Butler wins Community Energy Challenge

Thomas Butler, fourth-year green process engineering, recently won the FortisBC Community Energy Challenge, a competition held in conjunction with the International Student Energy Summit (ISES) in Vancouver, June 9-11.

Competitors were asked to develop a district energy system for a fictional town called Sustainaville. Butler’s team, Team Synergy, successfully battled their way through a series of five tough challenges including: environmental and economic assessment, video marketing, alternative transportation evaluations and presentations.

The challenge gave competitors a high-level overview of what it takes to develop a community energy system. Teams of students selected by FortisBC and ISES organizers created mock community energy systems complete with innovative energy sources, such as waste water treatment facilities or steel mills, as well as vehicles powered by other fuels including natural gas, biodiesel, electricity, or hydrogen.

Team Synergy’s project involved the use of biomass from a wastewater processing facility as an energy source. Their system consisted of an anaerobic digestion unit as well as a gasification plant. By implementing a single pipeline through the town, they were able to minimize the amount of pipe required while maximizing the number of buildings that could be connected immediately and in the future. Team Synergy also proposed biogas fuelled buses which would run on biogas produced from their facility.

Butler and his team members come from various educational backgrounds, including biology, economics, and environmental planning. “My focused education in the Green Process program has exposed me to a wide variety of technologies and policies which I utilized in the competition,” says Butler, who is entering the last year of his module.

In 2009, with support from Western Engineering, Butler traveled to the same conference in Calgary, Alberta where he won the Suncor Global Case Competition.

Western’s Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering generously supported his travels this year and Suncor paid his conference fees.

“Thomas came and talked me about the exciting project and I was very happy to support him in the contest,” says Ajay Ray, department chair of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering. “I am not at all surprised that Thomas’s team won the first prize.”

Butler is grateful for the support, stating: “I have been fortunate to take part in a variety of competitions to enhance my skills and gain experience and I hope to continue to compete this year.”

Butler also won Western’s first-year design competition and the Western Engineering Senior Design Competition.

ISES, a forum for post-secondary students to discuss global energy issues, was organized by a team of post-secondary students through the University of British Columbia’s Sustainability Initiative. This year’s summit was the second in a series of biennial conferences to take place in different cities around the world. FortisBC was a “Founding Sponsor” of ISES and also awarded bursaries to five students from across the province to attend ISES.

FortisBC is an integrated energy solutions provider focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity, propane and alternative energy solutions, at the lowest reasonable cost.