Nova Scotia

Province awards contracts for 6 wood heat projects in public buildings

The Nova Scotia government's most tangible effort to diversify the forestry sector since the closure of Northern Pulp happened Monday with the awarding of contracts for six district heating projects. But the move also underscores how much work remains.

Conversion to district heating intended to help forestry sector, reduce fuel costs

A display in the room that houses the district heating system at Université Sainte-Anne in Pointe-de-l'Église, N.S., shows the various stages wood chips go through as they enter and exit the gasification furnace. The school has used the heating system since 2009. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government's most tangible effort to diversify the forestry sector since the closure of Northern Pulp happened Monday with the awarding of contracts for six district heating projects. But the move also underscores how much work remains.

The contracts are for designing, building and operating boilers that use wood chips to heat public buildings, and include long-term agreements to source the chips from private woodlot owners and sawmills.

They are:

  • Mira Forestry Development Ltd. will convert Memorial High School in Sydney Mines and Riverview High School in Sydney.

  • Wood4heating Canada Inc. will convert Perennia Park Atlantic Centre for Argi-Innovation and Hants East Rural High School.

  • Spec Resources Inc. will convert the Nova Scotia Community College's Centre of Geographic Sciences.

  • ACFOR Energy Inc. will construct a two-building district heating network for the Bridgewater provincial courthouse and local NSCC campus.

The projects are expected to be in place during this heating season. They are being constructed in exterior buildings to allow for potential future expansions.

How much all of this will cost remains unknown, and the government suggested Monday that the public use the freedom-of-information system if they want to learn the answer.

A statement from the Department of Lands and Forestry said capital for the heating systems is provided by the private sector and incorporated into the contract price over 20 years.

"It would [be] best to go through FOIPOP for more information about the terms of the contract as a cautious review is required before considering the release of business information that may affect future negotiations," said the statement.

A news release from the province said additional sites are being considered for expanding the program. Lands and Forestry Department officials have previously said they have a list of about 100 public buildings that have been deemed good candidates for conversion to wood heat, a move that's intended to lower fuel costs while providing new opportunities for local forestry operators.

Since Northern Pulp shut down at the end of January after failing to secure environmental assessment approval to build a new effluent treatment facility, a key concern for people in the forestry industry has been where to send wood chips.

Although the district heating plan creates a new market for chips, it is but a splinter of what Northern Pulp consumed.

The Pictou County pulp mill went through about a million tonnes of wood chips a year when it was operating. By comparison, the six district heating projects combined are expected to use between 2,000 and 2,500 tonnes of chips each year.

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