Multimillion dollar conversion of UNBC's heating system to wood pellet-fed bioenergy heat is under way in Prince George, slated to be operational by 2011

Audrey Dixon

Audrey Dixon

Nov 4, 2009 – Prince George Free Press

PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia , November 4, 2009 () – Construction of a multi-million dollar upgrade to UNBC’s heating system is underway.

The first phase of UNBC’s conversion to bioenergy heat began on June 30 with the installation of a wood pellet system at the IK Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab. Phase two of the plan will be a biomass gasification system for the main campus buildings installed by Nexterra Energy. The gasification system is slated to be operational by 2011.

Construction of a series of large pipe systems to improve the campus’s heating efficiency is currently underway, UNBC vice president of external relations Rob van Adrichem said.

“What they’re doing is creating a series of discrete loops,” van Adrichem said. “This is a project that is really about efficiency.”
Currently UNBC’s main campus is heated as a single system. Heating the campus in sections will allow greater control and efficiency, he said.

The pellet and gasification systems will help the university meet its goal of becoming Canada’s carbon-neutral university, van Adrichem said. In addition, the university is testing advanced emission controls to reduce fine particulate emissions.

“There is a huge opportunity to be a leader on the carbon side and emission side,” he said. “(The pellet system) is providing heat for the forestry lab. But it’s also functioning as a platform for research and, more importantly, public education.”

The university has 10 years of heating information about the forestry lab, he said. The performance of the pellet system will be measured against that to provide real-world data.

In addition, the system will be used as a model for potential commercial or community heating systems.

“On a day that it’s -40 (degrees), natural gas heating provides some assistance. Without natural gas as a backup, the system would have to be much larger,” he said. “We wanted to have something really practical.”

Unlike most commercial pellet systems, however, the university system includes a baghouse – an emission-capturing system which reduces the fine particulate emissions to below that of natural gas.

“Because of the sensitivity of this issue... we didn’t just want to meet the standards, we wanted to be the best,” van Adrichem said.

The $500,000 system was installed with a grant from the federal government and a year’s supply of free pellets from local members of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.

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