The term producer gas has different meanings in the USA and UK.
Producer Gas is a generic term referring to:
- Wood gas: produced in a gasifier to power cars with ordinary internal combustion engines.
- Town gas: manufactured gas, originally produced from coal, for sale to consumers and municipalities.
- Syngas: used as a fuel source or as an intermediate for the production of other chemicals.
In old movies and stories, when describing suicide by "turning on the gas" and leaving an oven door open without lighting the flame, they were talking about coal gas or town gas. As this gas contained a significant amount of carbon monoxide, the gas was quite toxic. Most town gas was also odorized, if it did not have its own odor. Modern 'natural gas' used in homes is far less toxic, and has a gassy odor added to it for identifying leaks.
In the UK, producer gas, also called suction gas, specifically means a fuel gas made from coke, anthracite or other carbonaceous material. Air is passed over the red-hot carbonaceous fuel and carbon monoxide is produced. The reaction is exothermic and proceeds as follows:
- 2C + O2 + 3.73 N2 → 2CO+ 3.73 N2
The nitrogen in the air remains unchanged and dilutes the gas, giving it a very low calorific value. The concentration of carbon monoxide in the "ideal" producer gas was considered to be 34.7% carbon monoxide (carbonic oxide) and 65.3% nitrogen. After "scrubbing", to remove tar, the gas may be used to power gas turbines (which are well-suited to fuels of low calorific value), spark ignited engines (where 100% petrol fuel replacement is possible) or diesel internal combustion engines (where 40% - 15% of the original diesel fuel is still used to ignite the gas ). During the Second World War in Britain, plants were built in the form of trailers for towing behind commercial vehicles, especially buses, to supply gas as a replacement for petrol (gasoline) fuel. A range of about 80 miles for every charge of anthracite was achieved.
- W. J. Atkinson Butterfield, "The Chemistry of Gas Manufacture, Volume 1. Materials and Processes", Charles Griffin & Company Ltd., London, 1907, page 72
- Staff (16 July 1941). "Producer gas for transport". Parliamentary Debates. Hansard. Retrieved 15 November 2008.
- Taylor, Sheila (2001). The Moving Metropolis. London: Calmann and King. p. 258. ISBN 1-85669-241-8.
- Mellor, J.W., Intermediate Inorganic Chemistry, Longmans, Green and Co., 1941, page 211
- Adlam, G.H.J. and Price, L.S., A Higher School Certificate Inorganic Chemistry, John Murray, 1944, page 309