On Monday 10/24 our Biochar Working Group, consisting of SBI members and Sonoma County agencies, traveled to All Power Labs in Berkeley to review their famous gasifier-generators. I attended a workshop there a year ago, and was impressed then with their new Power Pallet, a computer controlled gasifier tied to a 10 KW generator. An elegance of positive feedback, once fully cycling the 700C exhaust from the engine heats the pyrolysis chamber, heating the biomass and rending the carbon from the energy gasses, which are then filtered and cycled back across the hot char, both cleaning the gas and adding carbon, for cycling as fuel to the engine. A very small amount of char and ash remains. The ultimate sense of system efficiency is reflected in the total exhaust, being what appears to be only warm water vapor. APL is also known for the base unit of this, the GEK, or Gasifier Experimenters Kit. Up until the popularity of the Power Pallet focused their energies, they also had the BEK, or Biochar Experimenters Kit. They are down to their last, in house, BEK, somewhat dusty from inattention.
Now, a year later, they have a 20 KW Power Pallet. Several finished units waited with tags for far flung destinations, Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia. Out in the yard was the next prototype, a Godzilla among lizards, the 100 KW unit. They don’t call it Godzilla, but it fits, if only in a shipping container. It is project for the University of Minnesota, funded by DOE. One partner in the grant is Cummins Diesel, so that is the power plant. They will have to make some modifications to the process, as they usually work with a sparked engine, with visions of turbo-charged V8’s for round two. The entire package will be shipped, and active, in a 20′ shipping container. One quarter engine, one quarter gasifier, and one half biomass storage and handling. The scheme in all these units is ease of deployability.
So we were there not only to marvel at innovations in gasifiers, but to connect with and revive a sense of mission related to biochar. APL, especially founder Jim Mason, was intrigued by our efforts in Sonoma County, and the national presence the USBI conference will bring to the area. The sum of our meeting, extended by mutual interest, was that now was the time to take a closer, systemic, look at biochar production. And showing that innovative spirit again, they roughed out a design for a biochar maker, that just might be a mutual project. With all feeling jazzed at the possibilities for collaboration, we left with sense that, like organizing the conference, biochar is on its way, out west.
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