Pine Needle Gasifier

Monoculture pine forests that have infested the middle level elevations of Himalayan region are depriving the local population of availability of water, fodder and fuel wood.

Pine needle gasifier

On one hand, pine needles which litter the forest floor during dry summer months form a carpet on the soil causing the rainwater to run down the slopes before it percolates into the soil. On the other hand, the highly inflammable pine needles cause forest fires which deprive all other species except pine (trunk being fire resistant) from regenerating.

In continuation of our work with appropriate technology, AVANI has been exploring the possibility of harnessing the destructive energy of pine needles that litter the forest floor. We have been working on the idea of using pine needles as feedstock for a biomass gasifier to produce electricity.

After many years of exploring and researching, a 9 kW pine needle gasifier system has been developed and installed in this year, as a pilot, at AVANI campus. This system is fully operational and generates 9 KW of electricity. Out of this 9 KW, 1.5 KW is consumed for running the system and a continuous output of 7.5 KW is available for productive use such as welding and calendering applications. Work is also ongoing to study the economic viability of such systems and a report will be brought out once the studies are complete.

Pine needle collection

Pine needle gasification, apart from meeting the rural energy needs, should be able to generate rural employment while protecting the forests from fires. The conversion of pine needles into fuel gases or electricity immediately gives it an economic value, thus a motivation for the people to collect these from forest floor. Once cleared of the Pine needles, the forests have minimum risk of fires, protecting the precious biodiversity, thus affecting the fragile mountain ecosystem positively. This conversion of pine needles into usable fuel, apart from saving the forests from fires, would also save the forest from fuelwood pressure.

Once the studies have ascertained an economically viable system, this technology can be taken to villages for meeting their thermal and electrical needs. There is also a distinct, even if remote, possibility of selling surplus electricity to the grid as a means of income generation for the village communities living near pine forests. This could be complemented by raising energy plantations when pine needles are not available to run the gasifiers.