Utility building Biomass CHP plant for Quebec Tribal community

Feb. 6, 2023
The project will have a capacity of 4.8 MW and provide reliable, sustainable and renewable electricity to the community. The facility is expected to begin operation in July 2026

Canadian energy utility Hydro-Québec has reached an agreement with the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan and the Société en commandite Onimiskiw Opitciwan (SCOO) to build a forest biomass cogeneration plant in Opitciwan in Quebec.

The agreement has a 25-year term with the option for a 15-year extension. It also includes the acquisition and installation of a dryer at the Opitciwan sawmill, which is majorly owned by the Conseil des Atikamekw d’Opitciwan (CAO).

According to the company, the project will have a capacity of 4.8 MW and provide reliable, sustainable and renewable electricity to the community. The facility is expected to begin operation in July 2026.

The cost of the project is estimated at C$60.2 million (about $45M U.S., at current exchange rates), with contributions from the provincial and federal governments and investments from CAO and SCOO. The project is expected to create 40 jobs during construction and 15 permanent jobs once in operation.

Cogeneration plants are combined heat and power (CHP) facilities which can produce both electricity and heat or steam for customers.

“The forest biomass cogeneration plant project holds great promise for our community and meets our essential electricity supply needs,” Jean-Claude Mequish, Chief of CAO, said. “Not only does it tick every box in terms of social acceptability, sustainability and technical viability, but it will also spur social and economic development. I am confident that the governments of Quebec and Canada will work together to ensure that the necessary funding is provided.”

The Atikamekw are a First Nations indigenous tribe of about 8,000 people broken up into several communities around northern Quebec. The Opitciwan community has close to 3,000 residents.

Hydro-Québec says the project represents a major step forward in environmental conservation and is expected to cut diesel consumption by 85 percent.

It adds that the new facilities will optimize the use of forestry resources, reduce odor and noise pollution, decrease reliance on fossil fuels and lower the transportation of wood products and diesel.

The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be 13,000 tons of CO2 equivalent annually, or 325,000 tons of CO2 equivalent over 25 years. This is equivalent to removing 5,000 cars from the roads each year.

“Replacing the current diesel plant with one that’s powered by forest biomass from the sawmill is a huge step forward,” Denis Clary, President of SCOO, said. “Not only will the impact be economic, with new well-paid jobs and promising development prospects, but it will also have major benefits for the environment. Cutting annual GHGs emissions is good for our people’s health and helps improve the environmental performance of Québec and Canada as well.”