The story behind the Oujé-Bougoumous heating system

The community of Oujé-Bougoumou in Québec, Canada, was built by and for the native Cree tribe. Almost all the buildings have district heating and FVB has been involved right from the start.

It all started in 1992 when Oujé-Bougoumou was to be built. The site at that time consisted of forest, owned by the Cree.

"The Cree were given a grant by the state and province to build their community. FVB joined forces with Natural Resources Canada to conduct a study into the feasibility of district heating for Oujé-Bougoumou," says Bård Skagestad at FVB in Edmonton, who has been involved with the project since it started.

Natural Resources Canada is a department within the Canadian government responsible for the country's natural resources, energy and minerals. Liaison with the native population is an important part of its work. One of the key factors is increased understanding of the importance of engaging with these groups in a respectful and fair manner in the handling of Canada's natural resources.

Sustainable energy solution
"The Cree liked the idea of district heating as a sustainable energy solution. It also meant they were self-sufficient and could use local fuels in the form of waste from a sawmill and from their own forest. We were contracted to design the district heating system with both a production plant and a distribution system, which we did using personnel from Sweden and Canada," explains Bård Skagestad.

The solution, which FVB also implemented the initial phases of, consists of three biofuel-fired furnaces with a total capacity of 4 MW, three oil-fired reserve furnaces with a total capacity of 4.5 MW and a 15 km long distribution system. Just over 200 dwellings and 25 public buildings receive district heating from the system, which means almost every building in Oujé-Bougoumou. The district heating system is owned by Oujé- Bougoumou. FVB has been involved with the district heating system since the start, with the exception of 1995–2005 when another contractor was responsible. Something that did not go so well, according to Bård Skagestad.

"They made several changes to the system, which caused a lot of problems. The main one was loss of the difference temperatures (Delta T), which resulted in low difference pressure and flow in parts of the system, which in turn led to some buildings not getting enough heat," he explains.

FVB has made several improvements to the system since 2006. One of them was to hydraulically disconnect the furnaces in the production plants to increase the available difference pressure in the distribution system. Another critical measure to increase Delta T was to modify the district heating control systems to get better flow balance and regulation.

The district heating system was also improved after a serious fire in 2016 in one of the heating plants.

"It was caused by maintenance work and almost the entire biofuel heating plant went up in flames. Almost the entire community lost their heating, because their reserve plant was connected in series with that plant.

This vulnerability was a big eye-opener for the community, and for us. We were contracted to build a new production facility and build in more redundancy by separating the existing production plants," says Bård Skagestad.

High redundancy
The result was two heating plants able to work independently of each other and updated with new technology.

"Oujé-Bougoumou now has a more efficient district heating system with high redundancy. The community continues to grow, which means that the district heating system also continues to expand. And that means we still have a role to play, which we are pleased about. It's not often you get the chance to build a district heating system for a new community and can continue to develop it," says Bård Skagestad.

Almost all the buildings in Oujé-Bougoumou have district heating. The fact that their district heating is sustainable is something the Cree regard as extra important.

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