Friday, February 26, 2016

Make Smoke, Burn Smoke - Biomass Gasification Primer

Author - Doug Brethower
ISBN 9 781620 306253
109 pages, paperback

LIFE - Locally Integrated Food and Energy
Food and energy are the two keystones of any community anywhere on earth.
If we produce and distribute food and energy locally, we have:
  • the Food
  • the Energy
  • and the Money
We establish the capacity to create and retain wealth in our community.We put in place the two foundations of any human economy.
  -- David Yarrow  - The Final Word in "Make Smoke, Burn Smoke"

Local Food

Hopefully most viewing this blog are intimately familiar with the local foods movement.  Local food is a logical first step in re-building vibrant local community structures.

Small scale seasonal gardens do well enough powered by the summer sun.  Year round growing in most climates requires additional energy. As efforts scale up, more energy becomes even more useful.

What is the most responsible energy choice to support year round growing?

Local Energy

Many rural communities are literally covered with an abundant excess of "stranded energy", energy stranded mostly by perceptions.  Missouri, the "Show Me" state, is the historical national leader in the production of charcoal from low value biomass "wastes".  An historical truth about charcoal production in Missouri is that smoke covered the countryside when firing up large charcoal kilns.

Pioneering research by MIT Phd Chemical Engineer Dr. Tom Reed and world champion clean stove designer Dr. Paul Anderson ("DrTLUD") proves that there is abundant clean energy in "smoke".  Using the energy in smoke by burning it in a flare, while saving the charcoal - "biochar", for soil improvement is the only energy strategy that actively reduces atmospheric carbon.  The more it is practiced, the greater the reduction.  While improving the atmosphere, biochar also improves local soils and water quality.

"But as I've studied biochar, it's the only thing I've seen with no downside. Nothing! And that's very exciting to me."
  --Doris Hamill, NASA Langley Research Center

Likely due to the simplicity of the technology, there is virtually no corporate or political will to move forward with actually using it.  Corporations can't make their standard profit margins. Politicians please patrons by talk of great big things they can do, not little things that everyone can do.

"Biomass fuels are locally generated and must be locally utilized to be cost-effective. While this has economic advantages, it does not lend itself to centralized coordination, and therefore is not so attractive to large corporations and governmental bodies."  -- 1993 US Department of Energy Report - Biomass Energy State of the Technology, Present Obstacles and Future Potential

The great promise of biomass energy and biochar is not negated by current political and economic realities.  But a local fuel requires local involvement for the promise to be brought to fruition.  Peaksurfer Albert Bates, author of "The Biochar Solution" says "the technology is already, all ready".  There is no more technology to develop, but much awareness to be raised.

Author Doug Brethower was raised in the "Show Me" state.  After getting lost in the abundance of online information about things like wood burning vehicles and such, he visited with modern day practitioners of clean biomass energy, to discover their truths.  "Make Smoke, Burn Smoke" is a compilation of that seeking and personal exploration, what they revealed in personal discussion.  The masters often related more useful information in five minute than gathered in years of online exploration.

Much information is included to raise awareness of the promise.  There are also real world examples of folks who have made biomass/biochar energy work well for their circumstances.

A clay biochar kiln, a "grassifier" grass to biochar converter, a continuous feed continuous extract biochar kiln design, an early Wayne Keith vehicle gasifier napkin drawing, much information is included that is difficult to impossible to discover anywhere else.

The most gratifying positive responses to the book come from systems engineers, including computer system engineers.  Whole systems type of folks, instinctively "get it".  Here is hoping you will too. 

$12.95 + $3 shipping, US Only

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

JAKE, Just Another Kiln Experiment, Combined Heat and Biochar Kit

Heat and Biochar DVD - Front Cover

After the Stockton Walnut Festival, Bonzo fabricated a few JAKE kilns to take to the Mother Earth News festival to share at his talk in Topeka, KS Oct. 24.  The response from those early adopters, and other local friends has been overwhelmingly positive.  The JAKE is proving to be easy to operate successfully across a wide range of users without a whole lot of perfection in fabrication.

It was quickly apparent there was no way for Bonzo to build enough to meet demand, and that most who wanted one were wanting to experiment with them, continue to perfect the design.

About the same time, an engineering buddy wanted to develop a set of drawings for the 5 most successful personal size kiln designs.  Besides the JAKE, the Anthrosoil "Grassifier" and the clay TLUD "Terra Preta Authentica" were of great interest to him.

So we began developing a DVD and a kit, for sale to the DIY biochar market in hopes of generating even more interest in biomass energy and biochar.

Several hundred hours and several hundred megabytes of sorted information later, with the help of too many friends to name here, the DVD and kit are almost ready for release.

Today was Bonzo's personal run through of building the kit into a kiln.  From kit to kiln too about 90 minutes with only a couple of aggravations.  Bonzo had the the advantage of not having to read the instructions ;~)  Next step is to get some kits in the hands of several more trusted friends and iron out the bugs based upon their experiences.

11:30 AM - Kiln from Walnut Festival side by side with kiln kit

Tools to do the job
The round wood piece is handy for providing backing force on the stainless steel tubes while drilling.

The log slips into 7" tube on one side, into 8" tube on the other.

Close-up of hardware kit and tools required.  These are all the tools used.  Also had some leather gloves which are highly recommended any time fabricating sheet metal, especially stainless steel.

Right at 90 minutes later, with a couple of water breaks and petting the dogs thrown in, a kiln that is finished well enough to suit me.  If the history of a few dozen builds is any indication, it will work really well for showing folks the amazing effect of burning smoke.

Smoke was the bane of charcoal production.  Burning the smoke rather than releasing it is a paradigm shift toward abundant natural and equitable energy for all, with the plus of biochar creation!