World’s largest wood pellet producer breaks ground on plant in Alabama Black Belt -

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey takes a shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony for an Enviva wood pellet plant on Wednesday June 28, 2023 in Epes, Ala. The biomass production plant is expected to support 350 high-wage jobs in West Alabama. (Governor’s Office /Hal Yeager)Alabama Governor's Office

The largest wood pellet producer in the world broke ground this week on what will be its largest facility yet, located in rural west Alabama. Pellet Machine Parts

World’s largest wood pellet producer breaks ground on plant in Alabama Black Belt -

Enviva, an energy company that specializes in producing wood pellets that can be burned to generate electricity, broke ground Wednesday on a massive new pellet mill in Epes, Ala., in Sumter County. It is expected to create 100 direct jobs and support 250 indirectly.

“The fact that the world’s largest wood pellet producer is building its largest production facility to date here, in Sweet Home Alabama, is yet another testament to our nation-leading business climate and world-class workforce,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said at the ceremony.

“Enviva’s significant commitment at the Port of Epes will undoubtedly breathe life into a community and region eager for new, long-term opportunities. It truly is an exciting day for West Alabama, and I sincerely appreciate Enviva’s decision to plant roots here in our great state.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gave remarks at the groundbreaking for an Enviva Wood Pellet Plant Wednesday June 28, 2023 in Epes, Ala. (Governor’s Office /Hal Yeager)Alabama Governor's Office

According to Enviva, the company has acquired more than 300 acres in the Epes Industrial Park on the Tombigbee River in Sumter County. When completed, the facility will be able to produce 1.1 million metric tons of pellets per year. The plant is expected to open by mid-2024 and reach full production in 2025.

The wood pellet or biomass industry has emerged in recent years as a way for other countries reach renewable energy or climate goals.

Many countries in Europe and Asia consider biomass a carbon-neutral energy source if the trees are replanted after being harvested, because the freshly planted trees will eventually recapture carbon, removing it from the atmosphere.

Serious doubts linger about that claim.

A 2018 study in scientific journal Environmental Research Letters found that burning wood pellets for energy releases more carbon than burning coal, because burning wood is less efficient. The study also calculated that it would take between 44 and 104 years for freshly planted trees to remove the amount of carbon that the rest of the process creates.

Still, the increased global market for wood pellets has created an industry across the Southeast, and Alabama is a major part of that.

In addition to the Enviva operation, a competing company called Drax recently opened its second pellet mill in Alabama, a $100 million facility in Demopolis, in Marengo County. The other Drax mill in Alabama is in Aliceville, in Pickens County.

All these pellet mills are bringing needed jobs and economic activity to rural parts of the state that desperately need them, a fact acknowledged by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“I am proud to see more economic development and job creation in Sumter County,” U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, said in a news release.

“It is imperative for the prosperity of Alabama that we continue to deliver more resources and opportunities directly to the people that need them most. I am thrilled to see Enviva is doing just that by providing even more jobs to our rural communities through this expansion.”

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World’s largest wood pellet producer breaks ground on plant in Alabama Black Belt -

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