Friday, 19 April 2013 10:00

First winter of wood pellets

Boiler expected to create savings of $100,000 yearly at Fort Simpson facility

A wood pellet boiler that was commissioned at the Fort Simpson central steam heating plant this winter is expected to create more than $100,000 in yearly savings.

fort simThe 850-Kw low-pressure steam pellet biomass boiler, fired by wood pellets, began operating in December. The plant provides heat for the Fort Simpson recreation centre along with Bompas Elementary School and Thomas Simpson School.

"We're very happy with the way things have gone," said John Vandenberg, the director of the territorial government's petroleum products division, who is also responsible for the Department of Public Works and Services office in Fort Simpson.

Plant upgraded

The plant was upgraded, with the wood pellet boiler by the department at a cost of $875,000, as part of the territorial government's energy priorities programs. The boiler is expected to displace 200,000 litres of heating fuel oil annually, 90 per cent of what the plant uses, which will reduce greenhouse gas emission by 536 tonnes, said Vandenberg.

The boiler is also able to create cost savings because wood pellets, the same type that are burned in residential wood pellet furnaces, are "significantly cheaper" than heating fuel oil, he said. The boiler is able to produce all of the heat needed throughout the winter by the three buildings connected to the plant.

Some heating fuel oil will still be used each year because the wood pellet boiler won't be fired up until winter has fully set in. At the beginning and end of each winter the pre-existing fuel oil boilers will be used to allow for greater control of the amount of heat produced, Vandenberg said. The fuel oil boilers also provide a backup if it is needed.

During this winter the fuel oil boilers were used a few times while the department's staff got used to the new boiler.

"Like any new installation there have been a few minor snags, but we have worked through them quite successfully," he said.

Vandenberg said the department looks forward to using the wood pellet boiler through a full winter season next year to fully assess its capability.

People in the recreation centre and two schools shouldn't be able to tell which of the boilers is in use, he said.

"It should be seamless and trouble-free and unnoticeable," said Vandenberg.

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