MDF Gasification

 The Atlantic Class gasification MDF project is a tribute to Dr Brian Russell, Director of Innovation Technologies (Ireland) Ltd, who's unexpected sudden illness, resulted in his passing at the age of 43 years, in January 2006.

Brian's vision to develop gasification in Ireland for the inevitable problems of sustainable energy for industrial activity, is to be continued by his business partner Ian Milleken.


 Disposal of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) can be a costly disposal problem for some manufacturing facilities that use this fabrication material. Apart from the solid waste streams, usually large amounts of saw, and sanding dust is produced from the manufacturing activity. Combustion of these wastes are regulated, and gasification is  proving to provide an alternative and productive use for these waste streams.

Fluidynes Licensee and representation for the E.U. Is Innovation Technologies (Ireland)Ltd, have been researching the gasification of MDF for a number of years. Developing a gasifier that can be of a compatible size for most applications, is at best, a high financial risk activity, but the choice of a 70-80 kWe system was determined to fit the industrial criteria being presented for consideration.

Beginning early in 2005, the Atlantic Class gasifier was designed using parameters supplied by Fluidyne, then tuned to suit the fuel behavior during gasification.  Fuel feeding components were developed in house based on earlier experimentation, as were fuel level sensing components.

Financial constraints, required a staged component development programme, with first the automated gasifier, followed by gas cooling and cleaning systems. A used gas engine generator was acquired, (Hino 13.3 litre), but required replacement of a stripped ignition, and electrical control systems. These were rebuilt with in hose expertise, and the engine was operational on gas, for my inspection and evaluation testing in June / July, 2005.

During this visit, I was able to observe the in house research programme into MDF dust agglomeration in preparation for it to be gasified. They were also conducting gasification trials on pelletised sewage sludge, and a number of other waste streams in palletized form.  While the intent is not offer technology to gasify these difficult wastes, the experience provided from studying the gasification phenomena, provides valuable practical   capability needed to advise clients when evaluating waste gasification technologies.  Gasification of any fuel, must be conducted from a known baseline of performance criteria in a gasification process, and the experience acquired since 2000 by their small team is considerable.

A decision to install the proto-type Atlantic Class gasifier, did mean that the smaller cooling cleaning system would provide “limited”results, but enable the  power output to be linked into a factory grid supply. This allowed the gasifier to be operated for 22 hour/day, with 2hours for cooling off, before manual clean outs.

It should be highlighted, that operational problems were not limited to the equipment. There was considerable time lost to deal with regulations, and perceived health issues by factory labour. These were officially inspected and cleared without problems by the appropriate authorities, but only by adding additional costs and lost time to the programme.

By the time of my visit in March / April 2006, to conduct a total review of the project, just over 400 hours of generation had been clocked. As part of my review, it was necesssary to run the system 24hr x 7days, but the factory operating schedule prevented this, so we had to accept 24hr x 4 day operation over each week of the three week period. On other days during the week, the system was used but stopped according to the factory schedule. This is not good for the acquisition of operating data, but a reality of what to expect when working within commercial industrial applications.
Phase 2 of the component development programme has now been initiated, and this will be  concluded in July / August 2006. This will allow time for the company to reorganize their in house priorities, before assigning staff to future projects.

Since my return to New Zealand, for the first time in my experience, I can link in to the engine and gasifier to view all the operational data, and to even stop and start it as required. This must be a distance record for a gasified engine powered generating system, but a wonderful tool to acquire information as it happens.  Currently, the engine is not in service awaiting delivery of the new components.

The following photos were taken during my March / April 2006 visit to Northern Ireland.
It is a proto-type installation, and should not be considered to represent a completed commercially offered system.

June 2006

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MDF dust from sanders
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Agglomerated dust in ball form.
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Large thermally bonded  MDFpellet.
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Large thermally bonded  MDFpellet.
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Waste MDF strips being fed into  ITI 'Snapper" machine. MDF only.
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Snapped pieces feeding conveyer to bin storage.
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Full bin ready for transport to main fuel bin / conveyer.
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Main fuel bin / conveyer, adapted from potato grading machine.
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All fuel must be chunky, rather than fine chips which arenot suitable.
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Fuel feeds transverse conveyer, onto second conveyer through wall.
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Fuel is metered into bin of gasifier conveyer.
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Main gasifier conveyer feeds fuel into gasifier on demand through slide and door fuel locks
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Gasifier module with temporary
cyclones and gas cooler / condenser on the right.
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Proto-type Gasifier is designed to evaluate a number of considerations  that have no precedence with this type of technology. Waste heat collection from the cooling of the gas has a number of applications, and final design will depend on how the clients will use this resource.
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This is a 13.3 litre Hino engine, turbo charged by ITI for producer gas.The two ducts bring in cold air from the outside. The green pipes are for the gas / air into the engine, and a hot air extraction from the engine to the air cleaner. It also scavenges oil valour from the engine sump breather.
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View of the red hot engine turbo.

Engine information screen can be seen on line from any location, a separate control panel touch screen operates the gasifier showing all relevant information of the gas temperatures  and pressure drops across the system.