We face significant challenges with the continued use of oil, from concerns about carbon emissions contributing to climate change to on-going depletion of finite oil reserves affecting the lifestyles of future generations. It is inevitable that we will have to evolve from a finite, hydrocarbon driven global industry to a more sustainable, “carbohydrate based” society. Being a forest rich province, transformation to bioeconomy provides enormous opportunities to British Columbia for the effective utilisation of its abundantly available forest biomass.

One of the consequences of climate change we had to face in BC was the mountain pine beettle infestation of the trees. This beetle generally plays an important role in the life of the forest, attacking old and weakened trees and promoting the growth of young forests. However, warmer summers and mild winters in BC resulted in the spread of the epidemic to more than half a million hectares in 1990. Growing imbalance on the climate change has caused a much vigorous spread by the end of the decade reaching approximately 15 million hectares of infested trees. This has created an abundance of wood beyond its traditional applications such as lumber or pulp and paper and created potential opportunities to use these biomass resources as a future feedstock for biorefinery.

Despite the abundant availability, one of the biggest challenges for the large scale processing of biomass is their low bulk density and high moisture content which limit their long distance transportation over long distances. It has been shown that in order meet IEA target of reducing the carbon emissions by 2050, we have to trade and process approximately 100 billion cubic meters of biomass, which is an order of magnitude higher than today’s global energy commodity infrastructure. This is where densification technologies can make a difference. Densification processes such as pelletisation can enhance the bulk density of biomass 4-6 times higher thus improving the tradability of biomass over long distances.

Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the export of wood pellets from Canada to Europe or Asia. However, a combination of higher oil prices, relief from oil import dependency and carbon reduction strategies of several nations have made the co-firing of biomass for electricity production more economically and socially desirable. Together with these factors, densification of biomass substantially changed the economics of moving biomass around the globe. In the last 10 years, global wood pellets production has increased from zero to 16 million tonnes. Canada, together with the USA, is the world’s largest pellet exporters exceeding two million tonnes in 2013 with British Columbia being the dominant exporter of pellets as was triggered by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Most of the Canadian wood pellets are exported to Europe over a distance of 16,000 km.


Canada is committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. To meet this target, Canada is supporting the development of next generation technologies including biofuels. At present, Canada is supplying approximately 3% of its total energy demand from biomass but this is expected to increase to 6-10% within the next decade. British Columbia has set a GHG reduction target of 33% by 2020. CHP systems with efficiencies more than 65% can play a major role in cleaning the environment and creating jobs. UBC-BRDF is an example of modern CHP systems made by Nexterra. Nexterra is developing and marketing state-of-the-art biomass gasification technologies in Canada and the U.S.

Gasification is a common thermochemical technology used for converting feedstock such as biomass into a combustible gas mixture (syngas) by partial oxidation under high temperature condition. The syngas may be burnt directly for heating or used as a fuel for gas engines and turbines. Syngas can also be used as feedstock for the production of chemicals. In gasifiers the partial combustion of solid fuel produces combustible gases such as H2, CO, and CH4. In contract, in complete combustion of biomass CO2, O2, N2, and water are produced. In gasification biomass is continuously converted to charcoal where carbon and steam are converted to CO and H2. In addition to combustible gasses tar and dust are the side products in gasification systems.

Nearly all types of biomass can be utilized in a gasifier to generate syngas. Variations in the physical, mechanical and chemical characteristics of the feedstock can impact the performance of the CHP system. When biomass is used as feedstock, the feedstock’s journey starts from the sources where the “unused” woody materials are generated. The biomass is then collected at the recycling yard for temporary storage and preprocessing. In the next step, the processed feedstock is shipped to UBC-BRDF for utilization. The solid fuel is fed into the facility and it goes through several stages before it’s been used. Variations in the physical, mechanical and chemical characteristics of the feedstock can impact the performance of the CHP system including the tar formation.

The UBC Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (UBC-BRDF) consists of a biomass gasification system (Nexterra Systems Corp., Vancouver, BC) for combined heat and power production (CHP: 2 MW electricity and 3 metric tonnes of steam per hour). The estimated annual wood fuel requirement for the system is 28,000 metric tonnes (at 50% moisture content wet mass basis). The performance and the economic viability of the system rely upon the syngas quality. 

Co-sponsors : Canadian Society for Bioengineering & Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering

The 62nd Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference is being held in Vancouver, BC from October 14-17 2012. One of the symposium running parallel to the main conference is the International Symposium of Biomass and Bioenergy. It’s Co-sponsored by Canadian Society for Bioengineering & Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering.

For conference information and abstract submission please refer to: www.csche2012.ca

  • Biomass resources, supply chain and feed-stock preparation;
  • Thermochemical conversion: torrefaction, pyrolysis, gasification** and combustion; tar formation, characterization and removal ; gas conditioning and cleaning;
  • Biological processes: algae production processes, ligno-cellulosic ethanol, higher alcohols, bio-methane;
  • Products from biomass: New products, bio-diesel, fuels and chemicals, lignin, biochar, pellets;
  • Upgrading and utilization of bio-oil and bio-fuels;
  • Research network activities;
  • Building the bio-economy: bio-pathways and the forest bio-refinery; markets, investment and financing; successes and failures.

**Abstracts primarily devoted to gasification should be submitted to i-SGA-3 which will be running concurrently.


Paul Watkinson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Shahab Sokhansanj, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Franco Berruti, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wenli Duo, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Le Réseau des Ingénieurs du Québec a publié récemment (Mars 2012) une étude intéressante sur la conversion du chauffage au mazout vers la biomasse au Québec, principalement au format granule. L'étude s'inscrit dans le cadre de l’étude de 2009 Le développement énergétique du Québec dans un contexte de développement durable, L'étude propose une vue d'ensemble des ressources, des moyens techniques et de l'implication des ingénieurs à différents niveaux dans la chaîne de valeur. Les ingénieurs en agriculture sont particulièrement appelés à travailler sur la valorisation des résidus agricoles (pratiques agricoles pour réduire les taux de composants défavorables à la combustion, développement d'équipements de combustion appropriés, réduction des GES).

Vous trouverez plus de détails sur le site du Réseau IQ: http://www.reseauiq.qc.ca/fr/discussion/enquete_etudes/biomasse.html

ou téléchargez directement le rapport PDF: http://www.reseauiq.qc.ca/uploaded/quontent/section/2176/doc_3.pdf

Published in Members Blogs

The University of New Brunswick’s Canadian BioEnergy Centre is now equipped of a new lab-scale pelletizer, hammer mill and chipper that will allow the CBEC to go on to the next step of biomass material evaluation. That is determining the fiber’s ability to be made into energy products, whether it is for chips to be burned directly at a biomass plant or to be further ground up for pellets. This lab can test wood product and ag product as well.

Read the full article in the Biomass Power and Thermal Magazine

Published in Members Blogs
Friday, 25 March 2011 16:08

Biomass Pelletization Workshop

UBCDuring the past five years, the Biomass & Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at the University of British Columbia has conducted extensive research on wood pellet production, storage, handling, life cycle analysis, and characterization of new generation of torrefied pellets. A Collaborative Research and Development program between UBC, Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) and Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has funded this project. The British Columbia Ministry of Forest, Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, FPInnovations, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (U.S. Department of Energy), and several private sector partners have also contributed to the development of feedstock engineering research at UBC. The BBRG is organizing a 2-day Workshop at the University of British Columbia during May 17-18, 2011 to share the latest research and development on wood pellets. In addition to members of the BBRG, key members of the industry are invited to present the state of technology of wood pellet processing, handling, and market trends.

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