Energy, Mines and Resources

Energy Branch / Energy Solutions Centre

Burwash Landing district heating system

Kluane First Nation installed a district heating system in Burwash Landing in 1998. The system provides heat produced from a wood chip hot water boiler to the Jacquot Hall, the First Nation administrative building, Sedata building, and garage via an underground system of pipes. In 2014, the district heating system generated approximately 223,000 kWh of heat generated by 40-60 cords of wood chipped on site. Biomass for the system is harvested locally and chipped using a Bandit chipper.

Project Benefits

  • Uses a local resource;
  • People get out on the land and foster their traditional relationship to it;
  • Reduces a potential fire hazard near Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay; 
  • Provides employment opportunities to residents; and,
  • Kluane First Nation saves money by reducing the amount of diesel used.

Project Profile

Kluane First Nation developed the district heating system, rated at 2 MBTU/hr, to make use of surplus wood in the community. A forest fire in the area in 1999, further added to the availability of biomass. Heat was primarily generated from oil and propane prior to installing the system. System design was contracted from the Alberta-based APSCO Engineering Ltd.

A local champion was key as the community learned about the system and dealt with the installation challenges that often accompany biomass systems.

One such challenge was variability in heat transfer from the boiler during its first few years of use. As much as 20°C of heat could be lost through the distribution pipes. The local champion, a former employee of the First Nation’s Public Works and Municipal Services Department, replaced the steel piping with thermos-flex piping. This reduced the heat loss to 2°C and enabled Kluane First Nation to save on the amount of wood used in the boiler and associated costs.

The local champion also worked to: 

  • improve the efficiency of the system's auger;
  • improve the performance of the chipper; and,
  • determine how often the heat exchanger needed to be cleaned, which turned out to be every four years, more often than initially expected.

Lessons learned

  • A local champion – and patience – are required for the successful start-up of a biomass system in a remote area. Kluane First Nation’s Public Works department spent considerable time fine-tuning the district energy system so that it worked properly. This was not anticipated at the project’s outset;
  • Sourcing a local supply of wood is a simple and direct undertaking that can provide economic benefits to the community;
  • Biomass systems are modular. Systems can be expanded or recreated without the need to reinvent complex connections or complete new technical studies; and,
  • Estimates of the useful life of a biomass system are accurate  

Project outcome

In the fall of 2015, the boiler for the district heating system developed major leaks and was found to be irreparable.

This confirmed the biomass system and boiler’s life cycle to be about 20 years.

Kluane First Nation replaced the failed boiler with an outdoor, log-fed, wood boiler rated at 1 mBTU/h.


Logo of the Kluane First NationThis case study was done in partnership with the Kluane First Nation.





For more information:

Government of Yukon
Energy branch

Kluane First Nation
Kate Ballegooyen
Environment Officer

This case study was prepared in collaboration with the Kluane First Nation.