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Massive Pellet Production

When I hear announcements of jumbo pellet plants in the works, I can’t help but wonder when the U.S. will jump on the industrial wood pellet bandwagon.
By Lisa Gibson | April 20, 2011

When I hear announcements of jumbo pellet plants in the works, I can’t help but wonder when the U.S. will jump on the industrial wood pellet bandwagon and not only begin producing large-scale power from biomass, but begin creating and refining a domestic market for those pellet companies.

Newly formed venture Franklin Pellets LLC is in the preliminary stages of developing a 500,000-ton-per-year pellet plant in Franklin, Va. I did ask George Lyons, vice president of business development for parent company MultiFuels L.P., if the plant will be exporting its products, but I knew the answer even before he said it. Of course.

It’s no secret that the domestic pellet market revolves around residential heating applications and massive plants like Franklin’s wouldn’t be satisfied with the pellet appetite the U.S. can offer. The plant will rank among the nation’s largest, tied with Green Circle Bio Energy Inc.’s Cottondale, Fla., plant and second to RWE Innogy’s 750,000 ton-per-year facility in Georgia. Both of those pellet plants are exporting their products to Europe and while Franklin Pellets declined to share with me its target market, it’s probably safe to assume most if not all of its pellets will be used there, too.

Export markets are indeed important and a number of programs and agencies are focused primarily on defining and enhancing them for U.S. manufacturers. I’ve heard the tired excuses that lean on policy shortcomings and now could even factor in widespread opposition to biomass, but it seems to me a complementary domestic market could boost production and create jobs, too. And in the midst of an economic recovery (or so we’re told), we can’t afford to let any opportunities slip through the cracks.