• Emily Hope
  • Glenn Fox
Keywords: Natural gas, fuel prices, biomass, heating systems, broiler barn


Recent advances in extraction have increased the supply of natural gas and increased the relative price difference between it and alternative fuels.  However, natural gas is not available in many rural areas forcing poultry producers unable to access natural gas to use more expensive fuels. This paper determines the least cost appliance system and fuel source for heating a broiler chicken barn in Ontario, Canada. The empirical model estimates the amount of heat required for poultry production, selects appropriate heating appliances and fuel types, and calculates the final present value of costs over a 20-year period. Appliances examined include box heaters, radiant tube heaters and biomass boilers; fuels examined include natural gas, propane, heating oil and biomass.  Natural gas is the least cost fuel for both box heaters and radiant tube heaters assuming there is an existing connection to a gas pipeline.  However, natural gas heating systems become the most expensive approach if the poultry operator has to pay for a pipeline connection to the gas source. With no direct connection for natural gas, biomass boilers are the most cost efficient heating system, followed closely by radiant tube heaters fuelled by propane. Heating oil is the most expensive fuel examined and its costs are nearly double that for comparable box heaters and radiant tube heaters using propane.


Black, J. 2013. Clark Ag Systems: Radiant Tube Heater Quotes. Personal Communication.

Choi, H. C., Salim, H. M., Akter, N., Na, J. C., Kang, H. K., Kim, M. J., Kim, D. W., Bang, H. T., Chae, H. S., and Suh, O. S. 2012. Effect of heating system using a geothermal heat pump on the production performance and housing environment of broiler chickens. Poult Sci, 91(2): 275-81.

Clarke, S., Birchmore, J., and Hope, E. 2013. Biomass for Heat in Non-Natural Gas Areas of the Province. Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, Guelph, Ontario.

Czarick, M. and Donald, J. N.D. Radiant Tube Heaters for Poultry Houses.

Deen, B. 2014. Poultry Heating Costs. Personal Communication, January 28, 2014.

Government of Alberta 2014. Space Heating in Poultry Production

Hughes, H. A. 1981. Alternative Energy Sources for Brooding Poultry. Poult Sci, 60: 907-10.

National Resource Canada 2000. Buyer's guide to small commerical biomass combustion systems. Ottawa.

Natural Resources Canada. 2014a. Average Retail Prices for Auto Propane Prices in Canada. http://www2.nrcan.gc.ca/eneene/sources/pripri/prices_bycity_e.cfm?PriceYear=2013
&ProductID=6&LocationID=66#PriceGraph (accessed January 7, 2014).

Natural Resources Canada. 2014b. Average Retail Prices for Furnace Oil in Canada. http://www2.nrcan.gc.ca/eneene/sources/pripri/prices_bycity_e.cfm?PriceYear=2013 &ProductID=7&Location ID=66#PriceGraph (accessed January 7, 2014).

Ontario Energy Board 2013. Natural Gas Rates, Historical. http://www.ontarioenergyboard.ca/OEB/Consumers/Natural%20Gas/Natural%20Gas%20Rates/Natural%20Gas%20Rates%20-%20Historical (accessed December 4).

Ontario Minsitry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs 2010. Ventilation for Livestock and Poultry Facilities. Toronto, Canada: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs.

Palisade Corporation. @RISK, 6.2, (accessed February 24).

Suave, T. 2013. 'Southgate Clusters Biomass Boiler Rough Estimates.' in Southgate Clusters Biomass Boiler Rough Estimates. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs.

United States Energy Information Administration 2014. U.S. Propane Residental Price. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=M_EPLLPA_PRS_NUS_DPG&f=M (accessed March 25).

Ward, D. 2013. Heating Metrics and Heating Exchangers. Personal Communication, October 17th, 2013.
--- 2014. Real Poultry Heating Costs. Personal Communication, January 28, 2014.