Building Out Capacity @BiomassMagazine (2022)

Global wood pellet demand continues to soar, with tight market conditions likely to spur significant investments in new production facilities around the world. Demand growth from 2020-’21 outpaced supply growth by approx. 10% (18.2% versus 8.4%, respectively), according to market intelligence firm Hawkins Wright, a trend that is likely to continue. Global demand in 2021 was approx. 45 million metric tons (MT), with an additional 5 million MT in additional demand expected in 2022.

As for pellet production capacity in the U.S. and Canada, Pellet Mill Magazine’s 2022 U.S. and Canada Fuel Pellet Production Map included approx. 12.8 million MT of operational capacity in the U.S., with roughly 1.7 million tons proposed or under construction. Data for Canada indicated approx. 4.9 million MT of operating capacity, with an additional 865,000 proposed. These numbers will be updated in the upcoming 2023 map, which will be mailed with issues of the 2023 Issue 1 edition.

The following are some of the active projects in both countries, as well as acquisitions and closures.

Company: Drax
Plant: Drax Russelville
Location: Russellville, Arkansas
Status: Under Construction
Capacity: 40,000 metric tons (MT)

Summary: Drax completed commissioning of its 360,000-ton-per-year pellet plant in Demopolis, Alabama, and its 40,000-ton-per-year satellite plant in Leola, Arkansas, earlier this year, both expected to reach full production capacity by 2023. Like the Demopolis plant, the satellite plant under construction in Russellville is a containerized plant being delivered by Prodesa. A third satellite plant, at an Arkansas location that Drax has not yet disclosed, is planned. During a July 26 financial and operational results update, Drax CEO Will Gardiner said the company plans to make a final investment decision on up to 500,000 metric tons of additional wood pellet production capacity before the end of 2022.

Company: Enviva
Plant: Enviva Pellets Epes
Location: Epes, Alabama
Status: Under Construction
Capacity: 1.1 million MT

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Construction of Enviva’s Epes plant—expected to be the largest fuel pellet manufacturing plant in the world—began in early July, Pellet Mill Magazine confirmed with Enviva. In mid-July, United Bank Community Development announced $42.5 million in New Markets Tax Credit funds for the project, which will be located at the former Mannington Mills wood flooring plant in Epes. Directly employing about 100, the company estimates it will invest approximately $300 million in the plant and surrounding infrastructure, and will generate approximately $265 million in annual economic impact in the region. The plant’s location will allow the use of barges to carry the pellets approximately 200 miles down the Tombigbee River to Enviva's newly opened terminal at the Port of Pascagoula, Mississippi, to be shipped to overseas customers. Completion of the Epes plant, the second in Enviva’s Pascagoula cluster, is slated for the second half of 2023.

Company: Peak Fort Nelson Properties Ltd.
Plant: Peak Renewables
Location: Fort Nelson, British Columbia
Status: Under Construction
Capacity: 600,000 MT

In late 2020, Canfor announced it had reached multiyear, $30 million agreements with Peak Renewables involving the sale of its forest tenure in the Fort Nelson region of British Columbia, which were approved by the British Columbia government in August 2021. The agreement followed Peak Renewables’ purchase of Canfor’s Fort Nelson mill assets in the third quarter of 2020. The mill had been shuttered for more than a decade, and the company is transitioning the site into a pellet manufacturing plant. Peak Renewables’ CEO is Scott Bax, formerly chief operating officer at Pinnacle Renewable Energy. Pellet Mill Magazine was able to confirm the project is underway, but unable to get a specific update by press time.

Company: Enviva
Plants: Enviva Hamlet, Enviva Sampson, Enviva Cottondale
Location: Hamlet, North Carolina; Sampson, North Carolina; Cottondale, Florida
Status: Expansions/Under Construction
Added Capacity: Approx. 185,000 MT

Enviva’s previously announced “multiplant expansion” project is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The $50 million investment was made to debottleneck manufacturing processes, reduce greenhouse gases, eliminate certain costs and increase production capacity. The Hamlet plant production capacity will expand from approx. 545,000 MT to 600,000; Sampson from 500,000 MT to 600,000, and Cottondale from 750,000 MT to 780,000 MT. According to the application, some of the permitted revisions for the Hamlet plant include revisions to potential emissions for the dryer, green hammermills, dry hammermills, pellet mills and coolers, and dried wood handling; the addition of two natural gas-fired burners to heat the dryer system ducts to prevent wood tar condensation/coating in the duct walls; updating green wood handling throughputs and increasing maximum annual throughput for bark hog.

Company: Sinclar Group Forest Products
Plant: Premium Pellet
Location: Vanderhoof, British Columbia
Status: Expansion/Under Construction
Capacity: 176,000 to 240,000 MT

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Premium Pellet began operating in 2011, and is wholly owned and operated by Nechako Lumber Co. The vast majority of pellets produced are sold in bulk to overseas markets (150,000 MT) but a small amount is packaged in 40-lb bags for the local home heating market. The plant supplies RWE Supply and Trading with pellet fuel, as it has for the past 10 years. Phase 1 of Premium Pellets expansion is complete with the installation a new Brunette BioSizer, MEC 12x60 dryer, Kinedizer 14-inch, 40-MBtu gas burner and a Fisher Klosterman multi-cyclone system, according to David Herzig, general manager of lumber operations at Sinclar group. Premium Pellet is currently waiting for permit approval to begin full dryer production. "Phase 2 of the project is well underway and is focused on increasing pelletizing capacity," Herzig says. "Inside the plant, we’ve had to add some expansions on to fit some of the equipment coming in. We’ve had to break into the concrete, reinforcing the footings for the roof supports for everything coming in and hanging off of it. We’ve had to put in new transformers, electrical rooms, power distribution center rooms, and run power to feed all of the equipment." A third dry hammermill and four additional Bliss Pioneer 200 pellet mills, bringing the plant’s total up to nine, have been installed, Herzig reports. "The teams are finishing off the building expansion before beginning the installation of the pellet feed bins, associated conveyors and pellet cooling equipment. Outside, we’ve installed additional pellet storage that tied into the current shaker screen. Phase 2 also saw the relocation of the Hamer packaging system to fit in with the new equipment."

Phase 3 of the project has also begun, with engineering work underway for a wet electrostatic precipitator, which will reduce the plant’s air emissions, Herzig adds.

Company: Enviva
Plant: Enviva Pellets Bond
Location: Bond, Mississippi
Status: Planned/Under Development
Capacity: 1 million MT

Enviva’s Bond, Mississippi plant is the third plant in its Pascagoula cluster. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2023. According to the company, the plant is fully contracted under long-term take-or-pay supply contracts with customers around the world. With a corporate investment of $250 million, the Bond plant will generate more than $1 million in taxes per year for the county and school district and deliver over $250 million annually in economic impact in the region, according to Enviva.
Production is expected to commence in 2024. During a recent earnings and results presentation, CEO John Keppler said Enviva plans to accelerate the timing of a fourth wood pellet production plant in the Pascagoula cluster. “We continue to make progress in our evaluation of site location options, and anticipate making a decision by year-end 2022,” he stated. Enviva has also indicated that, given the quality and size of its current customer sales pipeline, the company “believes it will be able to support the addition of six new fully contracted wood pellet production plants and several highly accretive expansion projects, which, over approximately the next five years, would roughly double our current production capacity.”

Company: Enviva
Plant: Enviva Ahoskie
Location: Ahoskie, North Carolina
Status: Planned Expansion
Added Capacity: Approx. 135,000 MT

Pending permit approval, Enviva plans to expand capacity at Ahoskie from approx. 436,000 MT to 571,000 MT ODT per year. Some of the proposed changes on the application include: reconfiguring of the wood yard, addition of three green hammermills, adding an regenerative thermal oxidizer to the existing dryer following the existing WESP; addition of two dry hammermills and two associated material collection cyclones; addition of two pellet mills, one pellet cooler and one supple cyclone, and addition of two natural gas-fired boilers to provide steam to the pelletizing process.

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Company: Enviva
Plant: Enviva Lucedale
Location: Lucedale, Mississippi
Status: Planned Expansion
Added Capacity: 250,000 MT

According to recent statements, Enviva plans to commence and complete a fully-permitted 300,000 MTPY expansion of its Lucedale plant during 2023, which will increase its nameplate production capacity from the current 750,000 MT to approximately 1 million MT.

Company: Groupe Lebel
Plant: Groupe Lebel Pellet Plant
Location: Cacouna, Quebec
Status: Planned/Under Development
Capacity: 100,000 MT

In April, Groupe Lebel announced it would build a pellet plant at its Cacouna, Quebec, site. The first phase of the plant’s operations is scheduled for 2023, with an annual capacity of nearly 100,000 MT of wood pellets. Groupe Lebel aims to ship the majority of its production to growing international markets. CEO Frédéric Lebel said engineering and project execution has been awarded to Prodesa. The $40 million project received $15 million in backing from key partners, including the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation, the Quebec Department of Energy and Natural Resources and the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

Company: Pacific Coast Fiber Fuels
Plant: Pacific Coast Pellets
Location: Shelton, Washington
Status: Under Expansion
Added Capacity: Approx. 9,100 MT

Built in 2008, Pacific Coast Pellets has over 300 dealers and produces three different lines of heating pellets using 100% Douglas fir: Sierra Supreme, Olympus and Cascade. Vice President Stan Elliot confirmed the modest increase in capacity. "We have added a third Andritz pellet mill, but because of electrical capacity limits, the mill we purchased will only add 10,000 tons to our annual capacity," he says.

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Company: Zilhka Biomass Fuels
Plant: Zilkha Selma
Location: Selma, Alabama
Status: Permanently closed
Capacity: 240,000 MT (black pellets)

Pursuant to an order by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Alabama, the Zilkha Biomass Plant was put up for auction, available for purchase or by the piece, which included all assets as well as hundreds of tons of finished product. The plant began operations in 2015, utilizing the patented Zilkha Black Pellet technology. The plant site has a history of bankruptcy—it opened as Dixie Pellets in 2008, closed in 2009 and was purchased out of bankruptcy by Zilkha in May 2010.

Company: Pacific Bioenergy
Plant: Pacific BioEnergy
Location: Prince George,
British Columbia
Status: Permanently closed
Capacity: 175,000 MT

In late March, PacBio President John Stirling confirmed to Pellet Mill Magazine that the plant was idle and would be sold. Some of its assets, including long-term wood pellet sales contracts, were sold to Drax Group and transferred offsite. Certain assets owned by PacBio were assigned to Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., part of Drax Group. In statements announcing the closure, the company said “PacBio is proud to have been a part of the Prince George community for over 25 years and we want to thank the community for its support. Our employees have been dedicated to our business and we want to thank them and their families for their contributions.”

Company: Albioma
Plant: La Granaudière
Location: Saint-Michel-des-Saints,
Québec
Status: Acquired/Operational
Capacity: 200,000 MT

The La Granaudiere plant was commissioned in the fall of 2020, then shuttered in July 2021. It was purchased by Albioma in early 2022, which said the operation was ideally positioned to supply the company’s Caribbean biomass power plants. The transaction also included a long-term agreement granting access to a 45,000-MT pellet storage facility in the Port of Quebec, as well as raw material supply guarantees issued by Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks. Recommissioning of the plant began in the second quarter of this year.

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Company: CM Biomass
Plants: Mohegan Renewable
Energy (3)
Location: Crossville, Alabama;
Quitman, Mississippi;
Jasper, Tennessee
Status: Acquired/Operational
Capacity: 350,000 tons

CM Biomass made its pellet producer debut in Huntsville, Texas, in December 2019 at Huntsville Pellets, and with the acquisition of MRE in February—350,000 tons of capacity—the company doubled its production capacity to over 700,000 tons. In a press release, the company said its expectation is to achieve a capacity of 1 million tons by 2023-‘24, based on already decided projects and expansions of existing facilities. CM Biomass, the second largest seller of wood pellets worldwide, has a distribution system of more than 50 storage hubs and sold 3.5 million tons of wood pellets in 2021, primarily in Europe.

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