Enviva marked the official opening of its newest wood pellet plant in Northampton, North Carolina on May 21. The plant has a capacity of 551,155 tons (500,000 metric tons), employs 79 people and created an estimated 130 indirect jobs. Pellets produced at the facility are shipped to the Port of Chesapeake near Norfolk, Virginia.
Enviva operates three additional pellet plants in Ahoskie, North Carolina and Amory and Wiggins Mississippi. Construction on a fifth plant in Southampton County, Virginia began last July. Upon completion, the combined facilities will produce nearly 1.5 million tons (1.36 million metric tons) of wood pellets each year.
Enviva also has plans to expand its port operations to the Port of Wilmington. Within the past week, both the State Ports Authority Board of Directors and North Carolina Council of State approved operating and lease agreements for a wood pellet facility at port. The deal is expected to bring in an estimated $1.25 million in revenue and an additional $2 million investment each year.
The project will include the construction of two concrete storage domes, unloading stations for both rail and truck, and a ship loading and dock conveyer system. Enviva will fund the estimated $35 million project which is expected to create 70 new jobs at the port and 80 indirect jobs to support its operations. The new port facility is anticipated to be operational by January 2015.
Meanwhile, a similar project remains on the table at the Port of Morehead City. International WoodFuels, LLC, which plans to begin wood pellet production at a Sims, North Carolina plant sometime in 2014, would ship its pellets from the port. The Sims plant is expected to produce 314,000 tons (285,000 metric tons) on an annual basis.
A second plant would come online in 2015, increasing annual capacity to a combined 441,000 tons (400,000 metric tons). The Ports Authority would borrow money to construct a storage dome for each plant and update an existing rail unloading station. Total project cost could run up to $15 million.
Biomass Power Updates
The re-configuration of Dominion Virginia Power’s Altavista power station from coal to wood biomass is complete. The station’s two boilers burn an estimated 85 tons of wood each hour to generate 51 MW of power for area homes. Approximately 100 trucks loaded with up to 26 tons of wood biomass deliver material to the plant on a daily basis, and its wood yard holds 30,000 tons. Altavista employs 30 individuals and led to the creation of an estimated 100 jobs in the logging and trucking industries.
ReEnergy Holdings LLC opened a 60 MW facility in Fort Drum, New York at the site of a former coal plant. The company has obtained certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative as part of its commitment to source wood biomass from sustainably managed forests. The plant supports 33 fulltime employees and approximately 145 indirect jobs.
Unfortunately, not all news was good on the power plant front. Foreclosure proceedings on Aspen Power LLC’s 50 MW biomass power plant in Lufkin, Texas are underway. A court order has transferred control of the plant to U.S. Bank, and a number of investors are reported to have expressed an interest in receiving similar orders to guarantee they will be fully reimbursed. Court documents indicate Aspen Power has failed to make payments since it shut its doors in February 2012.