Barrel-Burner & Water-cooled Condenser
Frank Jeffers was employed at the EPRIDA research facility at the University of Georgia in Athens, and worked with Danny Day to study pyrolysis processes, manipulate parameters, optimize selected outputs, characterize feedstocks, and capture biofuels.
carbon-negative biochar, biofuel & biogas
After the demise of the EPRIDA UGA facility in late 2008, Frank began his own research effort, not targeted on large-scale, complex, industrial, proprietary technology, but to develop backyard-style, farm-scale equipment and operations. Frank used only public domain technology, or obvious developments of public domain technology, so that whatever processes and equipment he develops will be freely available locally to farms and communities, and globally to developing 3rd world populations.
In 2009, Frank built a prototype high-temperature barrel burner, and assembled a simple water-cooled condenser to collect liquids distilled out by pyrolysis. Using little that is more elaborate or exotic than supplies from building & construction stores, and simple fabrication methods, Frank built a 2-barrel biochar burner that burns with a white-hot, smokeless flame.
Frank then fashioned PVC and metal pipe into a pair of water-jacketed condensers that are connected to ordinary garden hose. Initially, Frank collected the condensible liquids and burned off the flammable gases (photo 10). Later, he added another segment to his condenser, and a tank to capture and store the extra gas.
Saturday, November 14, 2009, Frank was invited to present his equipment at the Biochar Demonstration Day at New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown, MA. Extra effort was required to drive equipment and crew to New England, but Frank's demonstratiolns of pyrolysis and power provided the high points of the day, and drew a rapt, attentive crowd, despite a temporary deluge.
During the afternoon, Frank successfully demonstrated three notable technological feats:
high temperature operation of a barrel-size burner & retort
water-cooled condenser to collect extracted liquids
use of non-condensible gases to fire an electric generator
A rudimentary reforming apparatus is included in the retort, using public domain technology, to make possible producing the storable fuelgas used to run the motor. To get constant delivery pressure, fuelgas accumulates in the gas holder, which Adam Page built. The second batch of gas stored is run back into the fire to finish out the charcoal properly after gas production declines at the end of the run.
What goes on in a burn is complicated. Jay's specialty is automatic controls, so an operator doesn't have to run around like a one-arm chicken catcher.
Many people are deeply grateful to Frank Jeffers, his family and crew to travel so far to offer us cutting edge inspiration and ingenuity. Frank Jeffers gave many of us a glimpse of the next challenge for biochar industry: to tap, capture and use gas and liquid biofuels cooked out of charring biomass. Because here in the Northeast, on-farm and in-home heat & power from a biochar burner is a priority for design.