Corix Biomass Project: Frequently Asked Questions

SFU and SFU Community Trust are collaborating with Corix Multi-Utility Services Inc. to build a biomass plant that will divert wood waste from landfills and help reduce greenhouse gasses at the University. 

Please see below for answers to frequently asked questions about this project. 

What are the benefits of this project?

The major benefit of this project is reducing SFU’s carbon footprint. In SFU’s 2020-2025 Strategic Sustainability Plan, one of the outlined goals is developing and applying innovations in climate change mitigation to our operational decisions, including heating. Once the plant is running, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at SFU’s Burnaby campus and UniverCity by 80 per cent. That’s a reduction of 11,600 tonnes of CO2 annually—and it will put SFU on track to achieve or surpass its provincially-mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets for both 2020 and 2050. 

Where is the plant being constructed?

The plant is being constructed on the south side of the Burnaby campus, across from the South Sciences Building on South Campus road. 

How does the biomass plant work?

The project involves a high-efficiency heating plant that burns biomass (clean, urban wood waste). The energy created by burning biomass will heat hot water, which will then be transported via underground pipes to heat most of the SFU campus and UniverCity. Currently, we have a gas-fired hot water heating system—we burn natural gas to heat water, which travels through pipes to provide heat to the university. With the plant, we will heat water with the energy from the burning wood waste. 

At peak times, such as in the winter, we will be able to provide heat to the Burnaby campus and UniverCity almost entirely using this greenhouse-sustainable source rather than burning natural gas. In the summer, this system will be throttled down significantly to only provide domestic heating (for example, hot water for showers). 

Why is there a smokestack on the buildling? 

As urban wood waste is burned to produce heat for the university, it will create a mixture of smoke and steam, which will exit the facility through this smokestack. 

Is the smoke harmful?

No, the smoke is not harmful. Metro Vancouver has strict limits around the amount of particles this plant can emit. Emissions from this facility will not exceed these limits, and the plant will be continuously monitored to ensure that air quality on Burnaby mountain is not affected. 

Isn’t the smoke polluting the environment? How is this a better solution than natural gas? 

All large-scale energy use requires the production of emissions. By moving from natural gas to clean urban wood waste as a fuel source, SFU will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. Although the Corix Biomass plant may produce emissions we can see, what matters is that they are less impactful emissions in the long run.

When will smoke start coming out of the stack? Will smoke always come out of the stack? 

You can expect to see smoke first start coming out of the stack in July and August while the plant is being tested. Smoke will only come out of the stack when the plant is active—so you can expect to see continuous smoke during the winter months (late September to early May), and less or no smoke during the summer months.

What is wood waste? Where does the wood waste come from?

Clean wood waste includes wood chips, shavings and other construction wood waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. This wood waste will be brought in from local sources around Metro Vancouver. 

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information about the Corix Biomass project, contact Communications Officer Bonnie Kwan