UBC receives new equipment for wood pellet research

Shahab Sokhansanj
November 03, 2017
Written by Shahab Sokhansanj
Bioenergy Research & Development Facilities at UBC where the new pelletization system will be installed.
Bioenergy Research & Development Facilities at UBC where the new pelletization system will be installed.
Nov. 3, 2017 - The wood pellet research laboratory (BBRG) at the University of British Columbia is getting a boost of $250,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The funding is part of a larger grant of $1.8 million to a larger group of UBC researchers to further support the development of the UBC’s biorefining research and innovation capacity. Founded in 1997, the CFI funds state-of-the-art research infrastructure (facilities and equipment) that Canadian researchers will use to conduct world-class research.


The one-time infrastructure grant will be used to acquire a new pilot scale pellet mill complete with hammer mill, conditioning chamber, pellet press, pellet cooling system, and screens for fine removal. The new equipment will augment the already well established facilities for investigations on pellet production, handling and storage. In addition to pilot scale continuous pellet system, a new precision single pellet press will enable the scientists to study the development of new formulations, design, and operating conditions to manufacture high quality pellets. The single pellet press is capable of controlling temperature, moisture, particle size, and speed of compaction, and pressure.

In addition to the densification equipment, a pilot scale continuous heat treatment (pyrolysis) system is planned to test the commercial production of biochar and biocoal. The equipment will be installed in the existing Bioenergy Research and Development Facilities where the Nexterra gasifier is located. The close proximity to the gasifier will facilitate the translation of fundamental research into new prototypes and, ultimately, scalable, market-ready sustainable bioproducts.

The pilot scale pellet mill will be managed by BBRG at UBC. The BBRG is a world-class research group, based at the University of British Columbia. The group conducts advanced research and develops innovative solutions to meet the needs of the emerging biobased businesses in Canada and around the world. To meet its goals, BBRG is made up of a core group of engineers and scientists focused on turning raw biomass into industrial feedstock that would meet the requirements of producing high value intermediate chemicals and biofuels.

The main technical activities of the group consists of evaluating the physical and chemical properties in relation to biomass size reduction, drying, pelletization, and best practices for safe handling and storage of biomaterials. The group has also unique expertise in developing mathematical models for conducting feedstock supply chain simulations and techno economic assessments. In short, BBRG bridges the often neglected gap between raw biomass source and biomass conversion. As feedstock engineers, BBRG integrates all the processes and management strategies involved from biomass harvest until just prior to final conversion to bioenergy, and bioproducts:

  • Supply chain logistics – modeling and analysis
  • Resource assessment and analysis
  • Physical and chemical characterization of biomass
  • Densification that includes drying, size reduction, pelletization
  • Best practices for storage and handling of raw biomass and ready to deploy feedstock
  • Life cycle analysis, cost benefit analysis
BBRG collaborates with industry and government to meet the needs of the emerging bioeconomy. The research ranges from fundamental laboratory experiments to applied, short-term contract work for companies and other organizations on strategic biomass opportunities. The group’s vision is to preserve and enhance the UBC’s position as a global leader in biomass and bioenergy sciences and engineering. Our mission is to enable the emergence of a sustainable biobased businesses through coordinated research, innovation and effective education. We are committed to understanding, creating and conducting world-class research in the area of biomass and bioenergy as well as technology development. Our work demonstrates that there is a viable, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

The overall goal of our research program is to upgrade raw biomass to consistent high quality feedstock for biofuel and bioproducts.
  • Conduct research and develop innovative technologies to supply, process, store and convert lignocellulosic biomass into a competitive high quality feedstock
  • Create and apply comprehensive logistical models and decision-support systems to ensure sustainable and economically competitive biomass supplies for the bio-based industry
  • Train and educate young engineers for the emerging bio-economy
  • Provide consultation and research services to biomass and bioenergy companies and associations
Partners (Industry and University): Wood Pellet Association of Canada, TimberWest, Pinnacle Renewable Energy, Western Forest Products, Global Bio Coal, Pinnacle Energy, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) -CEATI International Inc., LGI, Terminal Forest Products, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, ORNL, NRCAN CANBMET, Boeing, Air Canada, Altentech, BC Innovations, BC Ministry of Forest, City of Vancouver, Fibreco, FPInnovations, NRC, NORAM, Pacific Bio, Vattenfall, Weyerhaeuser, Zilkha Biomass Energy, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Applied Forest Science Rottenburg

HQP training
Since its inception in 2005, BBRG has trained and graduated more than 75 undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D.. BBRG has also hosted +150 visitors and researchers from around the world.

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