Welcome to the updated Biomass Energy Foundation
(BEF) website. We have been here since 1997, discussing our new developments in liquid fuels from biomass (especially Biodiesel and methanol), our advanced WoodGas stoves (not wood stoves), and now increasingly BioChar and Charcoal coming to the fore as the only practical negative
CO2 removal process AND a permanent fertilizer.. We are interested and knowledgeable about all aspects of biomass energy, but particularly in high temperature conversion and
pyrolysis and gasification that can produce heat, power and fuels, as oil prices escalate.
This site (www.woodgas.com) was developed by Dr. Tom
Reed, a well-known scientist. Dr. Reed has served as a professor at
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and at the
Colorado School of Mines. His career also includes
research work with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)
in Golden, Colorado and a number of startup companies such as the very successful Community Power Corporation
(www.gocpc.com) now selling the cleanest gasifiers in the world.
There have been some major changes in the Biomass Energy Foundation in 2009, so there is a major update to our site.
Now, on to Tom Reed's wildly popular and
The World has been developing "Alternative Energy" - Solar, Wind, Geothermal etc. for 35 years since the first oil embargo. While these have niche applications, they are not fuels. They are intermittent, costly and unlikely to replace more than 10% of our current fossil fuel needs.
Alternative Energy Sources are a RED HERRING tolerated to divert our attention from our real needs. Oil is a fuel and its products can be used anywhere, anytime. The era of "cheap oil" is over and now we need to find ALTERNATIVE FUELS
(not alternative energy).
Oil prices are rising and availability falling. I expect prices to at least double every 5 years. This will make a profound difference to our Civilization. Our Earth would be far beyond its carrying capacity for Humans if it weren't for cheap oil. We hear a lot about
substituting "alternate energy". We aren't running out of energy - we are running out of "cheap oil", and need to find an "alternate fuel
Our green earth is already covered with plants and trees busily converting sunlight to biomass products and fuel. All we need to do is learn how to use the fuel fraction,
mostly wasted today. See our page on
Biomass Energy for details.
While we have deplored the "hydrogen economy" as a red herring for practical energy,
the WoodGas made by well known technology has a high concentration of hydrogen and is VERY clean burning. So, we have been using and promoting "hydrogen rich gas"
as an alternate name for the "producer gas" made from wood and coal. We are now also involved in reforming liquid fuels to a hydrogen rich gas.
"Woodgas" is my nickname for the gases that can be made from wood, other biomass and waste for heat, power and synthesis of ammonia and fuel. (It is also called "producer gas", "synthesis gas" etc.). I have worked in this field since
the first OPEC oil embargo in1973 when I began
experimenting with methanol as a gasoline additive and
Hydrogen is both the best of fuels (because it burns
fast and clean) and the worst of fuels (because it is
difficult to ship and store, because it must be made
from other fuels, preferably at the point of use).
However, it constitutes about half the fuel value of
most practical fuels, so making it from wood and biomass
is a proven technology. Probably your grandmother cooked
on a hydrogen rich gas stove and didn't even know it.
Here is a greatly oversimplified animation of a wood
gasification system made by my grandson, Drew Reed
(Senior at UC Santa Barbara). (If a picture is worth a
thousand words, for processes an animation is worth a
The animation above is our first attempt to show what happens inside a gasifier running an engine. The air and fuel are fed in at the top, they meet a rising "flaming
pyrolysis" flame front and are converted to gas and charcoal, which is consumed making more gas. The gas is sucked out at the right along with spent char-ash particles. We are working on a more detailed animation, but this gives a good general idea.
Site News We are including an "Energy Rosetta
Stone" that converts our obsolete energy units to a common well understood
unit, the kWhr (either thermal or electrical). Now we can compare apples
and oranges on the same basis.
The Energy Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone enabled scholars to decipher the
Hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt into modern Greek and
Our Rosetta Stone
Energy table enables anyone to translate the
obscure energy units we now use into the commonly
The first energy OPEC crisis of 1973 was all about oil, a source of liquid fuels. We responded by looking for alternate energy forms such as wind and solar, all well and good, but not fuels. We formed a Department of Energy, DOE, but it should have been a Department of fuels.
In 1974 I was embroiled in a controversy at MIT with the oil and motor companies over the use of methanol as an alternative fuel. They won! As a result we have paid higher prices for foreign oil and funded the terrorism that has taken a million lives, culminating in 9/11 in the U.S. Check it out at
Now methanol has become even more important because one gallon of methanol can make ten gallons of biodiesel, a superior replacement for petroleum diesel. Here at the Biomass Energy Foundation we were the first to make and demonstrate biodiesel from waste vegetable oil (yellow grease). If you would like to make a little biodiesel in the kitchen, see our new recipe at
Biodiesel in the
Three billion people in the world cook slowly on smoky, inefficient
woodfires. We have developed
two novel "WoodGas
CampStoves" that we believe far exceed the performance of any other biomass cooking device because it first turns the wood to gas, and then burns the gas with the correct amount of air.
They put out up to 3 and 6 kW of heat (3kW is comparable to the big element on an electric
stove). They burn only 10 and 20 g of fuel/min (40%
efficient). While they can be used indoors with minimal
emissions, we recommend that all cooking be done
outdoors or under a hood.. We hope similar designs will be used in developing countries where the need is greater, but we
are developing our product first in the U.S., so we have
developed a company to manufacture, market and distribute the stove.
We believe that these stoves will have a much wider application in the developing countries of the world. See our WoodGas Stove page for other information about WoodGas stoves. We hope to see a billion of these stoves in use in the next the next few decades.
We have re-issued our 3 volume "Survey of Biomass
Gasification" from 1980 as a one volume "Encyclopedia of Biomass Thermal Conversion". The National Renewable Energy Lab, (SERI then, NREL now) commissioned it as a prerequisite for me to build
gasifiers. It contains chapters by various experts on many aspects of thermal conversion and other aspects of biomass for energy. I wish there were something more current that covers all aspects of biomass, but this is the best to date. See this and our other books on gasification and biomass in the
Biomass Energy is the oldest, most widespread and practical form of renewable energy. The residues from agriculture and forestry could provide 20% of U.S. energy. Biomass has been a major concern of mine since 1974, the first "energy crisis". This page has lots of information on the properties and availability of biomass in its many forms, particularly
densities, and the biomass analyses and energy content.
BIOMASS Gasification turns biomass into a more useful form,
WoodGas. "WoodGas" is my nickname for gas produced from biomass for heat, power and synthetic fuel applications. During World War II, over a million vehicles, boats etc. ran on
Woodgas. (See History of Woodgas). While I have written a number of articles and books on all aspects of gasification, my specialty has been
small gasifiers for power, transportation and cooking.
and chemicals can also be produced from biomass and as
petroleum runs out we will increasingly turn to biomass
as a renewable resource. I am chemical engineer
and have worked toward oil replacement fuels for 28
years (for the future fuel security of my grandchildren
and the rest of us.) Lots going on in this field today.
Cookstoves consume most of the biomass in developing countries, often wastefully with terrible health effects. We cook now much better with propane or natural gas, but this requires infrastructure not available for half the world. A great deal of research is in progress to improve world stoves, see
BOOKS on biomass energy are difficult to find.
We have written some of them, edited others and are
choosy about what we publish. The Biomass Energy Foundation Press publishes 20+ books on biomass energy and related subjects and you can order them
online, by mail, fax or phone. You can buy our books at
our online BEF store.
The Biomass Energy Foundation, the BEF is a 501-C-3 non-profit organization. Founded by the flamboyant and fascinating Dr. Harry
LaFontaine, now deceased. It is currently operated by Dr. Tom Reed and his wife Vivian. Find out about the
History and Current Research of the
BEF. Finally, we have links to other sites that will give you more information on biomass energy.
This Website combines two previous websites and has more content and advanced features. We would appreciate your comments either on the site itself or its contents.