• 59°

Enviva seeks expansion

GASTON – Enviva has plans to invest $45 million at its Northampton County plant in an effort to expand capacity while using new technology to reduce emissions.

But before the wood pellet manufacturer can move forward with those plans, they must first receive the blessings of the North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ).

The latter entity will host a public hearing on Enviva’s proposed permit for its Northampton facility beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20 in the auditorium of Northampton County High School, located at 152 Hurricane Drive, Gaston.

A food truck will be located on the high school property for those wishing to eat dinner prior to the start of the public hearing. That food truck will begin serving at 5:30 p.m.

NC DEQ will set up at 5:45 p.m. inside the high school with a sign-up sheet for anyone who wants to speak at the public hearing. Only those signed-up will be allowed to make comments. Each participant gets a maximum of two-to-three minutes to speak, to be determined by the hearing officer based on the number of speakers.

Written comments may also be submitted during the public comment period (which ends Aug. 23) via email at DAQ.publiccomments@ncdenr.gov. Please type “Enviva Northampton.18A” in the subject line.

According to NC DEQ, Enviva Pellets Northampton, LLC has applied for approval of a project to modify the existing permit to install air emission control equipment, an increase of production to 781,255 metric tons per year, and reclassification of the facility as a PSD and HAP minor stationary source upon complete installation of air emission control equipment and demonstration of final compliance with applicable regulations at its Northampton wood pellet

manufacturing facility.

That plant currently operates at a capacity of 550,000 metric tons annually.

“Over the past several months, Enviva staff and members of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality have worked cooperatively and diligently on this new permit for Enviva’s Northampton facility that has been in operation since 2013,” the company said in a statement. “The permit sets parameters for emissions from the facility’s proposed Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers (RTOs) as well as setting a rigorous testing schedule over the lifetime of the permit by a third-party auditor. The installation of RTOs enables Enviva to be more flexible in the use of softwoods and hardwoods in the pellet composition and improves the facility’s production capacity by 40 percent. The new air quality controls will cut the plant’s overall emissions by 50 percent.”

The facility’s application for the modification of the existing permit to install air emission control equipment, throughput increase, and reclassification as a PSD/HAP minor stationary source was reviewed by the Division of Air Quality, Raleigh Central Office, to determine compliance with the requirements of the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission air pollution regulations. The results of that review led to the preliminary determination that the proposed project could be approved and the Division of Air Quality permit could be issued, if certain conditions are met.

“As Enviva grows to meet the increasing global demand for sustainable low-carbon biomass fuel, the company will continue to make substantial investments in environmental control technology, reflecting our continued commitment to improvement and our desire to enhance the environment and economy in our local communities,” said company officials.

They added that the most significant element of the $45 million expansion project is the installation of three RTOs throughout the production line to reduce all emissions from the facility.

“The financial commitment to these additional air quality control measures demonstrates Enviva’s willingness to cooperate with NC DEQ to achieve a positive result with air quality and other environmental goals,” company officials stated.

According to Enviva, the Northampton facility provides 100-plus direct jobs to local citizens. The facility provides secondary employment and markets for forestland owners, consulting foresters, professional loggers, and professional log truck drivers.

They touted their sponsorship of the African American Sustainable Forestry Land Retention Project that is based in Ahoskie and directed by Roanoke Electric Cooperative. Enviva provides direct funding for this program as well as technical support through staff volunteer time.

The company also noted their policy dictates they will only source low merchantable timber fiber from lands that are scheduled to be replanted and the forestry cycle restarted. The company’s Track & Trace program documents the location where the fiber was obtained. All this information is maintained on its public website.

According to 2018 data from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the North Carolina Forest Service, biomass represents only seven percent of all timber fiber harvested statewide on an annual basis Sawtimber (43%) and pulp & paper (41%) are the top two uses for timber fiber harvested in North Carolina annually.

Forest products is North Carolina’s top manufacturing industry with over 70,000 plus direct employment jobs and a payroll of $3.8 billion, producing $18.5 billion in total output. It generates $912 million in state, local and federal tax revenues.

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.

email author More by Cal