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College, CRIBE announce educational investment

CRIBE and Confederation College have teamed up to give students a chance to get hands-on training in the bio-energy field.
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Jim Madder gives a speech at Confederation College on Aug. 23, 2012. (Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com)

CRIBE and Confederation College have teamed up to give students a chance to get hands-on training in the bio-energy field.

Officials with the Centre for Research and Innovation in Bio-Economy announced Thursday they would provide more than $460,000 to develop a research facility at the college’s Thunder Bay campus.

The Bio-Energy Learning and Research Centre will contain a fuel testing lab, demonstration space and separate 150 KW boiler.
It’s the first centre in Ontario that will allow students hands-on-training in the bio-energy field.

College president Jim Madder said the research boiler should be up and running in a few months and that the college only had to provide about $100,000.

“We’re going to marry this with some of our renewable energy production systems as well,” Madder said. “So people who are in an engineering program may not be doing actual research but they are going to see how the whole system works. There’s a research component that a number of our students will be involved with.”

Around 20 to 30 students a year are expected to use the facility depending on the demand.

One of the biggest goals the research is hoping to accomplish is to expand biomass and other biomass industries in Northwestern Ontario, he said.

“The issue is to get the highest heat value out of the pellets,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of people doing research in this field. The second part is producing energy locally and remote communities. There’s an opportunity here to take small boilers and put them in remote communities who currently don’t have access to power.”

Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle said they have come full circle now that they have established a research centre.
“We’ve been talking about biomass for some time and now we’re seeing the results,” Gravelle said.

“It has taken us some time to get to this point but now we are moving forward with projects that will have real relevance to economic development here in Thunder Bay and all across Northern Ontario.”

CRIBE also provided more than $70, 000 in funding to Atikokan Renewable Fuels to begin testing natural additives to wood pellets. The testing is to improve performance of the pellets in cooperation with Lakehead University.

ARF’s Ed Fukushima said this latest funding will help to make Northwestern Ontario a major competitor in the production of wood pellets.
In the past, Fukushima has had to do testing in the United States so he said it’s beneficial to have a boiler in Thunder Bay.

“This funding from CRIBE is really going to help us do the work to ensure that we can produce a superior pellet,” Fukushima said. “We’ve been working on this for a long time and it’s gratifying to see things progress quickly now.”