Gas Producers Set a Problem in Eire
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WHEN neutral Eire started to feel, 'the pinch of Vie petrol shortage, it began to pay heed to the lusty infant industry which the " emergency " had dumped on the country.
• Now, the Irish gas-producer indastry ,
—for such it is—is caught up in the great . traosport monopoly dispute, which threatens to extend the so-called North Mayo scheme, whereby the Great. Southern Railway is given the monopolii 4 all transport throughout the whole country. Private operators are, therefore, anxious lest money invested in a gas-producer plant may be wasted, through their being driven off the road.
The Government did decree that all operators must fit a miniinum of one in 'three vehicles with a gas plant, failing which their would not get supplies of petrol. This gave a temporary fillip to gas-producer manufacturers, despite the alleged evasion of this ruling by the ra,ilway companies, which appeared to have plenty of petrol available for monopoly transport. The original gas-producer boom . started with a multiplicity of designs, with every man his own " gas engineer." Up, down, and crossdraught types; plants without tuyeres, even plants without any means for filtration and some made out of nothing but drain pipes and oil drums—until the Government instituted a licence system, covering a degree of standardization in quality and design.
Turning to Charcoal The fuel first used was anthracite but, when Welsh shipments ceased, and the only Source was Ca.stlecomer, it was found that the high sulphur content of the native fuel was causing undue engine wear. Thus was the old charcoal kiln revivedto Meet an increasing demand, and manufacturers of producers advised the use of either 160 per cent. charcoal or a 50-50 mixture with anthracite. This is now the usual practice, although, since the prohibition of " burning " first-grade timber, Some of the charcoal is as bad as the anthracite.
Registration wiped out the back street speculator, and " leading makes" appeared. The Bellay, "
imported" from Britain, and mantis factured in Dublin, has been developed and redesigned periodically to keep abreast -of latest technique, as well-as to cope with Irish fuel. Special fuels, such as are used in Britain, are not available in Eire.
The latest 13ellay, &I which more than 800 are in use,. incorporates a three-stage water filter, and a cyclone, the latter component :being standard in many lesser-known Irish plants.
A further plant in extensive use is the Irish-deSigned Bowman; extremely simple in 'design, this plant rims without 'a water filtek. Both these plants are' ctoss-draught, dry-blast types, and are cited o show the wide divergence of viewsOn filtering, which are Occasioned by the well-nigh insoluble difficulties of native Irish fuel.
A special feature of the Bowman is a pressure-equalizing pipe which connects the fire zone with the upper part of the hopper. Without going into details of other makes, the general; average type has been a cross-draught machine with dry blast, a sisal Or wood-wool filter, a water or oil filter, and one or two cooling cylinders, the recommended fuel being 56-50 anthracite and charcoal.
Additional. equipment has been in the direction of devices for removing clinker, cyclones and oil filters for elitnAtating dust, and a variety of patented doors. It must he borne in mind that, in Eire, manufacturers have to work miracles with nothing but scrap metal and such defective steel plate aS can be imported from Britain.
Thus, the shortage of sisal and fabric has shown that filters 'of granulated stones,mbr broken -brick, 'give equally good results. Water filters have been increased to two or three stages, althOugh ' in sortie plants they 'are absent, whilst coolers and dust boxes have been duplicated and triplicated.
Of the few " wet-blast " types, the T.S.P. plant, one of the latest makes to come into extensive use, has a novel and simple device for introducing steam into the tuyere, the wet blast being found to increase power and counteract the formation of clinker.
Permits to fit private cars are now well nigh unobtainable; the far-seeing owner-drivers who fitted gas producers before the ban are still allowed to run their vehicles. During the heydeys of 1941-42, however, hundreds of cars were fitted out and manufacturers vied with one another to produce a smaller, compact plant.
Of these, the Triumph was noticeable, the whole plant, generator, coolers and filters being built into a rectangular unit, no bigger than a good-size suitcase. This producer intro: duced the feature of the tuyere extension pipe passing through the water of • the tuyere cooling cylinder. This device has been adapted elsewhere.
Every manufacturer has evolved his own pattern of mixer, but, against current British types, little radical progress has been made. Several concerns have experimented with raw peat-burning plants. This is b.part from the research into the carbonization of peat which led to the successful marketing of a peat charcoal suitable for gas producers, and which may well replace wood charcoal when the output is raised to equal the demand.
The driving force of these experiments is the powerful force of £ s.d.; wood . charcoal is retailed at a fixed price of 36s. per cwt, at which figure it will readily be seen that, in Eire at least, a gas producer is not an economy, even against petrol' at 3s: 5d. per gallon. The running costs of a 2-3-ton lorry, burning charcoal, are roughly equivalent to petrol at 5s. 6th per gallon; against this, -it is estimated that raw-peat fuel would be equivalent, in running costs, to petrol at less, than is. per gallon.
It would thus appear that, if gas producers are to have any post-war future in Eire, peat must be the fuel, as it, is the only one to make up. in -economy what is lost on upkeep expense and reduced efficiency.
• One peat-burning plt, the Triumph, is most interesting in design, having special filters to cope with tar and peat waxes and a water-cooled . condenser to eliminate water vapour. The .latter is an essential when it is remembered that average, air-dried . 'peat contains up to . 35 •per , rent. moisture.
The maker of this plant advertises: ." Kildare to Dublin on one bagof turf!'
An ideal fuel for such a plant would be compressed-peat briquettes. although,
• with these,. the wax Content would be higher. -Such compressed fuel, hewever, would increase. the Possible raditis of operation per charge of the generator, which is lower with ordinary air-dried turf, owing to its relative bulk.
I referred earlier to the gas-producer.
industry in Eire . as a lusty infant, although, whilst the producer has kept
in business engineering firms and garages which would otherwise have had to close their doors, it is still an unloved child of the "emergency." In the first place, the fuel available is inferior, as already indicated ; secondly, operatives resent the extra time required. in cleaning and fuelling, whilst owners, who are .often paid by . -the load, expect to do the same number Of round trips on gas as on petrol.
• .Perhaps the chief . cause of dissatisfaction, however, lies in the vehicles at the operators' disposal. The, great
majority of transport. vehicles in operalion' in .Eire is 'Pord V8s, and awing its small her.e and short stroke, the 22 h.p..1/8:-.. haparticular, is decidedly .. unsuitable for operation on suction gas. It is a Oomrnon practice to sub
stitute,. a Fordson 24. h.p. engine in a V8 chassis, when c,onverting to gas, but. the availability of such substitute
engines is by no Means. unlimited. ... It is this preponderance of V8s which, prompted. the Emergency Scientific
Research -Btirea.0 to install. a 30 h.p. V8 engine on its test bench when trying out Irish gas producers few passed the test with full marks.
The immediate future of gas producers in Eire is as obscure as the more distant prospect. Apart from the impending Great Southern Railway monopoly, the stocks of steel plate are running low, as is the supply of lubricating oil. -The output of anthracite is limited,and the present consumption of charcoal could not be maintained indefinitely.
Taking the long view, it would appear that, unless the post-war price ef petrol climbs to 6s. per gallon, as well it might, the only hope for the ''■-•as producer in Eire is to develop an efficient and cheap peat-burning plant, ,using compressed-turf .briquettes aS the
standard fuel. • . • Here„ however, is one dilemma. Supercharging, which is what most of us agree to be the -obvious solution to the problem of loss of power with suction gas, would only serve to aggravate the -.principal drawback to the peatburner, Le., the low-mileage, per charge.
In the opinion of the writer, it is in the Overcoming. of this difficulty that Irish manufacturers of Producer-gas plants must turn their attention, if they would ensure a place for gas producers in. the transport life of post-war Eire.