Georgia Biomass will ship pellets to Europe

By Lisa Gibson
Posted February 25, 2010, at 9:50 a.m. CST

Once operational in early 2011, Georgia Biomass in Waycross, Ga., will have the capacity to produce 750,000 tons of wood pellets per year from local timber sources.

The pellets will be shipped from the port in Savannah, Ga., to Europe and used in biomass power plants owned by German utility RWE Innogy, as well as co-fired in coal plants, according to RWE. The Georgia plant will cost about 120 million ($163 million) and is one of a few being constructed in the U.S. for power in Europe, including two proposed in Arkansas. "Georgia is one of many natural places for building these types of plants in the southeast U.S.A. due to the wood resources and availability of skilled people in the wood forest industry," said Kent Sandquist, project director in Savannah, Ga., with BMC, a Sweden-based biomass manufacturing company collaborating on the Georgia project.

The pellets will initially be burned in existing power plants in Amer, Netherlands, where up to 30 percent of the hard coal has already been replaced by solid biomass, mainly wood pellets, according to RWE. The two Amer plants have the capacity to generate electricity for about 3 million homes. Use of the pellets will extend to other pure biomass power plants and also to conventional plants in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the U.K.

Georgia Biomass will use equipment from Washington-based TSI, including two sets of pollution reciprocating grate furnaces, two recycle dryer systems and two sets of pollution control equipment, according to TSI.

The plant will require about 1.5 million metric tons of fresh wood per year, which forests in Georgia can sustainably produce, according to RWE. Numerous pulp and paper mills have closed in the past decade, further reducing the local demand for wood and pushing wood growth ahead of consumption.