A United Kingdom-based power company is developing three pellet plants in Arkansas with plans to begin construction one in Grant County.
Drax Group, a renewable energy company that has interests in sustainable biomass, hydro-electric power and hydro-storage, is planning to build three satellite plants for biomass pellets in Arkansas. On Thursday, May 6, the company announced that it would begin constructing on the first plant in Leola, located in Grant County, near a West Fraster Sawmill. Commissioning on the site is expected in October.
Construction on the other two plants is expected in the coming months, according to an Arkansas Economic Development Commission release.
“By building these new pellet plants Drax is bringing jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas, boosting the state’s post-COVID economic recovery,” Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said in a statement. “Through this investment, Arkansas will play an important role in combating climate change, supporting Drax to increase the amount of sustainable biomass we produce as part of our plans to pioneer bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. By using sustainable biomass, we have displaced coal-fired power generation, reduced carbon emissions and provided renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses in the UK.”
In total, the Arkansas satellite plants are projected to produce 120,000 metric tons of biomass pellets annually. The Leola pellet plant is expected to produce approximately 40,000 metric tons of biomass each year.
Once produced, the pellets will be transported to the Bruce Oakley terminal in Little Rock to be shipped to Louisiana to be placed on oceangoing vessels.
Building and operating the three plants is expected to result in a $40 million investment for the state of Arkansas. Drax is planning to create 30 direct jobs for the plants, in addition to indirect jobs.
The pellets, produced from sawmill residue, will be used by Drax to support its efforts in self-supplying its U.K. power stations. Drax Group plans to increase its biomass self-supply to five million tons by 2027. In 2019, the company announced plans to become carbon negative by 2030.
Currently, Drax Group owns 17 pellet mills in the United States and western Canada, manufacturing 4.9 million tons of wood pellets annually. These pellets provide roughly 20 percent of the biomass for its power station located in North Yorkshire, England.
Drax Group’s stock price as down by 7 GBX, or 1.74 percent, as of 9:53 am on the London Stock Exchange.
Multiple companies have announced wood pellet projects in Arkansas in recent months. Dansons US will be opening a 335,000 square-foot barbecue wood pellet mill and distribution center in Hope. In December 2020, Highland Pellets announced plans to partner with Orion Energy Partners to expand and upgrade its Pine Bluff wood pellet facility.