Study: Nexterra's biomass gasifier is one of cleanest in NA

By Lisa Gibson | August 29, 2011

Recent independent testing and analysis of the biomass gasification system installed on the University of Northern British Columbia campus shows the plant is one of the cleanest biomass facilities operating in North America.

The system, supplied and installed by Nexterra Systems Corp., provides heat to most buildings on UNBC’s Prince George campus and, according to the study, generates emission levels that are extremely low for biomass energy systems, even equivalent to that of 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. 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 show piece for the province without compromising air quality in the Prince George airshed,” said UNBC President George Iwama.

When compared with the average emission levels generated by 17 U.S. and Canadian conventional biomass combustion plants built within the decade and of similar size, UNBC’s plant showed the following reductions: 18 times lower particulate matter emissions; 65 times lower carbon monoxide emissions; 37 times lower volatile organic compounds; and two times lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

“We are delighted with these latest test results,” said 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.”

In addition, the UNBC system shows favorable levels in comparison to the U.S. EPA’s AP-42 emissions regulatory factors for natural gas. Its particulate emissions are two times lower than the regulations for particulate matter; 21 times lower than stipulations for carbon monoxide; 11 times lower in volatile organic compounds; and on par with the regulations in respect to NOx emissions.

The emissions test was completed by A. Lanfranco & Associates Inc. and the emissions analysis was conducting by Levelton Consultants Ltd.

The UNBC biomass plant, which was funded by federal and provincial governments, began operation in March of this year and uses locally sourced wood waste. The system is expected to displace up to 85 percent of UNBC’s natural gas consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3,500 metric tons per year. 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.