Green Circle Bio Energy will locate its second wood pellet plant in George County (Mississippi) Industrial Park. CEO Morten Neraas noted the company chose the George County site for its location within a large wood basin and proximity to the Port of Pascagoula. He and his company are not alone in their thinking.
In March, Gulf Coast Renewable Energy (GCRE) announced its plans to build a wood pellet plant at the same George County industrial park. The GCRE plant will produce 352,000 tons of wood pellets per year; the Green Circle plant has a planned annual capacity of 500,000 tons. Green Circle is no stranger to large-scale operations; it produces 560,000 tons of wood pellets per year at the world's second-largest wood pellet plant in Cottondale, Florida.
The new Green Circle plant, which is expected to ring in at $115 million, will bring approximately 140 total jobs to George County and export operations at the Port of Pascagoula. Officials at the Port have approved a memorandum of understanding with George County in regards to a new marine terminal, and construction is set to begin this fall. The $30 million port project will be funded by a $10 million state bond issue, with the port and Green Circle financing the remainder.
Once updated, the port facilities are expected to export nearly a half million tons of wood pellets each year and could be operational by early 2015. The George County pellet facility is expected to begin production in spring 2015.
What Does This Mean for Port St. Joe?
Green Circle’s June 27 announcement came just over a month after the company signed a letter of intent to lease a plant site and enter into a wood fiber supply agreement with The St. Joe Company (read more about that announcement). Plans were contingent upon the ability of the St. Joe Port Authority to secure the funds needed to dredge the natural deep water port and return it to operation, likely a two-year process.
To kick-start the port revitalization, the St. Joe Company has pledged the $250,000 needed to match a $750,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. The money will fund a dredging study as well as required permitting and engineering.
Though the news of Green Circle opting to locate its new facility in Mississippi is an apparent blow to the Port of Port St. Joe, there is a silver lining. On June 20, the St. Joe Company signed a letter of intent with Enova Energy Group to explore economic development in the Northwest Florida region.
Enova is currently developing three wood pellet facilities in the Southeastern United States. The company expects to ship wood pellets produced at its first project in Warrenton, Georgia as early as the fourth quarter of 2014. Enova has announced it will ship pellets from its Georgia facility through the port of Savannah.
According to the letter of intent, “Enova has expressed an interest in transporting a minimum of one million metric tons per year of wood pellets using the AN Railway to the Port of Port St. Joe for further shipment to overseas markets. Additionally, Enova expressed an interest in using or developing Port site facilities provided that the Port is capable of accepting vessels of adequate size for the shipment of its commercial wood pellets.”