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Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences

ISSN: 2319-7706 Volume 6 Number 4 (2017) pp. 182-189
Journal homepage:

Original Research Article

Design and Development of Updraft Gasifier Using Solid Biomass

R. Preetha Devi1* and S. Kamaraj2
Department of Bioenergy, AEC & RI, TNAU, Coimbatore-03, India
International Institute of Renewable Energy, NERD Society, Vadavalli, Coimbatore, India
*Corresponding author


Keywords Due to fast climate change and foreseen damage through global warming, access to clean
and green energy has become very much essential for the sustainable development of the
Biomass society, globally. Biomass based energy is one of the important renewable energy
gasification, resources to meet the day to day energy requirements and is as old as the human
Bioenergy, Wood
chips, Coconut husk
civilization. Biomass gasification is among few important aspects of bioenergy for
producing heat, power and biofuels for useful applications. The gas from biomass gasifier
Article Info contains quantities of particulates, tars, and other constituents that may exceed the
specified limits which may hinder their safe usage in applications where tar free clean gas
Accepted: is required such as in automobile engines. To determine performance of pilot model
02 March 2017
updraft gasifier with use of wood chips, coconut husk, coconut shell and pressed sugar
Available Online:
10 April 2017 cane biomass solid fuels at used weight of 30Kg.

The world community is more accentuating global energy load, while it has major share
on the clean and green energy for the up to 90% of total energy supply in the
sustainable development of the society and remote and rural areas of the developing
certain concerns and potentials are being world. It is also likely to remain the main
discussed about switching to renewable source of primary energy feedstock for the
energy (solar, biomass, wind etc.) for developing countries in the near future as
different but specific claims. Prior to the use around 90% of the world population is
of fossil fuel, the biomass was the main expected to reside in the developing countries
source of cooking, heating and electrical by 2050 (Kucuk and Demirbas, 1997; Sims,
applications. However, with the introduction 2003; Pathak et al., 2013).
of fossil fuels such as petroleum products,
coal, natural gas, etc. the world becoming Gasification is a promising technology which
dependent on these fuels and nearly 80% of allows for converting a solid fuel into a gas
the total energy requirement is being met by which is easier to clean, transport and burn
these fuels causing severe environmental efficiently and it keeps 70–80% of the
problems, globally. Also, biomass is chemical energy of the original fuel.
considered to be the prominent form of energy Moreover, gas from gasification can be used
and having a significant share (10–14%) in the in a wide range of applications: production of

Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

heat and power, and as feedstock for the 2015, Nsamba et al., 2015) for the last several
synthesis of fuels and chemicals. In the case decades. Updraft is more suitable for direct
of small-scale power generation or firing, where the gas produced is burnt in a
decentralized systems, gasifiers coupled to furnace or boiler without cleaning or cooling.
internal combustion engines lead to overall Biomass is fed from the top of the gasifier and
efficiencies higher than those of conventional a gasifying medium (air) is fed from the
systems. The advantages associated with the bottom of the gasifier. In this countercurrent
gasification technology are added into those reactor, the product gas leaves from the top
of using biomass. In fact, biomass gasification while solids fuels and ash leave from the
could contribute to the development of rural bottom. The design of the gasifier can be a
areas by using local wastes to produce major influence on the amount of tar in the
electricity. However, biomass gasification has product gas.
not being widely used at commercial scale
because of many challenges associated with Materials and Methods
feeding issues and supply chain management.
Although biomass is available locally all over Description of the updraft gasifier
the world, it is widely distributed across
regions. For example, firewood is distributed The length of 1 m biomass was fixed in
throughout the forest and the biomass parallel position in the reactor and slowly
collected is irregular in size and it has a very combusted with air. Outer layer of the
significant moisture content, which makes it biomass is first cracked and then, followed by
difficult to transport and thus to feed into the other portion, is converted into char. Tars
gasifier unit (thus requiring high investment travel from bottom to top direction. Because
costs to achieve the necessary properties). For of pyrolysis zone temperature was around
small-scale fixed bed gasifiers, cutting and/or 600–800° C, most of the tars was thermally
sawing of wood blocks is the preferred form cracked and the product gas is almost tars
of fuel preparation. The size range of chips free. Chen et al., (2003) reports that the liquid
can be chosen by screening such that the fuel fraction hits a maximum at about 500° C and
is acceptable for a specific gasifier type. This suggests that gas formation is more prominent
problem is even more important in large-scale from this point due to the liquid fraction being
plants due to the huge amount of biomass cracked at temperatures above 500° C, by
required (Ghosh et al., 2006). thermally decomposing, not only the tars
amount in the final gas product is minimized
Updraft gasifier but also the yield of producer gas is increased
as tars are converted into smaller molecular
Updraft gasifier is suitable for the solid components. The temperature at which tars
biomass which has high-moisture (up to are cracked is reported to be between 700 and
60%), high-ash (up to 25%) and low-volatile 1250 °C (Umeki et al., 2012). The most of the
fuels such as charcoal and it is also called as a updraft fixed bed gasifiers use wood chips
countercurrent gasifier. Updraft gasifier has and coconut shell and their performances
some advantages over downdraft gasifiers have been widely studied (Di Blasi, 2004 and
such as, good thermal efficiency, flexible with Prabir Basu, 2013).
moisture content, small pressure drop across
the reactor, low tendency of slag formation Updraft gasifier design process
etc. and has been studied by number of
researchers (James et al., 2014, Yadav et al., Gasifier design involves both process and
2013, Ismail and El-Salam, 2014, Raja et al., hardware. The process design involves the
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

type of the gasifier and yield of the producer The outputs of process design include
gas, operating conditions, and the size of the geometric and operating and performance
reactor. The hardware design involves parameters. The geometric or basic size
structural and mechanical components, such includes reactor configuration, cross-sectional
as grate, main reactor body, insulation, and area, and height (hardware design). Important
others, that are specific to the reactor type operating parameters are (i) reactor
(Ciferno and Marano, 2002). temperature, (ii) preheat temperature of air
and (iii) amount (i.e., air/biomass ratio) and
Design specification of updraft gasifier relative proportion of the gasifying medium
(i.e., air /oxygen ratio). Performance
Specification of the plant is very important for parameters of a gasifier include carbon
the design of the gasifier. The input includes conversion and cold-gas efficiency.
the specification of the fuel, gasification
medium, and product gas. A typical fuel A typical gasifier process design starts with a
specification will include proximate and mass balance followed by an energy balance.
ultimate analysis, operating temperatures, and Here we describe the calculation procedures
ash properties. The specification of the for these.
gasifying medium is based on the selection of
steam, oxygen, and or air and their Mass balance
proportions. Here the updraft gasifier is
designed based on the air gasifying medium Basic mass and energy balance is common to
all types of gasifiers. It involves calculations
Design parameters of the updraft gasifier for product gas flow and fuel feed rate.
as follows
Product gas flow-rate
The desired heating value of the product gas
dictates the choice of gasification medium. If The gasifier’s required power output, Q
air is the gasification medium, the lower (MWth), is an important input parameter
heating value (LHV) of gas is in the range of specified by the requirement. Based on this,
47 MJ/m3 (Yadav et al., 2013). It may be we made a preliminary estimation of the
noted that when the feedstock is biomass, the amount of fuel to be fed into the gasifier and
heating value is lower due to its high oxygen the amount of gasifying medium. The volume
and moisture content. flow-rate of the product gas, Vg (N m3/s), for
a desired LHVg (MJ/N m3) is found by:
Capital cost is lowest for air, followed by
steam. A much larger investment is needed Vg= (Q / LHVg) N m3/s
for an oxygen plant, which also consumes a The net heating value or LHV of producer gas
large amount of auxiliary power. (LHVg) can be calculated from its
Equivalence ratio (ER) has a major influence
on carbon conversion efficiency. For the Fuel feed rate
product gas, the specification includes,
desired gas composition, heating value, To find the biomass feed rate Mf, the required
production rate (N m3/s or MWth power output is divided by the LHV of the
produced),yield of the product gas per unit biomass (LHVbm) and by the gasifier
fuel consumed required power output of the efficiency, ηgef.
gasifier, Q.
Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

Mf= (Q / LHVbm×ηgef) Air

The LHV may be related to the higher heating The theoretical air requirement for complete
value (HHV) and its hydrogen and moisture combustion of a unit mass of a fuel, mth, is an
contents as: important parameter. It is known as the
stoichiometric air requirement. Its calculation
LHVbm = HHVdaf - 20,300 × Hdaf - 2260 × is shown in equation. For an air-blown
Mdaf gasifier operating, the amount of air required,
Ma, for gasification of unit mass of biomass is
Here, Hdaf is the hydrogen mass fraction in the found by multiplying it by another parameter
fuel, Mdaf is the moisture mass fraction, and equivalence ratio (ER):
HHVdaf is the HHV in kJ/kg on a dry on
moisture-ash-free basis. By using the Ma = mthER
definition of these, one can relate the HHV on
moisture ash- free basis to that on only dry- For a fuel feed rate of Mf, the air requirement
basis value as: of the gasifier, Mfa, is:

HHVdaf = HHVd [(1-M)/ (1- Ash- M)] Mfa =mthER × Mf

Where the subscripts, For a biomass gasifier, 0.25 may be taken as a

first-guess value for ER.
d and daf refer to dry and moisture-ash-free
basis respectively; Equivalence ratio
M is the moisture fraction;
and ASH is the ash fraction in fuel on a raw- Equivalence ratio (ER) is an important design
fuel basis. parameter for a gasifier. It is the ratio of the
actual air fuel ratio to the stoichiometric air
On a dry basis, HHVd is typically in the range fuel ratio. This definition is the same as that
1821 MJ/kg (Van Loo and Koppejan, 2003). of excess air (EA) used for a combustion
It may be calculated from the ultimate system, except that it is used only for air-
analysis for the biomass using the following deficient situations, such as those found in a
equation (Van Loo and Koppejan, 2003): gasifier.

HHVd=0.3491C+1.1783H+0.1005S-0.0151N- ER(<1.0) gasification = actual air/

0.1034O- 0.0211ASH stoichiometric air = EA(>1.0)combustion

Where C, H, S, N, O, and ASH are the mass In a combustor, the amount of air supplied is
fraction of carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, determined by the stoichiometric (or
oxygen, and ash in the fuel on a dry basis. theoretical) amount of air and its excess air
coefficient. In a gasifier, the air supply is only
Flow rate of gasifying medium a fraction of the stoichiometric amount. The
stoichiometric amount of air is calculated
The amount of gasification medium has a based on the ultimate analysis of the fuel. ER
major influence on yield and composition of dictates the performance of the gasifier. For
the product gas. example, pyrolysis takes place in the absence
of air and hence the ER is zero; for

Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

gasification of biomass, it lies between 0.2 product gas. The heating value of the gas is
and 0.3. therefore relatively low (46 MJ/m3).

In up draft gasifier which typically operate Reactor diameter (D)

with an ER of less than 0.25, have higher tar
content. With an ER above 0.25, some Diameter refers to the size of the reactor in
product gases are also burnt, increasing the terms of the diameter of the cross-section of
temperature. The quality of gas obtained from the cylinder where the fuel is being burned.
a gasifier strongly depends on the value of This is a function of the amount of the fuel
ER, which must be significantly below 1.0 to consumed per unit time (FCR) to the specific
ensure that the fuel is gasified rather than gasification rate (SGR) of the fuel ranging
combusted. However, an excessively low ER from 100 to 250 kg/m2 - h
value (0.2) results in several problems,
including incomplete gasification, excessive The reactor diameter is computed using the
char formation, and a low heating value of the formula with
product gas. On the other hand, too high and
ER (0.4) results in excessive formation of D = [(4 × FCR)/ SGR×π] 0.5
products of complete combustion, such as FCR - fuel consumption rate
CO2 and H2O, at the expense of desirable SGR – [weight of the biomass fuel used, Kg /
products, such as CO and H2. This causes a (Reactor area m2 ×Reactor diameter – 0.15m
decrease in the heating value of the gas. In operating time, h]
this gasification system the ER’s value is
normally maintained within the range of 0.20 Height of the reactor (H)
to 0.30.
Height refers to the total distance from the top
Besides supplying the energy for the and the bottom end of the reactor. This
endothermic gasification reactions, the determines how long would the gasifier be
gasifier must provide energy to raise the feed operated in one loading of fuel. Basically, it is
and gasification medium to the reaction a function of a number of variables such as
temperature, as well as to compensate for the the required time to operate the gasifier (T),
heat lost to the reactor walls. For a self- the specific gasification rate (SGR), and the
sustained gasifier, part of the chemical energy density of the fuel. As shown below, the
in the biomass provides the heat required. The height of the gasifier is computed using the
total heat necessary comes from the oxidation formula
reactions. The energy balance of the gasifier
is thus the main consideration in determining H = [(SGR × T)/ ρf ]
the oxygen-to-carbon (O/C) ratio.
For a desired operating time of the gasifier of
Equilibrium calculations can show that as the 2.5 hours, assuming the density of the fuel
O/C ratio in the feed increases, CH4, CO, and 300 kg/m3.
hydrogen in the product decreases but CO2
and H2O in the product increases. Beyond an Time to consume the fuel
O/C ratio of 1.0, hardly any CH4 is produced.
When air is the gasification medium, as is the Time refers to the total time required to
case for 70% of all gasifiers (Ciferno and completely gasify the fuel inside the reactor.
Marano, 2002), the nitrogen in it dilutes the This includes the time to ignite the fuel and

Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

the time to generate gas, plus the time to the most important parameter during the
completely burn all the fuel in the reactor. actual operation process of the gasifier. It is
The density of the fuel (ρf) the volume of the closely related to the temperature distribution
reactor (Vr) and the fuel consumption rate of the gasifier, product gas composition and
(FCR) are the factors used in determining the LHV shows the temperature of the
total time to consume the fuel in the reactor. combustion zone and gasification intensity
This is computed using the formula under different air flow rates. Air flow rate
increasing from 21 to 28 m3/h, the
T = [(ρf × Vr)/ FCR temperature of the oxidation zone increased
sharply from 600 to 1025°C, and the
Amount of air needed for gasification – Air
gasification intensity enhanced largely from
Flow Rate (AFR)
98 to 456 kg/h m2, thus verifying that the
AFR refers to the rate of flow of air needed to temperature of the combustion zone could
gasify the fuel. This is very important in directly reflect the intensity of the gasification
determining the size of the fan or of the process. Considering that the ash fusion point
blower needed for the reactor in gasifying the of the coconut shell used in the experiment is
fuel. This can be simply determined using the 1100°C, the air flow rate chosen for this
rate of consumption of the fuel (FCR), the gasifier should not exceed 28 m3/h. An air
stoichiometric air of the fuel (SA), density of flow rate of 25–28 m3/h might be the
air (ρf) and the recommended equivalent ratio appropriate range due to the proper oxidation
(ɛ) for gasifying wood fuel of 0.3 to 0.5. This zone temperature and gasification intensity.
is obtained using the formula Besides, more air entering into the gasifier,
more biomass would react. The temperature
Vs = Air flow rate / area of the reactor level would be higher thus leading each zone
inside the gasifier to be expanded and the gas
Figure 1 shows the designed updraft gasifier production to increase.
with blower and K-thermocouple were fixed
The ER is pivotal for achieving a proper gas
data logger to measure the temperature within
quality as it identifies the optimum air/fuel
the system.
ratio for a given biomass gasifier system. In
this gasifier the air inlet valve can be adjusted
Dimensions of the updraft gasifier
to control the air flow rate into the reactor,
however the fuel feed rate cannot be
Diameter of the 0.6 m
controlled and it is entirely dependent on the
behavior of the fuel wood during gasification.
Height of the reactor 1m ER 0.4, there was an increase in the H2 and
Fuel consumption 30kg/h CO concentrations from 16% and 15%
ratio respectively. As the ER decreased from 0.6 to
Time to consume the 2.45hours 0.5 however, the concentration of CO2
fuel increased from 16 to 15% whilst that of
Air Flow Rate (AFR) 0.347 m3 / sec H2and CO decreased. This occurred since the
amount of air being supplied relative to the
Results and Discussion fuel was more than that required for
gasification; as a consequence of the higher
For updraft gasifier, the operation condition is partial pressure of O2 in the gasifier,
mainly adjusted by regulating the air flow rate combustion reactions enhanced, oxidizing
entering into the gasifier. The air flow rate is some of the H2 to H2O and the char to CO2.

Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

Dimensions of the updraft gasifier

Diameter of the Reactor 0.6 m

Height of the reactor 1m
Fuel consumption ratio 30kg/h
Time to consume the fuel 2.45hours
Air Flow Rate (AFR) 0.03 m3 / sec
Temperature range 900 to 1150°C

Fig.1 Designed updraft gasifier

Required air flow rate for the coconut shell characteristics of this type of gasifier provide
a range of options for bed height as well as
Air flow rate for coconut shell – 1.695 kg of under fire airflow rate to obtain a desired heat
air / kg of coconut shell release rate. This flexibility in operating
From one kg of coconut shell we can get 2.6 condition is a significant aid in the design and
Nm3 of producer gas start-up of the unique type of biomass power
source. Air to fuel ratio would be a more
In conclusion an updraft gasifier utilizing useful measure when moisture is present in
thermally thick large size solid biomass fuel the lower portion of the bed to
has been developed and evaluated with field maximize/minimize specific gasification
test results. The gasifier obtained high-energy products.
release rates due to the high inlet air velocity
and activated/extended reaction in Major factors that affect efficiency of gasifier
combustion and reduction zones. The lowest performance are dry flue gas, moisture in fuel,
portion of the bed is an oxidizing region and latent heat, unburned fuel, radiation
the remainder of the bed acts as gasification depending on the fuel properties.
and drying zone for the design case with 20%
fuel moisture. It was found that air flow rate The factors that mainly affect the gasifier
directly affects the gasification temperature performance can be rectified to improve the
and operation condition. The operating efficiency.

Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci (2017) 6(4): 182-189

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How to cite this article:

Preetha Devi, R. and Kamaraj, S. 2017. Design and Development of Updraft Gasifier Using
Solid Biomass. Int.J.Curr.Microbiol.App.Sci. 6(4): 182-189.