Enviva receives Virginia DEQ approval to expand Southampton plant

By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2019

Enviva Partners LP announced on Nov. 20 the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has approved requested modifications to its existing air permit that will allow for increased production capacity and increased use of softwood at Enviva’s Southampton pellet plant.

According to Enviva, the approval will allow it to install additional air emissions controls equipment at the Southampton plant to further minimized air emissions. The updated permit will also allow the facility to boost production volumes by approximately 245,000 metric tons annually and crease the percentage of softwood used to produce pellets. The Southampton facility currently has an annual production capacity of 510,000 metric tons.

“Thank you to Virginia DEQ for their extensive diligence and review of our permit request, as well as for their thoughtful efforts to hear and include comments and input from all stakeholders during the process,” said John Keppler, chairman and CEO of Enviva.

“This permit comes at an important time,” Keppler continued. “The urgency to address climate change has never been more acute. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—widely considered the world’s leading authority on climate science—calls for increased use of bioenergy like Enviva’s wood pellets in every one of their proposed pathways to limiting the impact of climate change to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is because scientific support for renewable wood energy is clear: bioenergy is a critical part of an all-in renewable energy solution to climate change. In September 2019, more than 100 forest scientists from over 50 universities joined the IPCC in embracing the environmental benefits of bioenergy like wood pellets, noting: ‘The long-term benefits of forest biomass energy are well-established in science literature.’ We look forward to continuing to help Virginia be a leader in renewable energy and lessening worldwide dependence on coal.”

Enviva is also working to expand and develop capacity at other locations. Earlier in the month, on Nov. 7, the company issued a statement thanking the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for its efforts related to a request for a permit to construct a wood pellet plant in Sumter County. The facility is initially expected to have the capacity to produce 700,000 metric tons of pellets annually, but could later expand to 1.15 million tons per year.

Enviva currently expects construction of the Alabama pellet plant to begin in early 2020, subject to receiving the necessary permits. Construction is expected to take 15 to 18 months.

“We are grateful for the work that ADEM has done on this permit and appreciate the opportunity to hear from residents and other stakeholders tonight in Sumter County as we work together to create jobs and a strong community,” Keppler said. We are especially grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from the community over the last few months.

“Last month, when I had the privilege to join Governor Ivey, Secretary Canfield, Mayors Tartt and Porter, Senator Singleton and Commissioner Campbell, I talked about how Enviva’s proposed facility would not just be a wood pellet plant in their county,” Keppler continued. “We will be more than that. We will be a part of this community. We will be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbor. We intend to hire locally first, as we do with all of our facilities, and expect to be a source for well-paying, long-term jobs in Sumter County. As I mentioned when we were together, every ton the Epes plant will produce over the next several decades has already been sold, so western Alabama can count on Enviva for a long time to come.”