Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:05

Biomass and Bioenergy Group (BBRG) at UBC

The Biomass and Bioenergy Group (BBRG) at UBC is doing research in the area of biomass processing bridging the gap between biomass production and biomass conversion. This involves integrating all processes and management strategies from source raw biomass to just before final conversion to bio-products. BBRG involves multidisciplinary innovative research on biomass drying, size reduction, densification, torrefaction, resource assessment, characterization, and supply logistics. BBRG was founded and is led by Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, an Adjunct Professor at UBC in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) and a Distinguished Research Scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Dr. Sokhansanj and his colleagues Professors Xiaotao Bi (CHBE), Jim Lim (CHBE), Anthony Lau (CHBE) and Taraneh Sowlati (Wood Science) and in consultation with industry (Mr. Staffan Melin) have identified biomass processing and logistics as a key priority for the development of bioenergy in BC. BBRG’s current research and development is focused on development of pellets and torrefaction, a fast growing industry in British Columbia and Canada. In summary, the BBRG’s research addresses a number of critical issues facing the sustainability and growth of the bioenergy industry in British Columbia and in Canada.

The current energy input and output ratio of the process is not favorable especially when long distance transport is required. This makes pellets less attractive from an emissions stand point.

  • The excessive transport cost needs to be offset by a higher bulk density, higher energy density and higher pellet durability. Development of low cost environmentally benign torrefaction may provide a solution;
  • The cost of turning raw biomass into a densified product using the existing technology is high, making biomass less competitive with fossil fuels;
  • The availability of low cost saw mill residue is decreasing due to a gradual reduction in the number of sawmills especially in BC. Also, logging residues are varied in quality resulting in poor quality pellets;
  • As a biological material, biomass emits toxic gasses inside enclosed spaces that endanger the life and health of people. Methods for safe handling and storage of biomass are important;
  • A pelletized biomass creates dust during frequent handling, which can be harmful to humans and can cause explosions and fires. It is important to produce durable pellets that withstand frequent mechanical forces and do not adsorb moisture from the environment.

BBRG has been hosting a weekly seminar series on biomass and bioenergy to promote the research and development of renewable bioenergy in British Columbia. Speakers have been drawn from a variety of industries, levels of government, and academic disciplines. The seminar series also give the students of BBRG an opportunity to showcase their research results to a multi-stakeholder audience. Members of BBRG are collaborating with the designers and operational staff to develop quality specifications for feedstock and supply logistics to minimize any potential adverse environmental impact on the neighbourhood.



Members of the CERC Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG)

At the same time, BBRG has been actively participating in many provincial and national initiatives, such as examining the potential use of mountain pine beetle killed trees in BC, the Agricultural Bioenergy Innovation Program (ABIP) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, BC Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands, BC Innovation Council, and Natural Resources Canada. For up to date information on research, members of the BBRG, and events see BBRG’s website at www.biomass.ubc.ca.

One of the students of BBRG, Mahmoud Ebadian, the PhD candidate at Forestry department also has recently received the two following awards:

  • First prize of the student poster competition in 6th Annual Growing the Margins and 4th annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conferences today;
  • People's Choice Award in the Faculty of Forestry 3-Minute-Thesis Competition, 2012.  

A paper on Stratification of off-gases in stored wood pellets by Fahimeh Yazdanpanah another PhD candidate at this group was selected and presented at the WSED (World Sustainable Energy Days 2012) in Wels, Austria in Feb 2012. In December 2012, Clean Energy Research Centre open house was heldat the University of British Columbia. Biomass and Bionergy Research Group (BBRG) members received the 2nd prize at the poster competition running along the event.


62nd Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference

The CSBE / SCGAB and CSChE will collaborate on the technical programming of the 62nd Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference (CSChE Conference) taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 14-17, 2012. This collaboration will be carried out to the mutual benefit of both respective organizations and their individual members and with the additional objective to further the cause of biological engineering and chemical engineering in Canada. CSBE / SCGAB members are encouraged to work with the CSChE Conference Technical Program Committee to develop one or more joint technical sessions. These will be recognized as such in the conference program book and on the conference website. CSBE / SCGAB leaders will be shown on the Technical Program Committee lists on the website, program book and other communications vehicles.



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Fahimeh Yazdanpanah

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