Thunder Bay Campus Update – Biomass Boilers



Thunder Bay

There have been several concerns raised to Facilities, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) and Human Resources, regarding the scent of burning wood present on our Thunder Bay campus.

The scent is related to the way in which the College sustainably heats the Shuniah building, which is using a biomass heating system. The biomass boilers preheat the water within the hydronic heating system ahead of the natural gas boilers.  If the biomass boilers can provide enough heat into the system, the natural gas boilers will not come on.  The biomass boilers are set to start up whenever the temperature drops below five degrees, which is typically between the months of September and April of each year.

The biomass boilers have been heating the college sporadically since 2015. In the March of 2021, a new chip feed system was commissioned to enable the boilers to be utilized full time. The biomass wood chips are made from clean wood.  There is no processed or treated wood used in the boilers. 

The biomass boilers have been providing heat to the Shuniah building continuously since September of 2021. The “burning wood” smell that has been detected within the Shuniah building is likely a result of a combination of factors such as significant changes in prevailing winds coming from the east, slower operating conditions due to lower heating demand and an increase in the moisture of the chips supplied. 

Extensive testing has been conducted to ensure that biomass emissions are within acceptable levels as prescribed by the Ministry of Environment.  

Facilities is currently working with the engineering firm that conducted required emissions testing to now provide recommendations on how to minimize future “burning wood” scents being detected within the building. We will continue to provide updates regarding preventative measures taken to reduce the scent.

If you have remaining questions, please contact Facilities at [email protected].