Recent third party testing and analysis of the University of Northern British Columbia's (UNBC's) Nexterra Biomass Gasification System has concluded that the plant is one of the cleanest biomass facilities operating in North America.
The Nexterra system, which provides heat to most buildings on UNBC's Prince George campus, underwent independent testing to assess the emissions for Particulate Matter (PM), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Testing results showed that the Nexterra system generated emission levels that are extremely low for biomass energy systems and are equivalent to natural gas.
"As a university, we are keen to be at the forefront of renewable energy developments; especially those relevant to northern, forest-based communities," says UNBC President George Iwama. "We are proud to have delivered on the commitment we made to our community that we would generate our own renewable energy and be a showpiece for the province without compromising air quality in the Prince George airshed."
When compared against the average emissions levels generated by 17 conventional biomass combustion plants located in the U.S. and Canada built within the last decade and of a similar scale, the test results from UNBC were:
-18 times lower with respect to Particulate Matter
-65 times lower with respect to Carbon Monoxide
-37 times lower with respect to Volatile Organic Compounds
-two times lower with respect to NOx emissions.
Furthermore, when compared against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) AP-42 air emissions regulatory factors for natural gas, emissions from the UNBC biomass system were:
-two times lower with respect to Particulate Matter
-21 times lower with respect to Carbon Monoxide
-11 times lower with respect to Volatile Organic Compounds
-on par with respect to NOx emissions.
"These are impressive emissions results and we applaud UNBC and Nexterra for this accomplishment," says Michael Weedon, executive director of the BC Bioenergy Network. "As distributed biomass heat and power solutions become more integrated into communities, ultra low emissions, reliability, fuel versatility and efficiency as demonstrated by Nexterra, will become increasingly important for widespread adoption in North America."
"We are delighted with these latest test results," says Jonathan Rhone, president and CEO of Nexterra. "We are seeing a growing trend across North America that communities want distributed biomass heat and power solutions provided that they do not result in a net degradation of air quality. We are very pleased to help UNBC deliver on this commitment to the citizens of Prince George."
The UNBC biomass gasification system, which opened in March 2011, integrates campus operations with research and teaching relevant to community development. The system enables the university to generate renewable heat economically through locally-sourced wood waste. It was funded by the federal and B.C. governments.
The biomass gasification system is expected to displace up to 85 per cent of UNBC's natural gas consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3,500 tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of removing nearly 1,000 cars off the road.
In 2010, UNBC's bioenergy project was selected as the top Campus Sustainability Project in North America by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the largest college/university sustainability organization in the world.