Biomass Innovation Centre launched in Ontario

By Lisa Gibson
Posted September 23, 2009, at 4:03 p.m. CST

Nipissing University's Biomass Innovation Centre on its campus in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, will provide resources and education about biomass heating and energy to building professionals, engineers and researchers in an effort help develop an infrastructure for the industry.

The organization focuses on biomass for space heating, particularly wood pellets, according to Bob Carpenter, director of the School of Business and Economics, which developed the center. The campus is in a heavily forested region, making woody biomass its most logical renewable resource, Carpenter said, adding that the region has been called the "Saudi Arabia of biomass." "There's a lot of wood that is harvested that is waste," he said. It's estimated that 100 million metric tons of wood is available in forests now, he cites. "It's good for forests to have some of that slash removed." Not only does extraction of biomass improve forest health, he said, but it would allow the replacement of imported oil with locally produced products. In addition, wood-pellet production could create at least 600 jobs in the region under the right circumstances, according to the University.

The Biomass Innovation Centre is the title of the organization, Carpenter said, not a building. "It's a virtual center, if you will, in that sense," he said. It's currently composed of three people and has three main goals: convert five buildings-municipalities, schools, universities or hospitals-to biomass heating from natural gas or petroleum; displace 500,000 liters (132,000 gallons) of fossil fuel wherever possible; and increase awareness of biomass heating and energy systems by 25 percent.

The organization was funded initially by Ontario's Community Go Green Fund, but is looking into other funding options to allow expansion and inclusion of labs and other amenities, according to Carpenter. The organization will host a conference called Harnessing Biomass: From the Forest to the Market Oct. 22 and 23 to address extraction of woody biomass for pellet production and partnership formation within the industry, among other topics. The organization will also launch its Web site,, in late October.