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Biomass Firm Invests $40M to Build 3 Wood Pellet Plants

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Drax Group is erecting several facilities in Arkansas that will have a combined capacity of 120,000 mt/yr of pellets.

Biomass producer and supplier Drax Group is preparing to launch a $40 million project to build three new wood pellet production plants in Arkansas, the firm announced in a recent release posted to the Arkansas Economic Development Corporation’s website.

The three “satellite” plants will have a combined capacity of about 120,000 kt/yr of wood pellets. Work on the first plant, located near a West Fraser sawmill in Leola, AR, is slated to commence this month. Drax plans to commission the new asset in October. Construction of the two other facilities will begin sometime in the next several months.

Drax’s new US pellet plants will supply renewable biomass to its power station in the UK. The company is working toward a goal of increasing its self-supply of biomass to 5 million tons by 2027.

“By building these new pellet plants, Drax is bringing jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas, boosting the state’s post-COVID economic recovery,” said the company’s CEO, Will Gardiner, in a statement. “Through this investment, Arkansas will play an important role in combatting climate change, supporting Drax to increase the amount of sustainable biomass we produce as part of our plants to pioneer bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. By using sustainable biomass, we have displaced coal-fired power generation, reduced carbon emissions, and provided renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses in the UK.”

Each facility will produce about 40 kt/yr of pellets using saw dust and other dry residual materials from wood processing operations. All three facilities will be co-located with sawmills.

“Families in different regions across the state will experience new opportunities and their communities will experience continued growth because of Drax’s investment,” said Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston in a release. “I congratulate Drax on this exciting news and look forward to the ways that Arkansas will be influential in accomplishing the company’s mission to provide renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses.”

Pellet products made at the Drax plants will be taken to the Bruce Oakley terminal in Little Rock and then shipped to a port in Louisiana.

Drax purchased 11 pellet plants in the US and Canada this April as part of its acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.  

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