Nexterra debuts biomass CHP system

By | October 07, 2010

The University of British Columbia will soon be home to the first installation of a new biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) system developed by Nexterra Systems Corp. and GE’s Jenbacher gas engine division.

The city of Vancouver and local companies will supply tree trimmings and other urban wood waste diverted from the city landfill as fuel for the plant. The 2-megawatt (MW) system will require about 12,500 bone-dry tons of wood waste, according to Darcy Quinn, Nexterra business development manager. 

The CHP system combines Nexterra’s gasification and syngas conditioning technologies with a GE high-efficiency Jenbacher gas engine. Though Nexterra has several other biomass gasification system installations around the world, Quinn said this is the first demonstration of this particular application in North America. “The difference between this system and the others we have is that it sends the syngas directly into an internal combustion engine to produce the power, as opposed to just steam,” he said. The electricity produced by the system will be distributed throughout the UBC campus to meet some of the college’s power needs; waste heat will be recovered from the engine to produce enough steam to replace about 15 percent of UBC’s current natural gas requirements. Additionally, UBC will see a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 4,000 metric tons per year.

The system at UBC is on the small end of what Nexterra believes is the sweet spot for sizing these particular systems, according to Quinn, as that range is expected to be within 2 to 10 MW. Compared to conventional biomass power system electrical efficiencies of about 18 to 21 percent, this CHP system has demonstrated a 26 to 30 percent electrical efficiency, he said.

Other partners in the project include the province of British Columbia, the Canadian government, the city of Vancouver, FPInnovations, BC Bioenergy Network and Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

 Quinn said the installation at UBC should be completed in the third or fourth quarter of 2011.