UBC Biomass Research and Demonstration Facility

The Biomass Research and Demonstration Facility uses biomass to create clean heat and energy. This facility is located at 2329 West Mall in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia’s West Point Gray Campus. Official Began operation on September 2012 by-combining syngas and gasification conditioning systems with a Jenbacher engine . The highest potential output of this system is 2 MWe (megawatts) of electricity and 9600 lbs of steam per hour. This system is the first of its kind in Canada, and it was put together by the cooperation of three parties: General Electric (GE), Nexterra, and the University of British Columbia (UBC).


In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came to the conclusion that human-made emissions are destabilizing the earth’s natural systems. As a response to this problem, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act (GHGRTA) was set to the public bodies of British Columbia, including UBC. [1] The GHGRTA had expectations that UBC would become carbon-neutral (Bill 44, compensating for the excess carbon emissions by carbon credits system) by 2010. [2] [3]

By March 24, 2010, then-UBC Stephen Toope President announced UBC’s dedication to climate action; UBC Climate Action Plan [4] has committed $ 117 million to three goals: converting steam heating systems to hot water Systems, Reducing emissions by 22% Optimizing academic building and behavior change programs building tune up program and the UBC biomass research and demonstration facility, qui will Reduce emissions by 9% for a total of 33% of Reduced emissions by UBC from 2007 levels. [5] [6]


Represented as an initiative by UBC’s Climate Action Plan UBC , GE Energy and Nexterra . The Biomass Research and Demonstration Facility takes advantage of gasification resulting from a clean source of renewable heat and power. The main owners of this project are the Tandem Expansion Fund and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BCD) .

The project includes efforts from UBC, Nexterra and GE Energy. The process began in 2010 to create an internal combustion engine that is based on a combined heat and power (CHP) system.

Nexterra was founded in Vancouver, Canada, and creates energy-from-waste gasification systems for the production of clean, renewable heat and power. It utilizes biomass in the form of wood chips which it treats to create fuel for its bioenergy systems. Some of its other projects include:

  1. Birmingham Bio Power Ltd. which is a 10 MW Power Plant, Tyseley, UK
  2. US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan
  3. University of Northern British Columbia

General Electric (GE) and its division GE Energy help with the project by providing the Jenbacher engine . [7] GE is a large American conglomerate that has many different branches. It is a Fortune 500 Company.


The system is designed by Nexterra, and combines Nexterra’s gasification and syngas conditioning technologies with GE’s Jenbacher engines. [8] This is an energy-from-renewable-waste combined heat and power (CHP) system. This system will produce 2MW of electricity from the engine and 3MW of thermal energy to heat the campus. The system has two main modes of operation:

  1. Demonstration mode: the syngas is then conditioned to remove any impurities and used in the Jenbacher engine to drive a generator that creates electricity.
  2. Thermal mode: which uses gasification technology to turn biomass into a gas or syngas synthesis. The syngas then replaces natural gas to create steam and hot water to meet the campuses needs.


UBC’s case, wood chips is a combination of two methods involving combined heat and power and thermal mode systems.

Heat and Power Mode System (demonstration mode)

  1. Moisture content in wood chips is reduced to 20% by the biomass dryer
  2. Treated wood chips are conveyed by a horizontal auger which feeds fuel to the vertical auger that then pushes the fuel up into the fuel pile inside the Gasifier
  3. Gas converters wood chips to clean, renewable synthetic gas (Syngas) .There are three main steps in this process
    1. Gasifier: Takes the fuel and then puts it through drying, pyrolysis, gasification and reduction to ash. Inside heat and the gasoline
    2. Automatic ash removal system: The non-combustatble ash is pushed towards the bottom of the gasifier where it is periodically removed through hydraulically controlled grates. After being removed by the grates the ash is moved away by two parallel augers.
    3. Syngas: Exits the gasifier at 500-700 ° F (260-370 ° C). Then the syngas can be combusted in a close-coupled oxidizer. Then the resulting heat can be used to create energy in many different ways. eg boilers, heat exchanges or it can be used for the firing of internal combustion engines. It could also be to create higher value gases or chemicals.
  • This process creates 2MWe towards the UBC electric grid and 9600 lbs of steam per hour, which equates to 12% of total campus heat consumption

Thermal Mode System

  1. syngas is taken to the oxidizer and burned after the gasifier.
  2. gas from oxidizer is used in the boiler to produce steam.
  3. the steam is then used in UBC’s existing heating infrastructure.
  4. this is an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) before it is released. The ESP removes almost all of the particulate matter.
  • The Thermal Mode System creates 20,000 lbs of steam per hour, which fulfills 25% of heat consumption at UBC

Project outcomes

University of British Columbia

  • Project lead: John Gorjup, OERD, NRCan – Ottawa.
  • Lead proponent: University of British Columbia.
  • CEF contribution: $ 10.8 million. [9]
  • Total project: $ 28 million
  • Strategic area: Bioenergy
  • Location: UBC Point Gray Campus, Vancouver, British Columbia

Project status: Since operation began in July 2012 until December 2014.

  • Consumed 20,544 Oven Dry Metric Tons of Biomass
  • Operated in Thermal Mode for 17,174 hours
  • Produced conditioned syngas for 406 hours
  • Experienced engine and generator runtime of 3,835 hours
  • Produced: 245,034 GJ of steam, 1,077 MWh of hot water, 6216 MWh of electricity


  1. Jump up^ Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act (GHGRTA)
  2. Jump up^ “Climate Action Plan” (PDF) . http://sustain.ubc.ca . Retrieved 10 March 2015 . External link in( help ) |website=
  3. Jump up^ http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/combustion/new-nexterra-projects-include-biomass-chp-3360
  4. Jump up^ UBC Climate Action Plan
  5. Jump up^ “CLIMATE ACTION PLAN” (PDF) . sustain.ubc.ca . Retrieved 10 March 2015 .
  6. Jump up^ “CLIMATE ACTION PLAN”. http://sustain.ubc.ca/campus-initiatives/climate-energy/climate-action-plan . External link in( help ); |website=
  7. Jump up^ “Followup: UBC generating heat, power, and buzz with renewable biomass-fueled CHP” . www.districtenergy.org . Retrieved 10 March 2015 .
  8. Jump up^ “GE’s Jenbacher Gas Engines” . clarke-energy.com .
  9. Jump up^ http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/funding/current-funding-programs/cef/4971