Charcoal/Steam Powerplant In Shipping Containers

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A Kon-Tiki Kiln (lower right) creates charcoal that can be dumped out to the right as biochar, or onto a hopper (left) where a conveyor belt moves it to a Troy Martz Gasifier that powers an internal combustion engine for electricity generation. The waste heat rises into a Steam Generator that powers a Steam Engine.

This quick draft is a concept for a small, versatile portable power plant in two shipping containers. Any kind of dry biomass can be used as fuel, although wood probably works best. It produces electricity in two ways: from gasified charcoal in an internal combustion engine as well as from waste heat in a steam engine. Alternative products are biochar (if not gasified) and steam (if not used to power the steam engine).

Description (see figure)

  • Two 20 ft. shipping containers are used: the lower container is the carbonization/gasifier unit and the upper one is the steam / steam engine unit
  • a charcoal-making unit similar to the Kon-Tiki Kiln is used for "open burn" pyrolysis
  • the charcoal can be used as biochar
  • alternatively, charcoal can be fed into a Troy Martz Gasifier
  • "waste heat" rises into a Steam Generator
  • Steam powers Steam Engine

Considerations / Problems

  • the configuration of the Troy Martz Gasifier will have to be modified significantly. This is just a quick sketch.
  • similarly, the configuration of the Kon-Tiki Kiln will also have to be very different. It is not clear that the dumping option is easy to achieve.
  • since the walls of the shipping containers already act as an air barrier, the requirements for the geometry of the Kon-Tiki Kiln are not as strict as for a free-standing kiln
  • Charcoal coming out of the kiln would burn when exposed to air, so the transfer to the gasifier would have to be quick
  • Carbon monoxide release is a potential problem
  • alternative to the conveyor belt is some kind of auger that transfers the hot charcoal into the holding tank.
  • the waste heat from the Troy Martz Gasifier can be ducted to the Steam Generator for increased overall efficiency
  • the Kon-Tiki Kiln has to be relatively accessible from all sides to allow fuel loading
  • superheated steam may also be produced if the steam coming out of the steam generator is ducted back through the kiln.

Variations on the Theme

  • skip the Troy Martz Gasifier and only use the waste heat for power. Perhaps then make the charring unit larger for more energy.
  • steam turbine (or Stirling engine) may be preferable over steam engine.
  • could the entire facility be packaged into a single shipping container?