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Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67

Thermochemical equilibrium modelling of a gasifying process

Andrés Melgar a, Juan F. Pérez a,*
, Hannes Laget a, Alfonso Horillo b

Thermal Engines and Renewable Energies Group MYER, School of Engineering, University of Valladolid, E-47011 Valladolid, Spain
CIDAUT Centre for Automotive Research and Development, E-47151 Boecillo, Spain

Received 20 October 2005; received in revised form 28 April 2006; accepted 10 May 2006
Available online 10 July 2006


This article discusses a mathematical model for the thermochemical processes in a downdraft biomass gasifier. The model combines
the chemical equilibrium and the thermodynamic equilibrium of the global reaction, predicting the final composition of the producer gas
as well as its reaction temperature. Once the composition of the producer gas is obtained, a range of parameters can be derived, such as
the cold gas efficiency of the gasifier, the amount of dissociated water in the process and the heating value and engine fuel quality of the
gas. The model has been validated experimentally. This work includes a parametric study of the influence of the gasifying relative fuel/air
ratio and the moisture content of the biomass on the characteristics of the process and the producer gas composition. The model helps to
predict the behaviour of different biomass types and is a useful tool for optimizing the design and operation of downdraft biomass
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Biomass; Downdraft gasifier; Chemical equilibrium; Modelling

1. Introduction the charcoal that has passed through the oxidation zone
without reacting, forming the final producer gas.
The gasification process in a downdraft gasifier can be A wide variety of theoretical and experimental works on
divided into four parts. In a first and second stage, the bio- biomass gasification have been published. Their main goal
mass is dried and converted into volatile substances and is the study of the thermochemical processes during the
charcoal. The third exothermic stage, where the volatile gasification of the biomass, evaluating the influence of
substances are partially oxidised, provides the heat con- the main input variables, such as moisture content and
sumed during the first and second stages, as well as in the air/fuel ratio, the producer gas composition and its calorific
last, char gasification, stage [1]. In the oxidation zone, vol- value. Some studies only consider the final composition in
atile molecules are broken down into smaller molecules. If chemical equilibrium [2–6], while others take into account
the temperature reached in this zone is not high enough, the different processes along the gasifier, distinguishing at
part of the volatile molecules, characterised by their high least two zones [1,7,8].
molecular weight such as tars, can pass through this zone Altafini and Mirandola [2] present a coal gasification
and condense when cooled, causing serious problems in model by means of chemical equilibrium, minimizing the
certain applications such as the use of producer gas in Gibbs free energy. The authors analyse the influence of
reciprocating internal combustion engines. In the last stage, the ultimate analysis and the gasifying agents/fuel ratio
the main part of the sensible enthalpy of the combustion on the equilibrium temperature (adiabatic case) in order
gases is consumed during the reduction of these gases by to obtain the producer gas composition and the overall
and conversion efficiency. They conclude that the equilib-
rium model fits the real process well. Similar conclusions
Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 983 423367; fax: +34 983 423363. for biomass gasification are presented by the same authors
E-mail address: (J.F. Pérez). [3], simulating the gasifying process in a downdraft gasifier,

0196-8904/$ - see front matter Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
60 A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67


a mole of CO per mole of biomass S mass fraction of sulphur

b mole of CO2 per mole of biomass S0 standard entropy (J/mol K)
C mass fraction of carbon T temperature (K)
c mole of H2 per mole of biomass w H2O molar fraction in biomass
Cp specific heat (constant pressure) (kJ/kg) x real molar quantity of air
d mole of CH4 per mole of biomass Xa engine air molar fraction
E energy (kJ)
e mole of H2O per mole of biomass Greeks
f mole of N2 per mole of biomass g efficiency
Frg gasification relative fuel/air ratio m stoichiometric coefficients
Fst stoichiometric biomass/air ratio qa air density (kg/m3)
Fst,e stoichiometric producer gas/air ratio
g mole of O2 per mole of biomass Subscripts
G0T;i Gibbs free energy (kJ/kmol) ad adiabatic
H mass fraction of hydrogen bm biomass
h relative moisture of biomass cg cold gas
h0f enthalpy of formation (kJ/kmol) daf dry ash free conditions
K equilibrium constant db dry base
l mole of SO2 per mole of biomass ini initial condition
LHV lower heating value (kJ/kg) m H atoms substitution formula
M molecular weight (kg/mol) n C atoms substitution formula
N mass fraction of nitrogen p O atoms substitution formula
ni mole of ith component of producer gas pg producer gas
nT total mole of producer gas prod reaction products
O mass fraction of oxygen q N atoms substitution formula
Qin heat input to gasifying process (preheating) r S atoms substitution formula
Qout heat output of gasifying process (heat loss) react reaction reactants
Ru universal constant

where the object of study is the effect of the biomass mois- effect of the operating parameters (biomass moisture and
ture content on the final gas composition assuming chemi- ultimate analysis, temperature and amount of gasification
cal equilibrium. The biomass gasification process is agent) on the producer gas composition, its heating value
modelled by Zainal et al. [4] based on thermodynamic equi- and the process efficiency. A description of a two zone
librium. They investigate the influence of the moisture con- model in a downdraft gasifier is adapted by Jayah et al.
tent and reaction temperature on the producer gas [8] where the two zones correspond to flaming pyrolysis
composition and its calorific value. Lapuerta et al. [5] pre- and the gasification. In the flaming pyrolysis zone, the pro-
dict the producer gas composition as a function of the fuel/ ducer gas composition and its temperature is estimated by
air ratio by means of an equilibrium model. A kinetic chemical equilibrium. These parameters form the input of
model was used to establish the freezing temperature, the second zone where a char particle is considered to move
which is used for equilibrium calculations in combination downwards vertically through the gasifying zone. The
with the adiabatic flame temperature. Ruggiero and model estimates the temperature profile, the producer gas
Manfrida [6] emphasize the potential of the equilibrium composition and conversion efficiency throughout the gas-
model considering the Gibbs free energy. This proceeding ifying zone. The model is calibrated with experimental data
can be used under different operating conditions for from a downdraft gasifier. The model has been applied to a
predicting producer gas composition and the correspond- sensitivity study with variable biomass size, moisture con-
ing heating value. tent, inlet air temperature, heat loss and throat angle;
A model for studying the biomass gasification with which attempts to optimize the gasifying zone length by
steam in fluidized bed gasifiers is presented by Schuster means of maximizing the conversion efficiency. Di Blasi
et al. [7]. The model considers two zones, one gasification [1] presents a dynamical one-dimensional model (solid
zone (fluidization with steam) and a combustion zone, in and gaseous phase) of a downdraft gasifier that considers
which the producer gas composition is estimated through the evaporation of water, the pyrolysis, combustion and
an equilibrium model with Gibbs free energy minimization. gasification of char, the combustion of the gaseous phase
The model is used for a parametric study considering the and the thermal cracking of tars and takes into account
A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67 61

the heat transfer along the gasifier. The author studies the tants is supposed to be high enough to reach chemical equi-
effect of the air/fuel ratio on the dynamics and efficiency of librium, a hypothesis that has been confirmed by other
the gasifying process and the composition and quality of authors, such as Ruggiero and Manfrida [6] and Zainal
the producer gas. et al. [4]. Secondly, we assume that all the carbon in the
An experimental study is described by Zainal et al. [9] biomass is gasified, and thereby, the formation of charcoal
using a downdraft gasifier fed with wood industry residues. can be neglected.
The authors determine the influence of the air/fuel ratio on Through the energetic balance of the process, it is possi-
the producer gas composition, its heating value and the ble to estimate the final reaction temperature and calculate
overall efficiency. Rao et al. [10] study the exergetic irrever- the producer gas composition in equilibrium as a function
sibilities of a downdraft gasifier plant, comparing different of this temperature. The model also takes into account the
types of biomass. heat loss in the reactor and the preheating of the reactants.
In order to increase the efficiency of downdraft biomass Because the chemical equilibrium constants and the ther-
gasification plants a thermochemical model has been pre- modynamic characteristics of the gases, such as the specific
sented. This model is based on the chemical equilibrium heats, are functions of temperature, this parameter is
of the process, minimizing the Gibbs free energy, while adapted in each iteration of the calculation process, reach-
considering the process to be stationary. Through this ing, in the end, a thermodynamic as well as a chemical
model, we attempt to study the influence of the input equilibrium. The maximum temperature that can be
parameters, such as the relative gasifying fuel/air ratio, reached is affected by the relative gasifying fuel/air ratio
the moisture and the biomass composition, and to establish and the biomass moisture content, two parameters that
some parameters that determine the overall process have been studied in greater detail in Section 3.
If the installation is working properly, we can assume 2. Methodology
that the products leaving the gasifier are all gaseous, pre-
dominated by chemical species of minor molecular weight, In Fig. 1, the structure of the equilibrium model has
principally CO, CO2, H2O, H2, N2 and CH4 and traces of been presented. In a first stage, starting from the mass frac-
other chemical substances. tions of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur
Because the work produced during the gasifying process (CHONS) in the biomass and the relative mass of the mois-
equals zero and the heat losses are very small and can, thus, ture, the substitution fuel and the molar water content can
be neglected, the enthalpy of the reactants entering the pro- be calculated. From the gasifying relative fuel/air ratio, the
cess and the enthalpy of the products leaving the process molar quantity of air consumed during the process can be
are equal. The combination of the laws of conservation obtained. The total enthalpy of the reactants is also
of energy in an open system, the chemical laws of conserva- calculated.
tion of atomic species and the laws of chemical equilibrium In the second stage, the composition of the producer gas
provides a tool to predict the composition of the final pro- is estimated, minimizing the Gibbs free energy for calcula-
ducer gas. tion of the equilibrium constants. A Newton–Raphson
The proposed thermochemical model assumes two algorithm has been implemented. A posteriori, the reaction
important hypotheses. First, the residence time of the reac- temperature corresponding to the actual producer gas

Fig. 1. Structure of the simulation equilibrium model.

62 A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67

composition is calculated, equating the enthalpy of the 1¼aþbþd ð6Þ

entering biomass and moisture and the enthalpy of the m þ 2w ¼ 2c þ 4d þ 2e ð7Þ
leaving producer gas. The obtained reaction temperature
q þ 3:76  2x ¼ 2f ð8Þ
forms the input of the next composition calculation, iterat-
ing the process until chemical and thermodynamic equilib- p þ w þ 2x ¼ a þ 2b þ e þ 2g þ 2l ð9Þ
ria have been reached. r¼l ð10Þ
Once the final producer gas composition and its corre-
During the gasifying process, only between 20% and 40%
sponding reaction temperature is obtained, the heating
of stoichiometric air is used. Therefore, we assume that
value of the producer gas, the efficiency of the gasification
no oxygen is present in the producer gas, or g = 0. We
process etc. can be derived.
now have only 6 equations to calculate 8 variables. To
solve the system, we have to add two reactions in equilib-
2.1. Biomass composition
rium. In the reduction zone of the gasifier, hydrogen is re-
duced to methane by the carbon
Starting from the ultimate analysis of the biomass and
the mass fractions of the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitro- C þ 2H2 $ CH4 ð11Þ
gen and sulphur, the substitution fuel formula CnHmOpNqSr
can be calculated, assuming n = 1, with the following The equilibrium constant K1 relates the partial pressures of
expressions: the reaction as follows:

m¼ ; p¼ ; q¼ ; r¼ ð1Þ K1 ¼ ð12Þ
CM H CM O CM N CM S ðP H2 =P 0 Þ2
From the substitution fuel formula, the specific molecular or as a function of the molar composition, assuming the
weight of the biomass, the molar quantity of water per behaviour of the producer gas to be ideal, taking into ac-
mole of biomass [4]; the stoichiometric air/fuel ratio and count the low working pressures (1 atmosphere)
the formation enthalpy of the biomass [11] can be
determined. dnT
K1 ¼ ð13Þ
M bm h
w¼ ð2Þ
M H2 O ð1  hÞ The second reaction, also known as the water gas shift
1 X reaction, describes the equilibrium between CO and H2 in
hf;bm ¼ LHV db þ mi ~
hf;i ð3Þ the presence of water
M bm i¼prod
CO þ H2 O $ CO2 þ H2 ð14Þ
2.2. Chemical equilibrium We obtain the corresponding equilibrium K2 constant as

The algorithm that estimates the composition of the ðP CO2 =P 0 ÞðP H2 =P 0 Þ

K2 ¼ ð15Þ
producer gas is based on chemical equilibrium between ðP CO =P 0 ÞðP H2 O =P 0 Þ
the different species, taking into account that in downdraft
gasifiers, the content of tars in the final gas can be neglected or as a function of the molar composition of the gas
[3,4]. The global reaction in the downdraft gasifier can then bc
K2 ¼ ð16Þ
be written as ae
The values of the equilibrium constants K1 and K2 are cal-
CHm Op Nq Sr þ wH2 O þ xðO2 þ 3:76N2 Þ
culated from the Gibbs free energy
! aCO þ bCO2 þ cH2 þ dCH4 þ eH2 O þ f N2
K p ¼ expðDG0T =Ru T Þ ð17Þ
þ gO2 þ lSO2 ð4Þ
where DG0T is the difference of the Gibbs free energy be-
The variable x corresponds to the molar quantity of air tween the products and the reactants
used during the gasifying process and depends on the DG0T ¼ DH 0  T DS 0 ð18Þ
equivalence rate of the gasifying process and the stoichiom-
etric air/fuel ratio of the biomass Substituting the Gibbs free energy in Eqs. (13) and (16), we
obtain the equilibrium constants as
x¼ ð5Þ dnT
F rg F st K1 ¼ ¼ expððG0T;CH4  2G0T;H2 Þ=Ru T Þ ð19Þ
From the molar biomass composition CHmOpNqSr and the bc
K 2 ¼ ¼ expððG0T;H2 þ G0T;CO2  G0T;CO  G0T;H2 O Þ=Ru T Þ
molar moisture quantity, we obtain the atomic balances for ae
C, H, O, N and S, respectively ð20Þ
A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67 63

with 2.5. Heating value and efficiencies

2.5.1. Heating value
G0T;i ¼ D~
h0f;298 þ Cp dT  Ts0 ð21Þ
298 The heating value of the producer gas can be obtained as
the sum of the products of the molar fractions of each of
The values of the thermodynamic properties are adopted the energetic gases (CO, H2 and CH4) with its correspond-
from Chase [12]. Once the equilibrium constants are de- ing heating value. The heating values of the singular gases
fined, we obtain a system of equations that can be solved. are adopted from Nilsson and Waldheim [14].
Because of the non-linear nature of some of the equations,
the Newton–Raphson method has been used [13]. To guar- 2.5.2. First law thermodynamic (cold gas) efficiency
antee the stability of the algorithm, instead of correcting a The first law thermodynamic or cold gas efficiency can
full step d, a partial step d/5 has been applied to correct the be defined as the relation between the energy leaving the
initial estimation of each iteration. The solution of the gasifier Epg, i.e. the energy content of the producer gas,
expressions is an estimation of the producer gas composi- and the energy entering the gasifier Ebm, i.e. the biomass
tion at a fixed temperature. With this composition, we cal- and moisture. We assume the gas leaves the process at
culate the corresponding reaction temperature, which is the reference temperature (25 °C), loosing the energy corre-
taken as the initial temperature for the next iteration. sponding to its sensible enthalpy, and define the cold gas
efficiency gcg as
2.3. Reaction temperature
gcg ¼ ð27Þ
According to the first thermodynamic principle, the Ebm
enthalpy of the products at the reaction temperature is
where the energies of the input and output can be calcu-
equal to the sensible and formation enthalpy of the bio-
lated as
mass, the moisture and the air, incremented with the heat
inputs (preheating, Qin > 0) and the heat outputs (heat loss, Ebm ¼ LHVbm M bm ð28Þ
Qout < 0). The energy balance is    
Epg ¼ a h0f;CO  h0f;CO2 þ c h0f;H2  h0f;H2 O
H prod ðT k Þ ¼ H react þ Qin þ Qout ð22Þ
þ d h0f;CH4  h0f;CO2  h0f;H2 O ð29Þ
X X Z Ti
H react ¼  0
ni hf;298 þ ni C pi dT ð23Þ
react react 298
Z 2.5.3. Engine fuel quality
X X Tk
H prod ðT k Þ ¼ npg 
h0f;298 þ npg C ppg dT ð24Þ A typical application for downdraft gasifiers can be
prod prod 298 found in small electric generation plants, where the pro-
ducer gas is fed to a reciprocating combustion engine cou-
If Eq. (22) is fulfilled, the estimated temperature Tk is the pled to a generator [15]. In this case, an important variable
real reaction temperature. Otherwise, a new reaction tem- to evaluate is the quality of the producer gas. Then, the
perature Tk+1 for iteration k + 1 can be estimated as performance of the producer gas is compared with that
follows: of other more classic fuels in order to assess the engine fuel
H react þ Qin þ Qout  H prod ðT k Þ quality (EFQ), which depends on the heating value of the
T kþ1 ¼ T k þ ð25Þ fuel-air mix and is defined by Lapuerta et al. [16] as
C pprod ðT k Þ
EFQ ¼ LHVpg X a F st;e ð30Þ

2.4. Water dissociation The variable Xa depends on the molecular weight of the
producer gas, while Fst,e represents the stoichiometric
With the equilibrium model, it is possible to predict the fuel/air ratio of the producer gas.
conditions under which part of the moisture is converted
into hydrogen, or the other way around, more water is pro- 3. Discussion and results
duced during the biomass-gas conversion than was initially
present. The dissociation factor can be calculated as the 3.1. Validation of the model
difference between the molar quantity of water in the pro-
ducer gas (e) and the initial molar quantity of water in the The model presented in this article has been compared
biomass (moisture, w) to the experimental and predicted producer gas composi-
tions presented by Jayah et al. [8], and the results are pre-
DH2 O ¼ e  w ð26Þ sented in Table 1 (the bold face values have been calculated
in this work). The authors calibrate their model by the
If DH2 O < 0, part of the moisture has been decomposed into methane content. As we did not take into account the ther-
hydrogen. mal loss in the gasifier, our predicted values for methane
64 A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67

Table 1
Comparison between experimental and model predicted compositions for
the producer gas of rubber wood with 14.7% moisture content
Producer gas Model [8] Experimental [8] This work
composition (vol%)
CO 18.3 19.1 19.2 19.3
H2 16.4 15.5 16.6 17.6
CO2 11.1 11.4 11.0 11.1
CH4 1.1 1.1 0.2 0.4
N2 53.2 52.9 53.0 51.6
Frg 2.3 2.39 2.3 2.4

are slightly inferior to the real obtained values. On the

other hand, the hydrogen content is slightly overestimated.
However, the values predicted by the thermochemical equi-
librium model show good accuracy with the experimentally
obtained data. Fig. 3. Comparison of the predicted and experimentally obtained LHV
and cold gas efficiency for pine wood with 18% moisture.
A comparison between the model predicted and experi-
mentally obtained producer gas composition, its lower
heating value and the cold gas efficiency of the gasifier gas has been measured with a thermal conductivity sensor,
are presented in Figs. 2 and 3. The experimental downdraft which probably was affected by the methane at high gasify-
gasifier has been described in Tinaut et al. [17] and has been ing relative fuel/air ratio, thereby overestimating the
adapted to analyse the CO2, CO, H2, CH4 and O2 content hydrogen content.
of the dry producer gas. Finally, the obtained producer gas
composition is corrected by the O2 content because our 3.2. Discussion
model considers total reaction of the oxygen in the air
admitted to the gasifier. The biomass used here is pine Once the thermochemical equilibrium model has been
wood with ultimate analysis of 47.08%C, 6.51%H, validated, the influence of the moisture content and the
45.73%O, 0.52%N and 0.22%S and a HHV of 17,263 kJ/ gasifying relative fuel/air ratio on the producer gas compo-
kg (as received with 18% moisture content). The results sition and the process characteristics has been studied. The
are presented as a function of the relative gasifying fuel/ biomass used in these simulations is pine bark with ulti-
air ratio. The model predicts with accuracy the values of mate analysis of 55.49%C, 5.56%H, 37.73%O, 0.17%N
the measured producer gas composition and the derived and 0.09%S and LHV 19,997 kJ/kg (dry ash free). The sim-
parameters, exhibiting the same tendencies at low ulations presented here do not consider thermal inputs and
(Frg = 1.5) as well as at normal gasifying relative fuel/air outputs. Therefore, the gasifier process is assumed to be
ratio (Frg = 3–4). A certain deviation between the mea- adiabatic.
sured and estimated values for Frg > 3.5 exists in the hydro-
gen content (Fig. 2), the lower heating value and the 3.2.1. Adiabatic reaction temperature
efficiency (Fig. 3). The hydrogen content in the producer Assuming the heat losses to be zero, the adiabatic reac-
tion temperature is the maximum temperature that can be
reached at the end of the process (Fig. 4(a)). Below the fig-
ure, the left hand value represents the minimum value of
the temperature, which also has been shown in the figure.
The middle value represents the step, while the right hand
value stands for the maximum value of the parameter. The
same representation has been used in Figs. 5–7 for the anal-
ysis of other parameters. This reaction temperature
decreases with higher moisture content due to the energy
needed to heat and evaporate the water. It also decreases
with rising fuel/air ratio because, when less air is admitted
to the process, a smaller quantity of heat is released. At
higher fuel/air ratio and high moisture content, the energy
needed to evaporate the water is obtained from a higher
oxidation rate of the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide
(Fig. 5(b)).
Fig. 2. Comparison of the predicted and experimentally obtained In practice, operating conditions at high fuel/air ratio
producer gas composition for pine wood with 18% moisture. and high moisture level are difficult to reach, and only with
A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67 65

Fig. 4. Adiabatic temperature of the gasifying process as a function of the gasifying relative fuel/air ratio and the moisture content and the variation of the
methane concentration as a function of the adiabatic temperature. (a) Tad 800:100:2000 (K) and (b) CH4 vs Tad (K).

Fig. 5. Volumetric distribution of the components in the producer gas as a function of the gasifying relative fuel/air ratio and the moisture content of the
biomass. (a) CO 5:5:30 (%); (b) CO2 8:2:24 (%); (c) CH4 2:2:12 (%); (d) H2 2:2:16 (%); (e) H2O 2.5:2.5:20 (%); (f) DH2O 0.4:0.1:0.4 (%).

an appropriate design of the gasifier is it possible to sustain 3.2.2. Producer gas composition and quality
the process in these conditions [18]. In Fig. 5, the composition of the producer gas obtained
Through the equilibrium constants, the temperature from pine bark has been represented as a function of the
influences the chemical equilibrium reached in the gasifier biomass moisture content h and the fuel/air ratio Frg.
and the producer gas composition. The distribution of the concentrations of the different
66 A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67

Fig. 6. LHV and EFQ of the dry producer gas as a function of the gasifying fuel/air ratio and the moisture content of the biomass. (a) LHV 500:500:7500
(kJ/kg) and (b) EFQ 250:250:2500 (kJ/kg).

The formation of methane during the gasifying process

depends directly on the temperature reached in the reaction
(Fig. 4(b)). The relative importance of methane equilibrium
increases rapidly below 1000 K. As the methane concentra-
tion increases with lower reaction temperatures, high meth-
ane concentrations correspond to higher fuel/air ratios
Frg > 3.5 (Fig. 5(c)).
The water in the producer gas proceeds from evapora-
tion of the biomass moisture and the combustion in the
oxidation zone. Therefore, important water concentrations
correspond with a low fuel/air ratio and a high biomass
Fig. 7. Cold gas efficiency (0.1:0.1:0.9) of the gasifying process as a moisture content (Fig. 5(e)). At higher fuel/air ratios, part
function of the gasifying fuel/air ratio and the moisture content of the of the water reacts with carbon monoxide to form hydro-
biomass. gen (water shift reaction). This water has to be separated
from the other components in the producer gas before its
chemical species in the final producer gas composition use in SI engines, thereby generating an important flow
depends mainly on the chemical equilibrium between the of residual water. Related with the water in the producer
species, which is indirectly controlled by the reaction tem- gas, the net water production indicates whether or not
perature and, thus, by the fuel/air ratio and the moisture the gasifier is consuming part of the biomass moisture
content in the biomass. and converting it into hydrogen or methane (Fig. 5(f)).
For low moisture content, the content of carbon monox- The lower heating value of the dry producer gas rises
ide increases with higher fuel/air ratio because, when less with higher concentrations of the energetic gases. This cor-
air is admitted to the gasifier, the combustion is more responds to higher fuel/air ratios Frg > 2.5 with important
incomplete, producing more CO (Fig. 5(a)). However, concentrations of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and meth-
due to the water shift reaction, when there is more water ane. The heating value decreases slightly with higher bio-
available in the reaction, the equilibrium inclines to the mass moisture content (Fig. 6(a)).
production of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Related to the lower heating value, the engine fuel qual-
At low fuel/air ratios, the processes in the gasifier ity follows similar tendencies as the heating value
approximate complete combustion of the biomass, result- (Fig. 6(b)) and rises with increasing fuel/air ratios.
ing in a high content of carbon dioxide in the producer Although at higher moisture content and fuel/air ratios,
gas (Fig. 5(b)). At high fuel/air ratios and high moisture due to the importance of the methane in the producer
content, the water shift reaction tends to the formation gas, the engine fuel quality decreases significantly because,
of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, increasing the CO2 con- in order to produce the same quantity of energy, methane
centration under these conditions. needs a larger quantity of air for stoichiometric combus-
The hydrogen concentration is the result of two oppos- tion than carbon monoxide.
ing processes (Fig. 5(d)). On one hand, the water shift reac-
tion tends to decompose the water into hydrogen at higher 3.2.3. Process efficiency
moisture contents. On the other hand, when the reaction In order to optimize the efficiency of the gasifying pro-
temperature drops at higher fuel/air ratios and higher bio- cess, the biomass moisture content must be minimized (or
mass moisture content, part of the hydrogen will be con- h < 25%). The moisture must be evaporated, which causes
verted into methane. This results in a maximum for the an increment of the energy demand, thereby reducing the
hydrogen concentration with Frg = 3 and h = 27.5%. reaction temperature (Fig. 4) and the released heat during
A. Melgar et al. / Energy Conversion and Management 48 (2007) 59–67 67

the gasification. Similar results are presented by other AP2003-1686; and the Programme AlBan, the European
researchers, who also conclude that the process efficiency Union Programme of High Level Scholarship for Latin
diminishes with increasing moisture content in the biomass America, scholarship No. E04D046253CO.
On the other hand, higher fuel/air ratios increase the References
cold gas efficiency. A wide zone of high cold gas efficiencies
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gasification process based on the minimization of the Gibbs free
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downdraft gasifiers has been proposed. The model is easy [4] Zainal ZA, Ali R, Lean CH, Seetharamu KN. Prediction of
performance of a downdraft gasifier using equilibrium modelling
to implement and predicts with accuracy the influence of for different biomass materials. Energy Convers Manage
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The authors would like to thank the Spanish Ministry of [18] Henrisken U, Ahrenfeldt J, Jensen TK, Gobel B, Bentzen JD,
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