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UBC biomass CHP system provides renewable heat and electricity for campus

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2012-12-02

Nexterra Systems Corp., the University of British Columbia and GE celebrated in September the successful completion of the energy-from-renewable-waste combined heat and power (CHP) system located at UBC’s Vancouver campus.
GE’s Jenbacher gas engine will produce 2 MW of clean, renewable electricity that will offset UBC’s existing power consumption, enough to power approximately 1,500 homes. The Nexterra system will also generate 3 MW of thermal energy, which is enough steam to displace up to 12% of UBC’s natural gas consumption. This will reduce UBC’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 5,000 tonnes per year.
Officially named the “Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF), the system has completed a comprehensive testing program for reliability, capacity and emissions, and has successfully connected to the grid.
“This exciting facility targets a major challenge facing society – the need for new, clean energy solutions that work at a community scale,” says UBC President Stephen Toope.
Using Nexterra’s proven gasification technology platform and innovative gas clean-up and thermal cracking solution, the system converts locally-sourced waste wood into a clean, reliable gas that is suitable for use in a high-efficiency, industrial-scale gas engine to produce heat and power. According to Nexterra, the system will deliver electrical efficiencies that are 25% higher than traditional methods for producing biomass-based electricity at this scale.
“For innovative technologies to have a real impact, they need to be commercialized and used in the market,” said Dr. Vicky Sharpe, president and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). “Nexterra’s CHP system is taking a big step in that direction today.”
The BDRF requires about 12,500 bone-dry metric tonnes of locally-sourced urban wood waste per year – or approximately 50 tonnes per day.  The feedstock for the UBC project is a variety of wood waste including tree trimmings from the City of Vancouver, wood trimmings from furniture and other wood manufacturers, and clean construction and demolition debris.
The fuel is sourced from a local aggregator, and delivered to the site by truck, averaging 2-3 trucks per day. Once emptied into the fuel handing area, the biomass is screened for oversized and non-woody material, dried if required, and then gasified to produce a synthesis gas called syngas. This syngas is then burned in an oxidizer to produce steam/hot water to heat the UBC campus and/or the syngas is cleaned and conditioned to an engine grade fuel that is fired directly into a GE Jenbacher engine to produce electricity.
The start-up of the system represents the culmination of more than four years of product development work and collaboration with GE’s Gas Engines business.
The total combined cost of the UBC BRDP is about $26 million. Funding support this project was provided by: Natural Resources Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada; BC Innovative Clean Energy Fund and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands; Sustainable Development Technologies Canada (SDTC); the BC Bioenergy Network; and FPInnovations.
“With this project, Nexterra, UBC and GE have advanced the industry’s clean energy efforts significantly, thereby solidifying the Canadian expertise in green energy,” said Jean Hamel, pulp, paper and bioproducts vice-president, FPInnovations.

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