Area Development News Desk
Enviva, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, a renewable and sustainable energy source used to generate electricity and heat, reported the Alabama Department of Environmental Management approved its permit to construct a wood pellet facility in Sumter County, Alabama.
According to company officials, “this permit paves the way for 85 full-time jobs and an estimated 180 additional jobs in logging, transportation, and local services, as well as the creation of 300-400 jobs during construction of the plant.”
The $175 million facility will be located at the Port of Epes Industrial Park. Enviva expects the proposed wood pellet production plant in Epes to be the next facility in its strategic asset cluster in the Gulf region, which is expected to include other pellet plants in the states of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as a deep-water marine terminal at the Port of Pascagoula.
The plant’s planned permitted capacity is expected to be 1,150,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year. The plant would initially be constructed to produce 700,000 metric tons per year, with the possibility to expand in the future to reach full production capacity of 1,150,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year, company officials explained.. Enviva expects to be ready for construction in early 2020, subject to final investment approval. Based on experience, Enviva expects construction to take anywhere from 15-18 months.
The sustainably sourced wood pellets from the Epes plant are expected to be transported by barge via the Tennessee-Tombigbee River to Enviva’s planned deep-water marine terminal to be located in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where they would be exported to Europe and Asia.
The plant would principally utilize a mix of softwood and mill residuals sourced from areas within approximately 75 miles of the plant. The rich fiber basket and supply in Alabama, along with favorable transport logistics and a great local workforce, are what makes this project sustainable and attractive.
Enviva’s Chairman & CEO John Keppler said, “The decision by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is not just about a new wood pellet plant in Sumter County, because Enviva is more than that. As I have said before, we are privileged to have been invited by the people of Alabama to invest in a remarkable community like Epes.”
“But we recognize this support is not simply given; it is instead something we must continue to earn, each and every day for decades to come. That is our commitment to Sumter County. More than a wood pellet plant, we will be a good neighbor and community partner you can count on for a long time to come,” he added.
“This permit also comes at an important time. The urgency to address climate change has never been more acute. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, widely considered the world’s leading authority on climate science, calls for increased use of bioenergy like Enviva’s wood pellets in every one of their proposed pathways to limit the impact of climate change to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. ‘A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest CO2 stacks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber, or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit,’ the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land states,” Keppler explained.
Enviva said it conducted due diligence to confirm that the plant’s sourcing area has commercially available low-value wood that meets its strict sustainability requirements in sufficient quantities to supply the plant up to the permitted production level.