Pilot project cleans the ice and the environment

Tilbury Ice Arena is one of 10 selected in the province for FortisBC
Tilbury Ice Arena is one of 10 selected in the province for FortisBC's 10-week pilot project that will use REALice technology on their zambonis.
— image credit: Contributed

New ice resurfacing technology powered by cold water and natural gas could have huge environmental and monetary savings for municipalities and ice rinks in B.C.

Tilbury Ice Arena is one of 10 selected in the province for FortisBC's 10-week pilot project that will use REALice technology on their zambonis.

Although new to North America, the technology has already been installed in 250 arenas across Europe. It was recently showcased in Malmo, Sweden, during the 2014 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

In fact, it was through this international exposure that Jim Kobialko, FortisBC's innovative technologies manager, became aware of the technology, which is developed by the company H2O Vortex/Watreco in Luxembourg.

"At FortisBC we promote the adoption of innovative energy saving and technology across B.C. and we consistently look at technology that will save natural gas," he said.

The company estimates that the 10 arenas will realize natural gas savings to the equivalent of heating 316 homes for a year over the pilot project, and reduce carbon emissions to the equivalent of removing 300 cars from the road.

"Anytime you reduce the use of natural gas you reduce carbon emissions," said Sarah Smith, Fortis' director of energy efficiency and conservation. "But of course it's not only an emission reduction. Saving natural gas and electricity also reduces the cost to municipalities and ice rink operators."

The projected annual natural gas savings range between 600 and 1,000 gigajoules and electrical savings of 50,000 kilowatt hours. That could translate to an energy cost savings of between $1,200 and $1,500 each month.

Kobialko said those estimates are conservative and the pilot project will better quantify the savings associated with the installation.

"Our goal in this pilot is to an objective observer so we don't make any warranties about the technology or the quality of the ice, but we are monitoring both the savings and the ice quality," he said.

The energy savings arise from the fact that this H2O Vortex technology allows for the use of cold water to resurface the ice. Typically, in the process of making ice the water has be heated up so there aren't any bubbles that will make a rough surface. The technology uses a spinning "vortex" to eliminate the microbubbles present in cold water, which in turn reduces natural gas consumption and the electrical demand from the refrigeration system under the ice surface.

With more than 200 ice hockey arenas in B.C. alone, Fortis sees a big opportunity for the technology.

So does the Corporation of Delta.

"It makes Delta and this arena an attractive option for sports teams and events, as most people and organizations are conscious of environmental impact these days,” said Coun. Robert Campbell, who also serves as chair of Delta’s parks, recreation and culture commission.

Fortis has invested $300,000 in funding 100 per cent of the equipment for the pilot project in all 10 participating municipalities.

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