Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, Adjunct Professor at UBC and Professor Emeritus from the University of Saskatchewan, received the Founder’s Award in Bioenergy Excellence. This prestigious award recognizes his outstanding contributions to the field of bioenergy.
Dr. Sokhansanj received the award at the recent 7th International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition (http://www.bioenergyconference.org/).
Please join us in warmly congratulating Shahab!
The Climate Leadership Plan released by the Government of Alberta in November 2015 aims to accelerate the transition from coal to renewable electricity sources, put a price on carbon pollution and set emissions limits for oil sands.
In January 2016, Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) held a meeting at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Delegates from BBRG, Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), FPInnovations,BioFuelNet, BC Bioenergy Network and the Wood Pellet Sector came together to discuss the ways to introduce biomass as a sustainable and renewable fuel source to decarbonize the power generation in Alberta. Subsequently, a one-day Biomass Cofiring Workshop took place in Edmonton. The overall objective of the workshop was set to address one single question “Why cofiring biomass with coal is a viable option to reduce the carbon intensity of coal-fired power plants in Alberta?” To this end, WPAC teamed up with BBRG and Canadian Biomass Magazine to organize the workshop. Over 125 delegates from power generators, biomass producers, sawmills, public and private forest managers, engineering companies, universities, and government came together on May 4th, 2016, to engage in a discussion on biomass cofiring in Alberta. This workshop was sponsored by BioFuelNet, Canadian Clean Power Coalition, Premium Pellet Ltd., Alberta Innovates-BioSolutions and NSERC.
Experts from various organizations covered different aspects of biomass cofiring opportunity in Alberta. UBC’s BBRG members, Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, Dr. Mahmood Ebadian, Dr. Fahimeh Yazdanpanah and Ryan Jacobson, Ph.D. student presented the results of their research on “logistics of supplying wood pellets to coal-fired power plants in Alberta”. Their research sheds some light on woody biomass availability in Alberta and British Columbia, logistics scenarios to supply woody biomass from forest stands to the gate of the coal power plants, the logistics costs and modification costs of the power plants, and the number of potential employment created across the supply chain.
The message at the end of the workshop was clear: cofiring forest biomass with coal is a technically and commercially viable option to combat the climate change in Alberta. However, more collective and prompt efforts are required among different stakeholders to put biomass cofiring on the government’s agenda as a viable option to phase out coal in Alberta.
The Advanced Biofuels Symposium (ABS) is the largest annual biofuels meeting in Canada.
This 3-day ABS 2016 event showcased BFN innovation, provided a forum for sharing best practices, and offered an opportunity to share information about advances outside BFN.
The ABS enables BFN leadership to hold closed-door sessions where new opportunities for collaboration are identified. The ABS is also an important social event that encourages team building and strengthens the biofuels community in Canada.
This Symposium brings together multi-disciplinary experts in the energy field, including top researchers, industry leaders and innovators from many sectors, to discuss key issues related to the development of a thriving advanced biofuels industry. This annual event also enhances coordination of research efforts in Canada, and fosters new ideas for research, collaboration and business development, in order to pave a sustainable path toward the commercialization of advanced biofuels.
ABS 2016 Highlights
The Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) will be hosting the workshops. Researchers across Canada, US and Europe will attend the event.
Workshop 1 (September 21, 2016)
Landscape Management and Design for Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy
Workshop participants will have the opportunity to share views and experiences and, in this way, provide a basis for identifying challenges and opportunities related to landscape management and design. A workshop outcome report is planned, which will summarize important concerns, knowledge gaps and research questions that should be followed up in subsequent activities.
Workshop 2 (September 22, 2016)
Mobilisation of Forest Biomass to Produce Bioenergy, Biofuels and Bioproducts: Challenges and Opportunities.
This event aims to bring together stakeholders from different countries to identify and discuss opportunities, challenges, best practices and knowledge gaps in the area of forest biomass mobilization for the sustainable production of bioenergy (including liquid fuels) and bioproducts. The workshop will be built around presenting real case studies concerning the deployment and the development of forest biomass supply chains. These case studies will be selected to cover a range of geographic regions, feedstocks, end-products and the maturity of project development, and a plenary discussion defining/highlighting the critical challenges, opportunities, and best practices.
The workshop will provide the material for drafting a report on best practices and recommendations for mobilization of forest biomass, to be published jointly by BioFuelNet and IEA Bioenergy.
Engineering Research Day 2016 was hosted by the Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) Graduate Students Club with support from the CHBE department and Faculty of Applied Science (APSC) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It was held on February 11, 2016. The event was a graduate student-driven initiative with the goal of enhancing relations between academia and industry and to connect the two communities. The theme of the event was “Energy Solutions for Sustainable Future”.
Research Day Organizing Team
The full day event included undergrad and grad students, researchers, alumni and faculty members from all engineering disciplines across the Faculty of Applied Science as well as industry representatives.
The agenda of the Research Day featured two keynotes, a centennial lecture alongside with a poster session, undergraduate student design teams and Three Minute Thesis competitions.
Poster Session, Three minute Thesis and Student Design Teams competitions showcased and exposed research projects across UBC APSC to the industrial partners. These sessions engaged the industry in the interesting projects conducted in UBC APSC with the hope of future collaborations.
CHBE-UBC Research Day- Poster Session
Key talks from the distinguished professors provided a broad picture on “Engineering solutions for sustainable future” and gave students, faculty members and industry professionals a perspective where the technology is heading. One of a particular interest to CSBE was the centennial lecture on “The Future of Fossil Carbons with Implications for Engineering” by a world-renowned specialist Prof. Axel Meisen - President of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. He talked about different technology pathways to produce energy including conventional and renewable energy sources. He also talked about the emerging technologies that can use fossil fuels for other applications such as the replacement of structural steel by carbon fibres, conventional glass by polycarbonates, and copper by nano-carbons. Two other presentations concerned “Plasma Processes for Resource Recovery and Energy Applications” and “Engineering porous materials for fun and profit”.
In the afternoon session, a panel discussion on “Life after Grad School” was held. Academia, industry and entrepreneurs discussed job search strategy and entrepreneurship for graduate students.
CSBE is pleased to sponsor this event and to become part of this successful event. Mahmood Ebadian, the BC regional director of CSBE, participated in this event. He was a judge for undergraduate student design competition. He also delivered a short speech on behalf of all the event sponsors at the end of the event. He thanked the event organizers for putting such a great event together. He found the event very informative and essential for students to present their research, talk to their peers and develop their professional network by meeting and talking to the industrial representatives.
If you arrive in Vancouver by plane, one sight that will probably catch your eye during your short trip from the airport to Downtown Vancouver is collections of timber floating on the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River. These collections of timbers are known as log booms, used to collect and transport sawlogs and pulp logs (Figure 1). Log booms have been practiced for decades in the coastal region of British Columbia (BC) to move large volumes of timbers from forests to wood manufacturing facilities. Log booms are towed by tugboats hundreds of meters or kilometers to get to their destination. This practice provides forest companies with a cost-efficient mode of transporting and storing harvested timbers before the delivery to wood manufacturing sites.
Figure 1. Tugboat pushing log boom near Vancouver (Photo by Gordon, Wikimedia Commons)
However, towing log booms in the salt water highway creates a challenge for wood processing facilities. Water transportation exposes wood fibres to chlorine in the water. In addition, soaking sawlogs in the water increases the moisture content in wood fibres. High chlorine and moisture content make these fibres a less attractive feedstock for the residual industry including pulp and paper mills, pellet plants, bioenergy plants (heat and power), animal bedding and landscaping applications. Sawmills in the BC Coast do not usually separate different streams of their byproducts including sawdust, wood shaving and hog fuel as there are no individual markets for their by-products. Mill residues are usually mixed together and the whole mix is regarded as hog fuel. The mix of mill residues results in a large variation in the particle size of fibres in hog fuel (Figure 2). In addition, this hog fuel has a high moisture content (50-70%). The high level of precipitation on the BC Coast also contributes to the high moisture content of hog fuel. In contrast, sawmills in the BC Interior do not mix their mill residues and sell them to various markets based on the quality specifications of their end users. For example, sawdust and wood shavings are the feedstock of choice for pellet production and animal bedding while hog fuel is the raw material for heat and power production as well as landscaping. The separation of residue streams generate more value for forest companies.
Figure 2. A sample of hog fuel in the Coastal BC (Photo by Paul Adams)
The primary consumer of the coastal hog fuel is the pulp and paper industry. Hog fuel is used as feedstock for power boilers of pulp mills to produce heat and power. However, high moisture content and large portions of fine materials (up to 50% of hog fuel mass) have adversely affected the efficiency of boilers. The efficiency of power boilers usually reaches its lowest level during winter when the moisture content of hog fuel can be as high as 70%. The low efficiency of boilers are usually offset by using natural gas. Reduction in the moisture content and separation of fine materials can provide significant cost savings in the energy profile of the coastal pulp mills.
Altentech™ and SMG Wood Pellet, located in Vancouver with operations in the District of Mission in the Lower Mainland region of BC, have been working for the last seven years to develop technology solutions for the low quality of hog fuel in the BC Coastal region. These solutions include size segregation, grinding/shredding, drying and pelletization. This package of technology solutions would provide the opportunity to maximize the value extracted from large volumes of low quality hog fuel in this region. These solutions would also solve the challenges related to removing mill residues from sawmills sites.
The mission of Altentech™ and SMG Wood Pellet is to create multiple markets for the coastal hog fuel by (1) meeting the quality specifications of the pulp mills by removing the small particle-sized fibres and reducing the moisture content to a range of 30-35% (w.b.), (2) creating a new value stream for small particle-sized hog fuel for applications such as pellet and biofuel production and (3) attracting new businesses and technologies to maximize the residual resource utilization and value in any given geographical area. In addition to hog fuel, these solutions can help to maximize the amount of forest residues extracted from forests and produce a marketable wood fibre from these residues. Most of these forest residues are currently piled at the roadside of harvested forest stands and burned to reduce the fire risk and to avoid the risk of disease and pest infestation.
Figure 3. top photo: pile of hog fuel, bottom photo: Altentech™ dryer (Photos by Mahmood Ebadian, SMG Wood Pellet Plant, Mission, BC)
Altentech™ and SMG Wood Pellet are working closely with interested parties in the region to commercialize these technology solutions including BC Bioenergy Network (BCBN), Mission municipality, local communities, the forest sector and Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at UBC. Commercialization of these solutions generate social, economic and environmental benefits. Jobs creation for the local communities, new income streams from the coastal hog fuel and forest residues, producing low-carbon solid and liquid biofuels (e.g. pellet, biojet and green diesel) are the values generated by these technology solutions.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Paul Adams and Larry Taylor of Altentech™ and Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, the director of BBRG to prepare this news.
New BC regional director: Our BC chapter has a new regional director. We would like to welcome Dr. Mahmood Ebadian who joined our society in May 2015. Dr. Mahmood Ebadian received his Ph.D. in biomass and bioenergy supply chain management in 2013. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, UBC. He is also the founder of Biomass Supply Chain Consulting Ltd. We’d also like to thank Dr. Fahimeh Yazdanpanah, the outgoing BC regional director for dedicated service to our society.
Master program completion: We would like to congratulate our member, Hamid K Hamedani on the successful completion of his master program at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, UBC. He worked on the use of agricultural crop residue such as corn stover for power production in Ontario. He applied Integrated Biomass Supply Analysis and Logistics Model (IBSAL) model to simulate the biomass supply chain. Hamid investigated 3 case studies including: 1) Delivery cost of corn stover to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in Lambton, Ontario. 2) Delivery cost of switchgrass to a greenhouse in Ontario. 3) Delivery cost of switchgrass to mushroom industry to be used as bedding. This study was supervised by Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj and Dr. Anthony Lau and supported financially by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). The thesis can be downloaded at:
Production of biojet from woody biomass in Western Canada: The Boeing Company, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and SkyNRG have established a coalition on February 2015, to realize sustainable biofuel production derived from woody biomass in Western Canada. Two of our members, Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj and Dr. Tony Bi are the principal investigators of feedstock assessment and technology assessment, respectably. Dr. Jack Saddler at the Faculty of Forestry is the principal investigator of policy assessment in this project. Rather than just focusing on research, the goal of the coalition is to catalyze the development of both the technology and a future supply chain. More details of the project will be released in the next newsletter.
Wood pellets loading may be continued during light rain: In the face of climate change, more than 17 million tonnes of wood pellets are used as a carbon-neutral replacement to coal or heating oil in residential heating and power generation. British Columbia is the Canadian biggest exporters of wood pellets with more than two million tonnes produced in 2014. During the journey from the rainy BC coast to the consumers, pellets are exposed to weather element during loading at the port. Pellet moisture content are increased from initial moisture content of 5%. Current loading protocol is to stop loading at any event of rain, regardless of the rain intensity, to prevent deterioration in pellet quality. A robust experiment has to be conducted to confirm whether loading should be allowed under light rain conditions. With the financial support of the Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., our member, Jun Sian Lee, a PhD student at the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group of University of British Columbia is simulating the different rain intensities by applying water on the pellets at different rates and time. The initial results show that at rain intensity less than 0.5 mm/hr, loading of pellets may continue for more than 1 hour, before mechanical durability of pellets drops below 96.5%. In addition, loading of wood pellets during light rain conditions (rain intensity less than 0.5 mm/hr) may be continued for an extended amount of time.
3rd International Conference on Solid Waste in Hong Kong, May 19-23, 2015: our member, Ehsan Oveisi, a Ph.D. Candidate at the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at UBC attended the 3rd International Conference on Solid Waste in Hong Kong on May 19-23, 2015. The conference provided a stage to explore a variety of topics related to sustainable waste management practices. Participants to the conference were not only limited to academia, but delegates from industries, governments, and the public also joined the conference for discussion. There was a pre-conference workshop on Advanced Thermal Technology. This workshop provided an overview of waste-to-energy utilization around the world. It also discussed about the process aspect of thermal treatments of solid waste. The economic aspect of waste-to-energy plants was covered as well. The main programs included the following topics
Ehsan also attended the technical field trip to SENT Landfill at Tsuen Kwan and a restored landfill (Ngau Chi Wan Park) at Jordan valley. The SENT landfill demonstrates how a modern landfill is managed and operated. The restored landfill is an example of future landfills in Hong Kong. By 2020 all remaining landfills in Hong Kong will be terminated and restored to public facilities such as parks and residential areas.
Ehsan presented in the session of “Thermal Technology”. He presented the relationship between tar formation and biomass feedstock characteristics and operational conditions in an updraft gasifier. The results from both the impinger and CanmetENERGY tar sampling methods confirmed that gasification temperature had a negative effect on the amount of tar and the major constituent naphthalene. High gasification temperature resulted in better syngas composition, and produced greater heating value of the syngas. This study also found that temperature was affected by the operational conditions including fuel feeding rate and oxygen level in the system. A slightly higher moisture content could also lead to lower tar formation.
Development of steam conditioning process to enhance the properties of biomass pellets: Steam explosion can improve the density, durability and high heat value of the pellets derived from both agricultural and woody biomass. Bahman Ghiasi, another Ph.D. Candidate at the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) is evaluating the magnitude of this improvement. The results of his experiment show that steam explosion have a great impact on mass density and bulk density of pellets. This impact was observed in both woody biomass (e.g Pine and Douglas fir) and agricultural biomass (e.g. wheat straw, switchgrass, corn stover, miscanthus, and bagasse). The single pellet density gets to 1.35g/cm3 which is even much higher than the density of white industrial pellets. As a development to his previous test, he made better conditioning of steam exploded material prior to the densification and as a result, the durability of steam treated pellet increased significantly. The durability of pellet was higher than 99%. The steam explosion process removes the rigidity of the biomass and also helps to separate fibers. This assists in both pelletization and leaching process. Washing test result for both steam exploded and raw material shows that steam explosion eases the access of water and other solvents to the fiber structure and helps to remove salt and ash.
We face significant challenges with the continued use of oil, from concerns about carbon emissions contributing to climate change to on-going depletion of finite oil reserves affecting the lifestyles of future generations. It is inevitable that we will have to evolve from a finite, hydrocarbon driven global industry to a more sustainable, “carbohydrate based” society. Being a forest rich province, transformation to bioeconomy provides enormous opportunities to British Columbia for the effective utilisation of its abundantly available forest biomass.
One of the consequences of climate change we had to face in BC was the mountain pine beettle infestation of the trees. This beetle generally plays an important role in the life of the forest, attacking old and weakened trees and promoting the growth of young forests. However, warmer summers and mild winters in BC resulted in the spread of the epidemic to more than half a million hectares in 1990. Growing imbalance on the climate change has caused a much vigorous spread by the end of the decade reaching approximately 15 million hectares of infested trees. This has created an abundance of wood beyond its traditional applications such as lumber or pulp and paper and created potential opportunities to use these biomass resources as a future feedstock for biorefinery.
Despite the abundant availability, one of the biggest challenges for the large scale processing of biomass is their low bulk density and high moisture content which limit their long distance transportation over long distances. It has been shown that in order meet IEA target of reducing the carbon emissions by 2050, we have to trade and process approximately 100 billion cubic meters of biomass, which is an order of magnitude higher than today’s global energy commodity infrastructure. This is where densification technologies can make a difference. Densification processes such as pelletisation can enhance the bulk density of biomass 4-6 times higher thus improving the tradability of biomass over long distances.
Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the export of wood pellets from Canada to Europe or Asia. However, a combination of higher oil prices, relief from oil import dependency and carbon reduction strategies of several nations have made the co-firing of biomass for electricity production more economically and socially desirable. Together with these factors, densification of biomass substantially changed the economics of moving biomass around the globe. In the last 10 years, global wood pellets production has increased from zero to 16 million tonnes. Canada, together with the USA, is the world’s largest pellet exporters exceeding two million tonnes in 2013 with British Columbia being the dominant exporter of pellets as was triggered by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Most of the Canadian wood pellets are exported to Europe over a distance of 16,000 km.
Canada is committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. To meet this target, Canada is supporting the development of next generation technologies including biofuels. At present, Canada is supplying approximately 3% of its total energy demand from biomass but this is expected to increase to 6-10% within the next decade. British Columbia has set a GHG reduction target of 33% by 2020. CHP systems with efficiencies more than 65% can play a major role in cleaning the environment and creating jobs. UBC-BRDF is an example of modern CHP systems made by Nexterra. Nexterra is developing and marketing state-of-the-art biomass gasification technologies in Canada and the U.S.
Gasification is a common thermochemical technology used for converting feedstock such as biomass into a combustible gas mixture (syngas) by partial oxidation under high temperature condition. The syngas may be burnt directly for heating or used as a fuel for gas engines and turbines. Syngas can also be used as feedstock for the production of chemicals. In gasifiers the partial combustion of solid fuel produces combustible gases such as H2, CO, and CH4. In contract, in complete combustion of biomass CO2, O2, N2, and water are produced. In gasification biomass is continuously converted to charcoal where carbon and steam are converted to CO and H2. In addition to combustible gasses tar and dust are the side products in gasification systems.
Nearly all types of biomass can be utilized in a gasifier to generate syngas. Variations in the physical, mechanical and chemical characteristics of the feedstock can impact the performance of the CHP system. When biomass is used as feedstock, the feedstock’s journey starts from the sources where the “unused” woody materials are generated. The biomass is then collected at the recycling yard for temporary storage and preprocessing. In the next step, the processed feedstock is shipped to UBC-BRDF for utilization. The solid fuel is fed into the facility and it goes through several stages before it’s been used. Variations in the physical, mechanical and chemical characteristics of the feedstock can impact the performance of the CHP system including the tar formation.
The UBC Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (UBC-BRDF) consists of a biomass gasification system (Nexterra Systems Corp., Vancouver, BC) for combined heat and power production (CHP: 2 MW electricity and 3 metric tonnes of steam per hour). The estimated annual wood fuel requirement for the system is 28,000 metric tonnes (at 50% moisture content wet mass basis). The performance and the economic viability of the system rely upon the syngas quality.
Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) has had a grand number of graduates in the past year. The majority of these graduates were members of the CSBE community. The most recent graduates are:
Jianghong Peng, PhD.
Asal Hashemi, MASc.
Zahra Tooyserkani, PhD.
Mahmood Ebadian, PhD.
Xiao He, PhD.
Wendi Guo, PhD.
Fahimeh Yazdanpanah, PhD.