UBC to expand bio-energy and research facility

VANCOUVER – A $20.4 million expansion of UBC’s bio-energy facility (BRDF) will receive up to $7.6 million in support from the federal government’s low-carbon economy fund.

The BRDF provides heat to campus buildings, creates operational efficiency, saves money, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions — by re-purposing clean wood waste from other outside processes and sources.

UBC will use the federal money to purchase and install a new 12 MW biomass fuelled hot water combustion boiler by the late fall of 2020.

Once the new boiler is operational, the BRDF will increase its heating production capacity to 20MW and will provide up to 70 per cent of annual thermal production for UBC’s hot water district energy system, halving its current dependency on natural gas, eliminating an average of 14,500 tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions on an annual basis, and saving more than $1M in annual operating costs.

It also reduces UBC’s reliance on natural gas to heat the campus, improving the university’s operational resilience.

Winner of the International District Energy Association (IDEA) Award for Innovation, UBC’s Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF) integrates research, operations and innovative technologies into a single facility.

The BRDF produces 8.4 MW of thermal energy, which accounts for 25 to 32 percent of the total campus heating and hot water needs each year and 100 percent in the summer months, as well as two MW of electrical energy, which accounts for five percent of the total campus electricity requirements each year.

The BRDF is a key contributor to UBC’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction efforts through switching from natural gas use to biomass and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Furthermore, the biomass used at BRDF consists of ground and chipped wood waste mainly from sawmill residuals and municipal trimmings that would otherwise go to a landfill.

“This year, UBC was recognized on the Times Higher Education University Impact rankings as number one in the world for our climate change efforts. The Government of Canada’s investment in the expansion of UBC’s Bioenergy Research & Demonstration Facility will help UBC maintain our global leadership and move us significantly closer to our goal of zero carbon emissions on the UBC Vancouver campus,” said Peter Smailes, vice-president, finance and operations, The University of British Columbia.

“Using clean, locally sourced wood waste, this expansion will produce up to 70 percent of our Vancouver campus’ annual thermal production while eliminating an average of 14,500 tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.”