Has anyone tried woodgas on an outboard?

Discussion in 'Outboards' started by Humanpower, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. Humanpower
    Joined: Jun 2012
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    Humanpower Junior Member

    I work in a country where charcoal is very cheap and gasoline very expensive. Gasifiers work well on charcoal, and produce a low-cost woodgas that is supposed to be able to fuel gasoline engines - at 5 to 10 times a lower cost than gas. Gasifiers were extensively used during WWII in Europe, including on boats.

    But I'm not sure this would work on an average, modern outboard, though. And I'm not willing to be the first to test (and possible ruin the engine). :D

    Anyone any experience / references?
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I don't know what the octane rating would be. Older engines had low compression so it wasn't a major issue.
  3. WestVanHan
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    WestVanHan Not a Senior Member

    If you can get your hands on used motor oil from a mine or such you can burn it in a diesel engine...
  4. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Sure wood gas will work with the appropriate adjustments, though carrying the fuel load is a burden and one of the reasons steam was killed by internal combustion. Both need a box car of fuel, compared to a considerably smaller liquid fuel tank.
  5. sdowney717
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    sdowney717 Senior Member

    likely has to be a 4 cycle outboard engine.
    It will run.
    I think it wont have as much power.
    whatever you design make sure you cant get burned. Boat will rock, dont want to fall onto this contraption. Perhaps a metallic screen shield, have to be strong like they put around kerosene heaters here. I could see the boat heaving around and people trying to grab onto something and grabbing onto the wood gasifier.
  6. rldavidson
    Joined: Aug 2021
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    Location: jeff co, ia

    rldavidson New Member

    Have been entertaining some interest in using woodgas in a typical, coastal , Panamanian , fibreglass panga with a smaller 25 horse outboard powered by a modest woodgas generator( with a typical 5 gal. gas tank for beginning a trip and nearing an anchorage). Stern platform over the water? 25 foot coastal panga.

    Need fairly dry wood(20 to 25%) . Somewhat moist driftwood is ubiquitous and could ? be further dried by being stored around body of stove or in hot chamber above stove. No shortage of heat here.

    Lots of interesting videos on youtube. A FEMA 85 page woodgas manual mentioned in one of the more careful, efficient units on youtube.

    Outboards suck in fairly humid air so a little moisture in syngas fuel stream may not be a major problem ( less efficient homemade units seem to put out a little more moisture in fuel stream ).
    Moisture can be condensed and removed in a cyclone tank( for tars, particulates, etc) , an efficient cooler and in a very long plastic fuel line ( with drain and drain jar) running around(under) gunnels.
    Am most concerned with safety( hot surfaces on a tossing boat, hydrogen 18 %, /nitrogen, CO mix mixing with oxygen).Need more info. on this.
    Some of the homemade units seem funky and seem like they might be prone to leak.
    A small explosion on a rough choppy day could be traumatic if not deafly.

    Would like to try this with a an old throwaway outdoor motor. Have absolutely no idea about how these motors will handle this.
    Suspect that long term problems might manifest if fuel is not clean and with acceptable moisture levels.

    Articles about woodgas powered cars says that high compression, large cubic inch engines are better.
    Are outboards with low compression suitable?
    Anyway, might be fun to try it and reduce expensive gas consumption puttering around the islands.
    Anyone out there in 2021 looking intomthis?
  7. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Old outboards are two stroke, so the plan won't work. I can't see any system that could mix oil with the gasohen that doesn't involve some expensive and complicated oil atomizer. During WWII my grandfather run some of his buses and service trucks with gasifiers. I remember seeing an old one laying around when I was very young. If high compression engines work well, the newer four stroke outboards should do fine. As far as having a hot metal tank inside a boat, that is how the world operated before all the modern safety regulations. Beware of hot surfaces, fires and explosions.
    hoytedow likes this.
  8. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Sounds easier to use the driftwood to power a small steam engine, you can get them, designed for small slow boats.
    powerabout and hoytedow like this.
  9. sdowney717
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    sdowney717 Senior Member

    Gasoline and diesel was so convenient and compact of a fuel, but then the prices soared, it makes large engine usage on a recreational boat out of reach for the majority of people. Marinas are full of large powerboats that almost never go out.
    The best times for fuel prices is long past. I filled up in 1982 in Harrisonburg for 52 cents a gallon, drove to Fairfax and it cost 83 cents per gallon on the same day. I forget what political even happened around that time, but it spiked fuel prices.
    My boat tanks can hold 300 gallons. To fill them up at $3 per gallon is close to a thousand dollars.

    The idea of steam engines does become more attractive if you can burn wood, but then you need a lot of wood stored onboard to burn. The powers that exist want to shut down people's ability to use large amounts of fuels, the way they do that is make it so only a few elite rich people can afford it. They pass many laws that cause fuel prices to rise.
    hoytedow likes this.
  10. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Your memory must be failing. 1982 was in the middle of the oil crunch when prices where very high. The average price at the pump (automotive) was about $1.24. Marina prices have always been higher.

  11. baeckmo
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    baeckmo Hydrodynamics

    ..maybe a bit off topic, but prices were really jumping back then, made shipping revenue predictions difficult...
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