos from the testing at APL in Berkeley http://gekgasifier.com/wpgallery/100kw-powertainer-at-apl-june-2012/
We get many people asking us when we can offer this unit to other projects. The answer is not yet. We are not yet at a point of maturity in the design and details to offer this as a regular commercial unit. We expect to be there in about one year.
To help us get there, we are looking for additional projects where a still in development system is an appropriate fit. This will be a research or entrepreneurial setting that can tolerate a not-yet-fully-hands-off-24/7-running-systyem, in return for the ultimate reward of a much compacted and price optimized total solution vs other current options on the market. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Hope to see some of you in Morris this Thursday.
Yoav and I just returned from a trip to Indonesia to help with the set up and operational instruction for 2 Power Pallets there.
They are being integrated into a pilot stage “Village Hub” project. This pilot is located next to a palm sugar factory run by the Masarang Foundation (http://www.masarang.nl/). The factory uses waste geothermal heat from a 35 MW geothermal plant to dry and prepare palm sugar. This sugar is prepared from the sap of the Arenga Palm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arenga_pinnata), a species studied by Willie Smits who studied forestry in the Netherlands (and gave a great TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/willie_smits_restores_a_rainforest.html). The sap is collected by bruising the fruiting branches, which release the sap, up to 100 liters per tree per day. It can be processed into sugar and ethanol. The Arenga palm can grow on poor soils, allowing deforested areas to be reforested, acting as a nurse tree to re-introduce more diverse species (see Willie’s TED talk above).
The Village Hub concept is to create smaller scale plants that can operate with zero external inputs and zero waste. These would collect sap from a collection of local farmers allowing economic opportunities to stay and protect reforested areas. The Hub would provide extra electricity to the villages and a medical office with internet access for doctors. The Power Pallet would provide electricity for plant operations and other uses.
We successfully installed and operated the Power Pallets and provided training to the workers at the facility, who were quite excited to be involved and learn about gasification and the equipment.
A view of the pilot factory – designed to be zero waste – the sugar operation (upper left) makes sugar/alcohol/distilled water, wastes feed pigs, pig and human waste feeds a biogas digestor (lower right), CO2 from alcohol fermentation feeds algae in pond. Algae feeds pigs. Remaining nutrient rich water into rice field (lower).
Going over the 20 kW control panel and startup check list.
Sticks for firewood are often set by the side of the road. These come from a leguminous tree species, native to central America. It grows fast and can be coppiced (cut high, it then resprouts new branches) – Calliandra calothyrsus – http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/agpc/doc/PUBLICAT/Gutt-shel/x5556e09.htm
Given the long rains and >30% MC fuel, we primarily used crushed coconut shells which worked great.
Chipping wood with a mill, consideration of fuel moisture in the humid tropics is key.
Preparing a 10 kW Power Pallet for operation.
A happy team with a running 10 kW
All Power Labs
The history of how ALL Power Labs came to be is an interesting tale, which some of you may know, and at some point we should sit down and write about it. Part of that history is how we grew out of an arts facility, The Shipyard, a collaborative art/build space for large scale mechanical, kinetic and electronic art. So we were rather excited when we ran into the artist Jessica Segall’s installation work.
A Selfless, REteaching Jet, 2010
“A Selfless, REteaching Jet, 2010” is a wood-fueled film projector, composed of a downdraft gasifier, Fairbank Z stationary engine, alternator, marine battery, inverter and 16m film projector. Jessica based her design Primarily on the FEMA design, but the cyclone she looked to APL for inspiration. Jessica is quite an interesting and talented artist we look forward to what she creates next.
We are still searching for the perfect candidate for this position. Maybe it is you. Maybe you can point us to him or her. Or maybe you have a list, forum, twitter account or some other venue to repost which might help to surface the right candidate. Any input and/or fwds are greatly appreciated. jim
ALL Power Labs is looking for a manufacturing operations expert to create and manage the next stage of our production solution. We are fast outgrowing our current DIY based methods, and need to quickly implement a more scalable, higher volume solution. This will require deep skills across international supply chain management, multi-discipline production processes, fast design-to-market iteration, and the information systems that make them possible.
Our core product is now as complex as a small car. This position requires skills across a wide set of industries including sheet and cast metalwork, powertrain, electronics, and finishes.
ALL Power Labs is a Berkeley, CA based start-up specializing in biomass gasification equipment for small-scale, distributed power generation. In APL’s 3 short years over 300 gasifiers have shipped to over 40 different countries and 50 universities and research institutions.
You can find more information on our website: http://www.gekgasifier.com.
Manage the daily operation of APL’s current in-house production method while working with our team to:
a) Establish new partners and processes for our supply chain
b) Improve and create systems for inventory control, product version control, and financial reporting
c) Optimize our product design for manufacturability
d) Establish the total manufacturing solution that will enable rapid global growth
- Extremely familiar with the concepts and methods of contemporary manufacturing systems
- Experienced with software systems for workflow management, sourcing, inventory control, product version control and documentation, etc.
- Able to both build and manage an exceptional team
- Excellent financial reporting skills and ability to make sound assessments based on this data
- Literate in 3D CAD environments
- Able to travel and operate internationally
- Willing to work long hours, odd hours, and make the job happen
Our start-up has a unique story. We began by offering the GEK, an open source DIY experimenter’s kit that could be manufactured in-house in small quantities. The GEK gasifier led to the development of the Power Pallet, a complete solution for biomass power generation. GEKs are now made in batches of 50 and Power Pallets in batches of 10.
Our ultimate goal is to create an easy-to-operate consumer appliance that can turn any form of organic waste into electricity, heat and shaft power. The global market for this is massive. The world is in need of a “PC of personal scale energy”, and we intend to be the group that first delivers it at mass scale.
APL is funded entirely by sales and we are bootstrapping our way through each stage of growth. Every member of our dedicated team wears many hats and works long hours to see our goals realized. We seek team members who are flexible, creative and excited about this challenge.
This is an unusual opportunity for which we are seeking an exceptional candidate. You will need to have respect for the atypical methods we’ve developed to date, but also know how to integrate more traditional best practice production solutions.
The ideal candidate for this position will grow into a core member of our start-up founding team. Pay is negotiable, but will start at the lower end of the market, given current status as a bootstrapped start up. However, significant equity will be offered after a trial period and a fit is proven.
To apply, please send a letter describing your interest and qualifications, as well as your resume to email@example.com. Please do not just send a resume. We need to hear why you think you are the perfect fit for this adventure.
Welcome back after a quiet late summer sans Geknews posts. Sadly, quiet on this end didn’t relate to the long planned trip down Baja. Rather, we’ve been face down in the details of scaling our 10kw and 20kw Power Pallet production, as well as sprinting towards the finish of our first 100kw shipping container based system.
This of course is not a problem, and we thank all of you for making this adventure more interesting with each passing month. The challenge now is just keeping up with the growth in interest and all of your notes. We’re now 15 people full time at APL, and it still is not enough.
Here below is some new news from the shop and beyond in GEK land.
New GEK v4.2 Fabrication Instructions (in process, feedback needed)
If you’ve looked, you know- the “current” GEK DIY fabrication instructions are a bit of a mess. They’ve been in terrible need of a version update, and they’re not very easy to follow anyway. This summer the locals undertook on a big project to redo the instructions from scratch, and do so over the most current GEK sheetmetal set- the v4.2. The first draft of these are now assembled, and we’d love to get some feedback on them before final polishing. Thank you Ariel, Ike, Abram, Nick and Jess for putting these on the road to fabulous!
The new instructions are offered in two forms- a printable text / graphic document, and YouTube posted videos. The print instructions and video documentation parallel each other, so you can watch the easy summary in the video, or dive into the details in the printed text and graphics.
Both start with an inventory of “What’s in your GEK Barrels” (which is actually rather useful just to see what’s in the kits) and then continue with vessel by vessel build instructions. We think the vessel by vessel build organization will be useful, as many people end up just wanting to build one part or another, then set out on their own scheme on other fronts.
The related videos of cyclone building is on YouTube here:
GEK v4.2 – Level III – Fabrication: CYCLONE
General links to the v4.2 CAD files, as well as the rest of the instructions as we post them, can be found here:
Workshops in Europe this fall
Every 1st and 3rd Thursday
Holger and Kersten of NRG-Consultants are holding GEK Power Pallet workshop/demos in Duisburg, Germany every first and third Thursday of the month. These are regular events for Europeans to see the GEK Power Pallet run and try out specific fuels.
The workshops are one day in length, and cater to business owners and project developers who want to start working with small scale biomass power generators. The gatherings are small (under 8 people), and cost 250Euro per person.
Holger is our main partner to date in Europe. He has done wonderful work learning the GEK Power Pallet machine, and planning for CHP elaborations and European regulatory approvals of it. If you explore Holger’s site you’ll see he has deep experience in CHP systems, and has toured all the options in small scale biomass powered machinery. Holger seems to like the APL machine, and is currently investing lots of his time laying the ground work for its future in Europe.
Here’s the contact info for Holger and the German workshops.
End October – Beginning November
Details are not yet fully clear, but we’re close to a plan for the long anticipated workshop in Belgium with Green Power Solutions and the University of Ghent. This will be a multi-day workshop, with multiple projects and presentations.
There will be a turbo charged version of the 20kw Power Pallet on hand. Rumors suggest we might even have a grid tie together by then to light up Ghent, but no promises yet. Maybe we can get some of the European wood gas vehicle owners to show up too? Belgium is not terribly far from many of the usual European suspects, so hopefully you will consider joining us.
100kw Powertainer progress
This summer we’ve also been working on a upscale of the GEK TOTTI and Power Pallet architecture for a 100kw gasifier-genset integrated into a 20 foot shipping container. This is for a project in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Morris, Cummins Power Generation, and the Diesel Research Lab at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, under the NETL program of the US Dept of Energy. The unit will be sited at UMM in the fall of 2011 and run on corn cobs.
This is not yet a commercial product, but we intend for it to be by next summer. The goal is a similar type of “drop it off the truck and go” fully integrated and automated system like we’ve built with the Power Pallet, just now around the shipping container standard.
Watch the wiki and forum for the first fire up later this month.
Yes, the forum is up and working once again. We’re in the process of rebuilding it for much greater usability and relevance. You’ll see many changes over the next month or two. Right now it is still a bit rough, but at least the innards are now switched and we have the foundation on which to build a much better community collaboration space.
Gasification PowerExchange Workshop #6:
GEK Building and 10kw Genset Configuration
Gasification Lecture and Demo: Friday, October 23, 7:30-9:30PM
Building and Testing: Saturday and Sundday, October 24-25, 11am – 7pm
Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Contact: jim ^at^ allpowerlabs.org
Cost: FREEMore Info: http://www.gekgasifier.com
ALL Power Labs is starting a quarterly series of free gasifier workshop weekends to help bring more people to successful operation of small scale gasifiers. These workshops are open to GEK user/owners, as well as anyone with any other type of gasifier- or just a budding interest in the whole thing. If you have a GEK and want personal instruction in how to run it, or you want to build a GEK with oversight from the mothership, this workshop will be a great opportunity to do either.
The workshop begins with an evening talk and discussion on the science of gasification and a survey of its design and production history. Both beginning and expert reactor assemblies will be presented, with pointers to further reading and current issues and opportunities in the field. Everyone will get a packet with lots of explanatory graphics and core data charts relating to gasification. As you know, we’ve generated a few of these . . .
The main project for our October workshop will be converting a Honda V twin 10kw genset for wood gas operation. This will be a belted unit for lower rpm running, with automated mixing and speed control. This is the genset scenario most of us have agreed on of late as the best option for small scale wood gas systems, and the one which we will soon be making available in conjunction with the basic GEK.
The genset will be somewhat on this scenario:
People can also use the weekend to colonize our shop tools and build their own GEK, or any other biomass thermal conversion device of interest. If you get a Level III GEK kit can weld it together over the weekend. You will get close to done, but not likely all the way (unless you are good). If you get a Level IV kit, you can assemble and run it on site, and learn the ropes before taking it home.
If you bring done gasifier, we can put the probes to it and learn something about what it does, or what your specific fuel produces. We’ll also be demoing the full testing rig that is producing the GEK datalogged runs. You’ll even be able to consider the meaning of the vials/viles of goo up close and personal! The picture below is from the “Multi-fuel Run Comparison” Bear recently completely, which compares run performance between walnut shells, wood chips and wood pellets. See here for the details: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/Multi-fuel+Run+Comparison
We have limited space for this workshop, so if you want to join us, please RSVP to jim (the at sign) allpowerlabs.org. If you want to fly in from non-local places, know that we do have flat floors and soft couches for camping on site if needed.
I hope to see many of you soon in the belly of the nanny state beast (aka: Berkeley, CA).
Hello everyone, here’s the latest news from All Power Labs on our work with gasification and biochar. We got some great news coverage, better assembly and first fire instructions, more user reports, and as always more research and testing data. It’s all part of our ongoing mission to put the information and tools in your hands, so you can make it yourself, or make it run even better.
Hope you enjoy, and as always feel free to get in touch with any questions, feedback, or user reports, and of course it’s always good to check in on what’s happening in our forums: http://gekgasifier.com/forums/
-All Power Labs.
1- Farm Show magazine reports on the GEK, calls us “a leader in turning wood and other biomass into fuel” and “a leader in putting syngas to work.”
If you’re not familiar with Farm Show magazine, you should be. A sort of how-to bible among people in the agricultural community, it’s an advertising-free monthly covering the latest inventions and innovations that are of interest to farmers, which is why hearing they wanted to write about us was so exciting.
To see a full size image of the story you can read, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68943702@N00/3926992124/in/pool-allpowerlabs
This story, and what he wrote, was all the more important given that the writer, Jim Ruen, has been covering this issue for a long time. In fact, he wrote an article about gasification for The Farmer magazine way back in the 1980′s, so we feel pretty honored to get that kind of feedback.
Note: there was one typo in the story; it referred to a complete system as costing $5,000. The GEK Level IV is $2495, but closer to $5,000 with all the add ons like the pyrocoil heat exchanger, automated fuel auger, and Gasification Control Unit.
2: Better support: new and improved instructions:
Our Chemist In Residence, Jay Hasty, has cranked out a whole bunch of new instruction info, on how to assemble and fire up your GEK.
The Assembly Instruction are here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/How-to-Build-and-Run-the-GEK-Gasifier
and the First Fire instructions are here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/First-Run+Start-Up+Instructuions+for+GEK+v30
We’ve already gotten great feedback on them, like this posted on our wiki: “Great techie info with honest performance expectations., thanx and well done, Gents, Graham”
3: GEK Powered Thing Conquers The Rocky Mountains!
Frank Mannix in Colorado is at it again. This week, he sent in a photo of himself driving his GEK-powered VW Thing over the 11, 307 foot Berthoud Pass high in the Colorado Rockies!
“Please post this picture, taken this afternoon, Thursday Sept 17 after I made it to the top of
Berthoud Pass 11,307. My house is at 8665 ft, which makes the climb over 2750 feet
in approx 15 miles, average grade over 6%(it’s downhill to Fraser, then up)
The GEK performed flawlessly going up hill, but I always have trouble going downhill,
and had to boost it with gas a few times (3 or 4 ticks of the electric fuel pump)
It’s like the throttle being closed down strangles it.
But it flies uphill (steady load- wide open – 2nd or 3rd gear,
and I even get some reaction from my “carburetor”- the butterfly valve.
Usually, I am on full woodgas- I suspect I have some vacuum leaks.
4: Avalanche of hard data from the APL skunkworks continues
Bear Kaufman in our research lab continues to churn out impressive testing and analysis. His latest: a complete run down on a hopper of soft wood chips. If you’re into this sort of thing, you’re going to love it. Here’s an image from the test, link to all the hard data below.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for your interest and support.
-All Power Labs
I’m trying to figure out how to better explain the basics of gasification. This is hard, as many of you know. So I’m trying to relate it to things that are generally known about combustion, then complicating matters from there. I’m trying to figure out the layers to take the newbie through- from most simple, to, well, does it ever end . . . ?
Here’s where I’m at currently: http://www.gekgasifier.com/gasification-basics/how-it-works/
How does this work for people? Anyone have suggestions for making it better?
As most of the mysteries of the universe are somewhere contained in the wider problem/opportunity of gasification, I can’t start at its many ends. But where’s the beginning before the freefall into the bottomless rabbit hole looking glass of biomass thermal conversion?
We’re discussing this explanation of gasification over in the forum here: http://www.gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?t=162 . Give us your input.
Happy partial combusting to you on this Labor Day weekend.
Bear Kaufmann finished another run on the GEK test and datalogging rig and posted the results here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/Instrumented-Walnut-Shell-Run-082409. This wiki page has a large collection of graphs and other data assemblies from the run. Bear is very clever. Someday he’ll get a Phd in all this. In the interim, we get to ponder his bi-weekly posting of dissertation worthy test runs and data visualizations. Thank you Bear.
The main issue he was/is trying to resolve in this test is how to measure tar. The usual “simplified tar testing method” with the greyscale seems very open to mixing the tar and soot signal on the filter paper. both tar and soot are “black”. Filtering before the sample tends to reduce both of them indiscriminately. So we’re trying instead to take the sample without any prefiltering, and dissolve the tar out of the sample with a solvent, and then measure the color/hue/greyscale of the liquid.
Does anyone here have any experience with this type of soluble tar testing method? Or otherwise have any input on the accuracy or import of the attempted tar-soot separation method?
In the pix above, and in the more detailed report linked above, you will see that most all the the test samples are black. But when these samples are put in a solvent solution, the dissolved results are quite distinct. And those results fortunately track well with how we would expect reactor conditions to vary tar production. Remember all these tar/soot tests are being done right at the reactor, before any of the filtering train of the rest of the gasifier system. We are trying to figure out the tar conditions/variations of the gasifier, not the filter performance. Here’s the graph of how the tar samples track against top of reduction temps, with both the dissolved liquid tar and greyscale of unprocessed sample plotted.
This test is a continuing series of experiments to explore the relationships between tar production and various critical measurements in the reactor. The goal is to be able to use temp and pressure readings for gasifier diagnostics and establish a formal set of “conditions needed” for clean gas production. Our hypothesis is that we can most accurately correlate tar production with temps maintained at the reduction restriction, which approximately measures how well x temp has spread and filled the hearth area for tar cracking. The graphs at the end of the report plot tar production against this top of reduction temp, as well as other variables that might be contenders for relevant control or indicating parameters.
We’re currently debating the particulars in the GEK forum here: http://gekgasifier.com/forums/showthread.php?p=663#post663
Put a gasifier in your Baja beach cabana. Or in your back-to-school backpack. Yes, it’s the first ever (and maybe annual) APL “End of Summer / Back to School 10% Off Sale” on all things Biomass Thermal Conversion.
The rules are simple. Buy anything between now and the end of August and take 10% off our already too low purchase prices (shipping stays the same). This can be just a cyclone kit, or an assembled Level IV GEK, or a full Tower of Total Thermal Integration solution. Or, just a GCU. Well, it can be the new “Biochar Experimenter’s Kit” too. It just has to be a new order, not one already in progress, or currently waiting in the production and shipping queue.
So if you have been hovering around a decision for a bit, the next 4 days are a good time to bring your deliberations to fruition. Go to the usual GEK purchase page (http://www.gekgasifier.com/purchase/), assemble your combination of needs and desires, and take 10% off the tally when you get to the paypal screen.
While you are considering this possibility, here is a very interesting image of a running GEK taken with a thermal imaging camera at West Point Military Academy. Unfortunately, 10% off still doesn’t render these cameras affordable, even if we had them to sell. More info on the particulars of the image here: http://gekgasifier.pbworks.com/George-Markt-and-Russ-Lanchance%2C-PhD%3A-West-Point%2C-NY
There’s also lots of interesting things going on in the forum these days. Come take a look and hang out with your fellow gasifier geeks at: http://gekgasifier.com/forums/