SweetWaters Gasification

Dear Colleagues

As I haven't been available to contribute much to gasification for the last few months, thought you may be interested to hear about Sweetwaters, New Zealand's equivalent to Woodstock which as most know was a huge rock music venue in the U.S.A.

I was asked last September if I could put on a gasification demonstration and possibly supply electric power to some of the stands for the four day event, January 22-25. As it wasn't going to cost anything for the site, and was really to show the attending Greenies what could be done with renewable energy, it was a chance to get some suntan.
Massey University was also invited to show their work with biomass and gasification, so we set up a joint exhibit using their Datson J4 generator set and Fluidyne's 10kWe Pioneer Class wood gasifier. Fluidyne supplied Massey their gasifier and built the genset a few years ago, and it has enabled the University to build up their capability to expand renewable energy studies under the watchful eye of Ralph Sims a friend from way back.

Both my gasifier and their engine hadn't been used for over a year, so anything that could go wrong didn't. The gasifier fired up in 10 seconds and the engine started on gas in just under 4 minutes, and the power flowed! The output of the genset is only 5 K.V.A. 240V, so we didn't have a huge wood consumption to worry about.

The 10kWe Pioneer Class was built way back in 1987, to see if a simple design could be as reliable as the larger Pacific Class. It was never considered for commercial sales even though its proven itself time and again over 12 years.

Also in attendance were the do it yourself gasifier enthusiasts, some spending four days trying to get their engines started on gasoline. Only one drove itself on site and left the same way on gas, which for a small bus (top speed 120km/hr on flat) is a real performer.

It was an opportunity to provide assistance to those building gasifiers and sort out their operating procedures. Even the crudest design will make gas albeit terry, but not even that when the fuel was firewood stove billets!

Surprisingly, I was informed that two of the earliest gasifier hearths we sold (about 79-80) were still in use on pottery kilns. When built these hearths had an unknown life span, so our later models should still be making gas in 2020 and beyond, that is if anyone around still knows how to operate them.

Shell and BP were present with their P.V. cells and as Shell were using the P.V. cells to power an electric water cylinder (for a coffee stall) they ended up using a genset for part of the time as nobody likes cold coffee.

Doug Williams


Datsun JA engine, 5 KVA alternator gas come from gasifier to engine and via tee valve to start-up fan between truck and gasifier.

The Pioneer Class gasifier.

The gasified small bus with personalised number plate "Wood"

DIY red drum gasifier, silver drum water cooling, silver framed white panel water jacketed tubed gas cooling, stainless cylinder sawdust filter, engine unknown. Enthusiasm isn't enough to design and build gasifiers.

Here is Ralph Sims waiting for his cell phone to ring.