Drax Group has started construction on the second of three satellite pellet plants in Arkansas, the company said Friday.
Work is under way at the site in Russellville (Pope County) with commercial operations expected to begin at the plant in 2022. The move is part of a $40 million investment by Drax in the state, creating approximately 30 new direct jobs and additional indirect jobs across Arkansas.
“The investment that Drax is making throughout Arkansas is proof that the state’s timber industry is poised for a bright future and is a great example of how a global economy works,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Through this partnership, these three Arkansas communities will experience further growth and opportunities, and Drax will be able to continue working toward its mission to provide renewable electricity for millions across the pond.”
The three pellet plants are expected to produce approximately 120,000 metric tons of sustainable biomass pellets a year from sawmill residues, supporting the renewable energy company’s plans to increase self-supply to its power station in the U.K.
“The construction and future operation of the Drax pellet plant in Russellville is certainly welcome news,” Russellville Mayor Richard Harris said. “On the occasion of this exciting announcement, I’d like to welcome Drax as a new partner in our community and thank you for the investment you are making in our community.”
The development of the “satellite” pellet plants, which are situated near sawmills, is part of Drax’s strategy to increase biomass self-supply to five million tons by 2027, improving supply chain resilience while reducing pellet costs.
Locating the plants near sawmills provides the satellite plants with a ready feedstock of sawdust and other residues left over when timber is processed, reducing emissions in the supply chain as well as reducing infrastructure, operational, and transportation costs.
Matt White, Drax Biomass senior vice president, said, “Drax has made great progress in delivering our $40 million investment in Arkansas, with the second of three satellite pellet plants now under construction.”
“The investments we’re making will bring jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas alongside supporting international efforts to tackle the climate emergency. These plants support Drax’s plans to develop bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – a vital negative emissions technology that will be needed around the world to meet net zero targets.”
Drax has transformed its power station in the U.K. to become the largest decarbonization project in Europe by converting it to use sustainable biomass instead of coal.
Earlier this year construction began at Drax’s first satellite pellet plant in Leola (Grant County) and commercial operations are expected to begin late this year. A third and final site has been identified and progress is being made toward securing its future.
Each pellet plant is expected to produce 40,000 metric ton per year, with the total cluster expected to produce 120,000 metric tons per year.
The sustainable biomass pellets produced at the new satellite plants will be transported to the Bruce Oakley terminal in Little Rock before being shipped south to Louisiana to oceangoing vessels.
The development of the three satellite plants comes after Drax’s recent acquisition of 11 pellet plants across the USA and Canada, making it a world-leading biomass pellet production and supply business.