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close this bookLow Cost Charcoal Gasifiers for Rural Energy Supply (GTZ, 1994, 49 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the document1. What? Gasifiers?
View the document2. Gasification in recent history
View the document3. Small gasifier-engine systems for rural energy supply in developing countries
close this folder4. The trouble with ''field applications''
View the document4.1 Weak points of gasifier-engine-systems
View the document4.2 The problem of ''acceptance''
close this folder5. Lowering plant costs by ferrocement construction
View the document5.1 What makes a gasifier expensive?
View the document5.2 The construction of a ferrocement gasifier
close this folder6. Technical performance of the ferrocement gasifier
View the document6.1 Design details
View the document6.2 Performance data
close this folder7. Derived technical demands for field application of gasifier-engine systems
View the document(introduction...)
View the document7.1 Issues in engine operation
View the document7.2 Typical applications
View the document7.3 Repair and maintenance of the ferrocement gasifier
close this folder8. Non-technical aspects of gasifier operation in the field
View the document(introduction...)
View the document8.1 Pro's and contras of the ''do it yourself'' approach
View the document8.2 Community plant or private ownership?
View the document8.3 Qualification and motivation of the operator
View the document8.4 Implications of non-technical issues
close this folder9. Economics of gasifier operation
View the document9.1 How to compare gasifier costs
View the document9.2 Case study: Comparative costs of gasifier installations in Argentina and Malaysia
close this folder10. Concepts of future dissemination of small gasifier-engine systems
View the document10.1 Perspectives of biomass energy
View the document10.2 The actual limits of gasification technologies
View the document10.3 Substitution of firewood by other biomasses
View the document10.4 Framework for establishing gasification technologies
View the documentReferences

8.3 Qualification and motivation of the operator

Apart from very small plants (2-3 kW electric), even the private owner will not do all the work himself. Commercial units and, of course, the communal plants always are run by an operator, who is responsible for the fuel supply, starting of the plant, maintenance work and repair. The work load of the operator can vary considerably and depends on the size and the reliability of the plant.

A well designed gasifier should not need much care during routine operation: Just to fill in the fuel, ignite it, and- after 10 minutes of primary air supply by ventilation - start the engine. Once a week some cleaning and once a month a checking-that should be enough.

But energy supply and consumption means much more. In fact, especially village electrification is a very complex scheme, with the gasifier, fuel preparation, combustion engine, electric generator, local electric grid, and consumer instruments. Often it is not the gasifier, which causes trouble, but the electric system (generator, cables, insulation, switches, electric equipment) which may have a defect difficult to identify. The more complex the system, the more qualification is needed. A good operator is a real technical expert in his environment and deserves recognition.

A basic technical knowledge of the required level cannot be expected in rural areas where technical infrastructure is virtually absent, it has to be built up with patience. Very often, it is not enough to train the operator in the handling of the gasifier in a training course. In the every-day practice he must know much more, and he is not able to learn it all in just one introductory course. He needs continuous advice for an extended period until he has got the necessary experience. Therefore the introduction of any technical equipment -not only gasifiers-has to be integrated into projects of rural development, where regular visits of the concerned villages are established. This regular backstopping was not always sufficient in the existing projects and the results were rather frequent standstills of the plants until the problem was identified and solved.

Even a high skilled operator is not motivated to care intensively for a gasifier which is obviously badly designed. Especially the skilled operator will be fascinated by a smoothly running plant and will be motivated to keep the system alive, if it is worth the effort. There is no way to deliver a badly designed equipment and hope for skill and motivation.

In common practice, the operator has a lot of responsibility, but usually very little remuneration. It is often assumed that the operation of a gasifier is something which can be done by a member of the community on a more or less voluntary basis. This is not realistic. The qualification and responsibility of the operator deserves adequate financial compensation. Principally, this is accepted by the village communities: They use to collect money for electricity supply. But electric light is not first priority. Light in the houses, radio, television - that makes life more convenient, but is a luxury that costs money. If they are in financial trouble (which happens very often), they don't pay the operator. If they don't pay, the operator is frustrated and will not do his work properly. This results in irregular electricity supply and angry reactions of the users. A conflict is likely.