Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Wood gas: energy efficiency and financial economy

The previous post on wood-burning motorcycles may seem jokey, though there were some 200,000 woodgas-burning vehicles operating in Northern Europe in WWII (see History section).

In terms of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI, or EROI), biofuels generally seem very poor:

(source: Wikipedia)

But as this site points out, wood gas has some advantages: "Converting biomass to a liquid fuel like ethanol or biodiesel can consume more energy (and CO2) than the fuel delivers. In the case of a wood gas car, no further energy is used in producing or refining the fuel, except for the felling and cutting of the wood. This means that a woodmobile is practically carbon neutral, especially when the felling and cutting is done by hand."

It can even make sense in the more elastic terms of money: the UN Forestry Department did a study in 1986 and looked at power generation for a sawmill, using wood waste generated on site so that there was no purchase cost. The savings were significant:


As the sawmill example shows, there is plenty of mileage in intelligent problem-solving at the local level, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Long-term and big-picture planning are needed, but subsidies and other kinds of central government interference can skew cost-benefit analyses and result in misallocation of resources.

Of course, one could wonder why we zoom about so much in the first place:

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1 comment:

A K Haart said...

"Of course, one could wonder why we zoom about so much in the first place:"

That's something to consider too, although I'm not convinced that woodmobiles will actually zoom.