Pellet plant construction progresses

Published 11:23 am Friday, February 18, 2011

AHOSKIE – While work is steadily progressing on its new plant in Ahoskie, Enviva LP officials announced on Wednesday that the processed biomass company has acquired a Chesapeake, Va. port terminal to satisfy growing overseas demand for renewable energy products.

Previously owned by the Giant Cement Company, Enviva’s investment in the terminal will create the capacity to receive, store and load in excess of three million tons of sustainably generated woody biomass for export each year.

The Ahoskie-made product – as well as those created by the company at additional production sites under development by Enviva in the resource-rich Mid-Atlantic region – will help meet the worldwide demand for biomass products. The need for those products has surged in recent years, particularly in Europe, among utilities attracted to fossil fuel alternatives that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  The Chesapeake port terminal will enhance Enviva’s ability to meet this demand.

Enviva will continue to ship wood pellets manufactured in the Gulf region, including its Mississippi plants, from Mobile, Ala.

“The Chesapeake region has for a long time been a key nexus of international trade in the United States,” said Enviva CEO John Keppler.  “We are particularly excited to be one of the first green economy manufacturers to rebalance the flow of trade in favor of exports from this port in Virginia.”

The purchase of the terminal is a reflection of the company’s commitment to ensuring the safety, reliability, sustainability, and quality of its product.

“We can now closely monitor our product from forest to plant to port, maintaining facilities that meet our high standards for product excellence and safety,” said Keppler.  “Plus the terminal’s strategic location will decrease transportation time and costs through our entire supply chain, greatly benefitting our customers and improving the environmental footprint of our logistics.”

Enviva’s plans for investment in and expansion of the terminal will require 40 to 60 skilled tradesmen and contractors during the initial phase of construction, and the terminal’s permanent staff of 12 is expected to double by the third year of operation under Enviva, which will use local maintenance contracts and other vendors whenever possible.  The terminal upgrades are expected to be complete in November of this year to coincide with pellet production at Enviva’s Ahoskie facility.  Giant will continue to use a portion of the terminal for cement sales.

Enviva’s port terminal can accommodate a wide range of ships and loading options required for the export of more than 40,000 metric tons of Enviva’s wood pellets per vessel.

“The port has handled our cement volumes for 11 years and has been an important asset for our company,” said Duncan Gage, President and CEO of Giant.  “It is one of the only assets of its type on the Eastern Seaboard, and we believe that Enviva is well-positioned to capitalize on the potential of this terminal and increase its importance to the region.”

Meanwhile, work is well underway at the old Georgia-Pacific plant on NC 561 East in Ahoskie, the site of the local area’s first renewable energy plant owned by Enviva LP. The Richmond, Va.-based company announced shortly before Christmas their plans to build a wood-pellet manufacturing facility in Ahoskie.

The project will bring 53 jobs to the area as well as providing a big boost to local timber and logging operations that were severely impacted by the shutdown of the International Paper mill in nearby Franklin, Va. last year.

“Enviva chose to build its newest and, to date, largest bio-mass facility in Ahoskie and Hertford County. For that choice we couldn’t be more thrilled. The reception we have received here is heartwarming; we’re excited about this business venture,” stated Enviva’s Glenn Gray at a “meet-and-greet” held by the company last month in Winton.

who will oversee the construction of the Ahoskie mill.

According to Gray, who will oversee the construction of the Ahoskie facility, there are 96 pellet mills currently operating in North America. To date, six of those produce more than 100,000 tons a year. Within the next few months, Enviva will start up three new plants, including Ahoskie, all capable of producing in excess of 100,000 tons annually.

The Ahoskie mill is being built to a capacity of 333,000 tons per year, that’s two truckloads per hour of finished product going to the ports to be shipped overseas.

“To support that volume, we’ll need to purchase somewhere in the neighborhood of 740,000 tons of wood a year; 120 truckloads a day, most of it round wood; some residuals. That’s a lot of wood,” Gray noted.

Enviva’s overall investment in the Ahoskie plant will exceed $52 million, half of which, said Gray, is the cost of the equipment.

“We’re not investing money in this plant in Ahoskie because we believe the market for our product will develop; that we’re hoping someone will buy this product…we are doing this because we at Enviva believe in long-term relationships with our customers, who allow us to invest heavily in manufacturing infrastructure, and raw material supply chains who allow us to deliver wood fiber to that customer,” Keppler said at January’s local function. “With this investment in Ahoskie, Enviva will become the United States’ largest exporter of solid bound mass fuel.”

For more information about Enviva, including job opportunities, go to

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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