Enviva to double pellet production, will rank fourth among US wood users

More pellets will be funneled into sustainable aviation fuel projects and to coal-fired plants

Enviva, already the largest global manufacturer of industrial wood pellets, announced bold plans to double its production capacity over the next five years. The company said it will build six new plants in the US South at a combined cost exceeding one billion dollars, taking production from 6.2 million tonnes per year to 13 million tonnes per year. Wood consumption will go from an estimated 14 million green tons per year to about 29 million tons per year.

To put things in perspective, the expansion would put Enviva in the number four position among US wood consumers behind International Paper, WestRock, and Georgia-Pacific.

Utilizing a “build and copy” approach, the new plants will be much larger, each capable of producing 1.1 million tonnes per year of pellets instead of the typical 750,000 tonnes per year. Moving forward, Enviva will: Complete plant expansion projects currently in the pipeline by the end of this year; finish ramping up production at the Lucedale, MS, facility this year; begin construction of the Epes, AL, this year; build a third mill in its “Pascagoula cluster” in 2023; and begin work on new plants at yet-to-be-named locations in the Savannah and Mid-Atlantic regions, also during 2023.

Additionally, the Lucedale plant will be expanded to 1 million tonnes per year capacity in 2023. In 2024, the third and fourth Pascagoula cluster plants will be commissioned, and two more plants will be built in the Savannah and Wilmington, NC, clusters, the company reported.

By 2025, Enviva plans to have all Pascagoula plants and the Savannah cluster plant up to full production. In 2026, the two new Mid-Atlantic plants are planned to ramp up in North Carolina and Virginia.

In a statement, the company noted, “Our business model of fully contracting plants before commencing construction remains unchanged. In total, we plan to place six plants in service over the next five years and expect that the construction and commissioning of new plants with a nameplate capacity of 1.1 million MTPY each will take up to 18 months, on average, and cost between $200-250 million, with total capital expenditures spanning nine quarters.”

Possible plans for forest thinnings in California could decrease wildfire risk

Enviva is also studying the possibility expanding production capacity into California, utilizing forest thinnings “in high-hazard zones to mitigate devastating wildfire risk and improve climate benefits of forests in the West.

The company announced signing an MOU to deliver pellets to its first North American customer, a biofuel producer with a focus on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The unnamed customer operates in the US Southeast and may establish operations in California.

Finally, Enviva made its first shipment of pellets to Germany for use in the steel and cement industrial markets.

Watch this interview with Thomas Meth, EVP of sales at Enviva, to learn more about the role of biomass in the global race to net zero.

LanzaJet will receive a $50 million infusion from Microsoft to construct a biofuel refinery dubbed “FreedomPines Fuels” in Soperton, GA, at the former site of the Range Fuels biorefinery. The company plans toproduce 10 million gallons/yr of SAF and diesel fuel from a variety of feedstocks, including wood.

The company plans to be operational in 2023. Parent company LanzaTech, Suncor Energy, Mitsui & Co., British Airways, Shell, and All Nippon Airways have also contributed funding to the project.

A LanzaJet statement said construction “is progressing as planned, even with supply chain, manufacturing, and labor shortages impacting the global economy. Fabrication of the plant is well underway; some modules are already completed, and final site engineering is nearing completion. The LanzaJet Freedom Pines Fuels plant is expected to achieve mechanical completion this year and begin producing 10 million gallons of SAF and renewable diesel per year from sustainable ethanol, including from waste-based feedstocks, in 2023.”

The Range Fuels facility started construction in 2007 and was later closed in 2011. LanzaTech bought the plant through a foreclosure sale in 2012.

Pulp producer Harmac Pacific in Nanaimo, BC, received a $12 million investment from the provincial government as part of its CleanBC Industry Fund to upgrade the company’s biomass boiler. The project will allow a reduction in natural gas use. The project includes a waste heat recovery system to further reduce gas consumption.

Coal-fired plant to be converted to biomass fuel

Australia’s Verdant Earth seeks to convert an idle 150 MW coal-fired power plant to biomass fuel and restart the facility. Located in New South Wales, the Redbank power station shut down in 2014.

Verdant bought the power plant in 2018 and needs to raise $100 million for the recommissioning. Further, the company plans to produce biomass-based hydrogen onsite. At 150 MW, the power plant has the potential to burn 1.5 million green tons/yr of wood fuel. However, most conversions to biomass reduce the nameplate rating due to the lower Btu content of wood.

Rayonier plans sustainable bioethanol production from residual sugars from pulp process

Rayonier Advanced Materials plans to produce bioethanol at its pulp and paper mill in Tartas, France. The process, according to the company, “captures residual sugars from its existing pulp process and converts the sugars into second generation bioethanol. This circular process, which utilizes a greater portion of the tree to create higher-value products, represents a more sustainable operating model.”

The bioethanol will be used in transportation fuels. Construction of the 21 million liter per year facility will begin this spring with commercial operation set for third quarter, 2023. Offtake agreements are in place

Joensuu Biocoal Oy will build a €20 million, 60,000 ton per year torrefied biomass plant in Joensuu, Finland. The facility will consume about 250,000 tons per year of wood in its process. The torrefied material will be used asan industrial replacement for coal.

Feedstock includes predominately bark and forest thinnings. Construction will begin during second quarter and is set for completion in mid-2023.The plant will be located onsite with the Savon Voima Oyj’s combined heat and power plant.

Norway’s Norske Skog agreed to sell its New Zealand wood pellet business, Nature’s Flame, to Talley’s Group for $32 million. The deal is set to close soon. Total production capacity is 90,000 tonnes per year, with plans by Talley’s to expand to 150,000 tonnes per year.

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