Notes from Windward: #68


Firing Up the GEK

Opalyn celebrates her first sustainable flame

October 1:

     Using mineral spirits as lighter fluid, we ignited the fire in the reaction chamber.


     With the fan motor set on high and glowing embers in the reaction zone, we loaded more wood chips, bolted on the lid, and within minutes had a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, nitrogen, and steam flowing to the burner.


     Lots of gas was coming out, but we were unable to produce a sustainable flame until we turned the fan off and the motor slowed. Evidently the exit velocity of the gas was so fast that it kept blowing the flame out.


October 10:

     On a trip to town we picked up a dual control switch. Since full speed was too fast, I wired the switch so that we could run the fan at either low or medium speed. This time I made the mistake of not allowing the charcoal to start burning (as opposed to just having the mineral spirits burning) before turning the fan on and adding more wood chips. As a result, the GEK didn't produce a significant amount of fuel gas. It was sort of like putting charcoal lighter fluid on charcoal, and then putting the hamburgers on to cook while the starter fluid is still burning--before the charcoal is actually started.

October 16:

     It was late in the afternoon. Instead of waiting until dark to fire off the GEK, I decided it was time to give it another try. This time I let the fire get better started before loading more fuel, securing the lid and turning on the fan at low speed. By the time I completed these tasks, producer gas was already flowing to the burner where it lit immediately and sustained a beautiful flame.


     Responding to my cry of success, the crew joined me on the landing to sit around and admire the long-awaited flame.


     It was a cool afternoon so we spent a few minutes enjoying the warmth before turning off the fan and getting on with our late-afternoon projects. We returned about two hours later with marshmallows to christen the new swirl burner. I had to relight the reaction fire because there wasn't enough fuel in the bed (we're still running in test mode; i.e. without the main hopper) to insulate the earlier fire, but after adding more wood chips and relighting the swirl burner, we set about roasting our celebratory marshmallows.


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68