Deutsche Bank says Germans may need to switch from gas to wood for heating this winter, is wood to gas for cars the next step?


Germany’s Deutsche Bank has released a note on the current energy supply situation which indicates that if Russia makes deeper cuts in natural gas supplies to Western Europe as a result of war-related sanctions in Ukraine, German households may have to turn to an alternative fuel to heat their homes, wood.

“There are many elements of uncertainty,” the note said. According to the long-term weather forecast, Europe is expecting a harsher winter than usual. Russia has already cut shipments to countries like Bulgaria and Poland for their refusal to use rubles for payment. Additionally, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, has sent mixed messages about whether or not to reopen the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which was shut down for maintenance.

Deutsche Bank via

The note from Deutsche Bank indicates that if natural gas supplies are not sufficient, coal and lignite could replace natural gas in the industrial and power generation sectors, but only for domestic heating , wood could be substituted. The idea of ​​using wood for home heating is about as old as mankind, but modern concerns about energy supply have made it relevant again. When the state of Texas experienced power outages due to harsh winter conditions and the failure of backup renewable energy sources, many homeowners relied on fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for warmth.

If this happened in Europe, it would not be the first time that Germans and other Europeans would switch to wood as a source of energy. During the Second World War, no less than half a million passenger cars ran on so-called “wood gas”, also known as syngas or production gas. Germany did not have sufficient supplies of oil for its military uses, so it developed synthetic fuels. General Patton even ran some of the 3rd Army’s vehicles on synthetic fuel which they drained from captured or abandoned German tanks. If the Wehrmacht, the German army, did not have enough fuel, you can be sure that ordinary Germans had to find alternatives for their motor vehicles. A strategic product, gasoline was severely rationed during the war, both in the United States and in Germany.

In the 1920s, French chemist Georges Imbert invented a coal gasifier, then licensed the process to German companies.

Imbert gasifier

Wood gas, sometimes called producer gas, is the result of the thermal gasification of carbonaceous materials such as coal or biomass. It is produced by pyrolysis and two high temperature reactions (~1300°F) which produce, among other gases, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and methane, which are combustible. Fortuitously, conventional carbureted gasoline internal combustion engines will run just fine on wood gas without significant modifications. The biggest problem, literally, is finding space for the gasifier, the size of a 50 gallon hot water tank. Some gasifiers were mounted on the car or truck, while in some cases the wood gas generator was towed.

There were even thousands of “wood service stations” in Europe, where motorists could stock up on wood.

Now, do I really expect millions of BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Volkswagens in Germany to start carrying wood gasifiers? Probably not, the oil supply seems stable, but it’s hard to hear of Germans switching from ‘gas to wood’ without thinking back to when the Germans used ‘wood to gas’.

[Image via YouTube]

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