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Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

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Old 12-04-2009, 12:34:44 PM
Pete Spaco Pete Spaco is offline
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Default Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

I am very interested in generating electricity from wood. The process of "cooking" wood or charcoal was used extensively in Europe during WWII to run motor vehicles. Eventually, I want to use net metering, like the wind and solar people do, to make and "store" electricity. Eventually, I want to run a genset for one 10 hour day per week to make all the electricity that we will need for the next week. But for now, I need to get my feet wet, so I have purchased and tested a Chinese Gas Producer and I want to use it to run an Onan 6.5NHC genset. Since this woodgas (CO and H2) burns more slowly than gasline, I need an genset that runs at less than about 2300 rpm, so this Onan is just right. I have this used genset up and running, and have built and installed a "woodgas" manifold and am ready to try it out.
Once I feel comfortable that I know how the process works, I will scale it up to somewhere between a 25KWHr and 75KWHr system.
Are any of you folks out there doing similar things?
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Old 12-04-2009, 01:22:55 PM
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BTPost BTPost is offline
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Talking Re: Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

You may want to start a thread down on the Alternative Fuels Forum, <> and see if you get any feedback there.... Pictures would be nice....
Bruce in alaska
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Old 12-04-2009, 09:16:06 PM
icarus icarus is offline
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Default Re: Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

First, you are going to have a very hard time getting a generator to coordinate with a grid tie inverter. Grid tie inverters need to sync with the grid to an exact cycle and phase and voltage. Most gennies wander enough that they can't provide stable enough voltage and Hrz. You would probably have to go with a genny powering a battery charger, with the batteries providing the voltage to the inverter and then to the grid. That said, it is a very inefficient way to produce electricity.

The energy required to digest wood to either alcohol or gas usually exceeds the energy in the alcohol or gas. I think there would be way more efficient ways to put energy into the grid. PV solar has never been cheaper, with installed cost ~$5-8/watt before utility rebates and federal and state tax credits or any other incentives. These incentives can drive the installed cost down by over half.

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Old 12-05-2009, 07:08:07 PM
Pete Spaco Pete Spaco is offline
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Default Re: Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

Thanks for your input. I don't plan on using this setup for grid-tie. It is my
"learn woodgas" prototype. The frequency thing isn't a real issue, because the grid WILL sync the generator.
When I go for grid-tie, that's a whole 'nother issue.

For those of you who may be interested, see my progress so far at:

This page hasn't been updated since I got my Onan genset, so, at:

you will see my 12 hp Briggs hooked to a 3 phase electric motor that is connected as a single phase generator. It works, but suffers from poor governor response at the low speed I need (2300 rpms or less).

Pete Stanaitis
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:59:49 PM
Ted_Cool Ted_Cool is offline
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Default Re: Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

I've been looking into this too. Wood's cheaper than gas in a long outage, and I like to tinker...

Could you tell me where you got the chinese gasifier?

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Old 12-05-2009, 08:10:42 PM
Harvey Teal Harvey Teal is offline
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Default Re: Is anyone running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?

Pete, I have been running gensets on woodgas for a number of years.
The best all around gasifier design that i have used is a stratified downdraft type similar to that shown on the Gengas website. I have run one-lungers such as the FBM 6Z successfully, but diesel engines really thrive on this stuff...
the trick is to start and run the diesel normally, using fuel oil etc, but leave the injectors set at idle. "pilot ignition". Then introduce an approx 50-50 mix of gengas and air thru a throttled port into the diesel's intake manifold. Govern your speed with the throttled mix and leave the injector pump at idle.
Take the extra time to build a robust filter. Gengas generators produce all kinds of yucky stuff that doesnt belong in an engine. Don't sacrifice your brand new genset for this service either.....
I'd like to take a closer look at that Chinese setup...where did you buy it?
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:19:05 AM
Pete Spaco Pete Spaco is offline
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Default Re:Running Onan Gensets on Woodgas?/Chinese Gasifier

I got my Chinese gasifier on E-bay in about March of 2009. It came from a guy in the Seattle area. He had been putting them up for auction at $900, then went up to $1200. After a while, he started them at $400, so I jumped in and ended up getting one for $610 plus about $175 shippping.
But, he doesn't do that anymore.
My setup needed a rectifier that did not come with it, so this guy put me in touch with George, at:, who sent me the rectifier.
I got the feeling that Goerge might have been the guy who was supplying the gasifiers to the fellow I bought mine from.

Might be better to start here:, Kevin Chisholm, looks like the only source where you could order one these days ---at least from someone in north america.

Pete Stanaitis
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