The use of biomass-gasification to produce energy is by no means a modern invention. In fact combustible gasses produced from feed fuels powered blast furnaces almost 200 years ago. It was not long before the true versatility of the process began to be exploited and used to generate heat and power. Europe was the first to introduce gas systems, which relied on peat and charcoal as feed material.
…availability of oil reduces interest in biomass gasification
Towards the beginning of the 1900s oil was becoming the dominant fuel of choice and was replacing older systems at a rapid rate. However, there was a shortage in petroleum supplies during the World Wars which led directly to re-introduction of biomass gasificationsystems. By 1945 the gas generated from biomass gasification was being used to power everything from trucks and buses to agricultural and industrial machinery. Research suggests that there are close to 1 million vehicles currently running on the producer gas generated from the biomass gasification process.
…Sweden continues research on biomass gasification to this day
The end of World War II greatly increased the availability of fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gasoline leading directly to an overall decline in the biomass gasification industry. Interestingly, the Swedes continued to work diligently on producer biomass gasification technology. Efforts to reduce reliance on oil was drastically increased as a response to the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. As a result a decision was made to permanently include gasifiers in Swedish strategic energy plans. The National Swedish Institute for Agricultural Machinery Testing promptly began research and development related to the production of wood gasifiers in Sweden which continues to this day.
The oil crisis of the early 1970s gave way for the next boom in interest in small scale biomass gasification systems. However, once oil prices returned to normal interest in research and development quickly dissipated. Today there are close to 70 manufacturers around the world and around 30 in the United States. Currently, Gasifier and Equipment Manufacturing Corporation in Philippines is the world’s largest gasification manufacturing facility. GEMCOR produces over 3000 units per year ranging in size from 10-250 kW. While the company’s efforts have primarily been aimed at irrigation pumps and power generating sets, GEMCOR’s engineers have even designed gasifiers for direct heat applications.