UBC Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Project

bioenergy R&D Facility

The Bioenergy Research & Demonstration Facility, which opened in September 2012, is North America’s first commercial demonstration of a community-scale heat and power system fuelled by biomass. The facility is a partnership between UBC and two of the world’s leading developers of green technology – Vancouver-based Nexterra Systems Corp. and GE Energy. The facility is a “Campus as a Living Laboratory” project integrating UBC’s core academic mandate (research and teaching) with the University’s operations in order to solve societal issues at commercially significant scales.

Like many communities around the world, UBC is striving to meet its power needs while reducing its impact on the environment. The Bioenergy Research & Demonstration Facility responds to this challenge by demonstrating a small-scale power production that is relevant and replicable in other communities. The system provides heat and power to The University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, facilitates research to develop feedstock and process innovations, sets new global standards for performance and emissions, engages the community at new levels, lowers the campus’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), reduces fossil fuel consumption and showcases BC wood-based construction of cross-laminated timber (CLT), a low carbon and low environmental impact building system.

The innovative system has two main operating modes. The first mode, “thermal-only mode,” uses commercially proven gasification technology developed by Nexterra to turn biomass into a clean synthesis gas or syngas. The syngas replaces natural gas used to produce steam and hot water to meet campus heating needs. In thermal Mode, the facility generates up to 20,000 pounds per hour of steam, approximately 25 per cent of UBC’s base requirement. It eliminates 9,000 tonnes of UBC’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the equivalent to taking 1,882 cars off the road each year.

The second mode, “demonstration mode” produces both heat and power. Electricity is produced using Nexterra’s innovative syngas conditioning system and GE Energy’s high-efficiency gas engine to power an electrical generator. Steam/hot water is produced by burning the surplus syngas, and impurities are removed during syngas conditioning and recovery of the heat generated by the engine. In demonstration mode, the system generates approximately two megawatts of electricity, enough to power the nearby 1,600-bed Marine Drive Student Residence. It also produces 9,600 pounds per hour of steam, approximately 12 per cent of UBC’s base requirement. It reduces UBC’s GHGs by 5,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to removing 980 cars from the road each year.

The facility provides faculty and students with the real-world opportunity to study, test, teach and apply lessons learned at the facility. There are also opportunities for UBC operations staff and academics to collaborate and enhance teaching and research.

Funding for the Bioenergy Research Demonstration Project was generously provided by:

  • The Government of Canada (Natural Resources Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada)
  • The Province of British Columbia (BC Innovative Clean Energy Fund and the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands)
  • FP Innovations
  • Canadian Wood Council
  • BC Bioenergy Network
  • Sustainable Development Technologies Canada
  • The University of British Columbia

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