Highland Pellets to build 500,000 ton-per-year plant in Arkansas

By Katie Fletcher | August 25, 2014

Highland Pellets LLC, a private development group in the pellet industry, is building the first pellet production facility under the company name in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, this fall. The company decided upon the construction of the $130 million plant to meet the demand they are experiencing from the U.K. and other international markets that need pellet suppliers for the conversion of their coal-fired power plants to sustainable biomass-fired plants. Highland’s fiber supply is fully contracted for 10 years.

Marshall Chapin, chief operating officer with Highland, said the company chose the location because of the availability of resources. “The Pine Bluff area has an abundant and sustainable fiber basket, which can reliably support our fiber needs, and it has both rail and barge access for redundancy of logistics,” he said.

The 500,000 metric ton-per-year facility will positively impact the community’s economy by creating 35 direct jobs and an estimated 482 indirect jobs from the initial construction to sustainable forestry, port and barge logistics and other industries. “We are proud to be a catalyst for so many green jobs for the people of Arkansas,” Chapin said.

Additionally the company estimates a direct financial impact of $86 million annually that will benefit local communities.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County worked closely with Highland Pellets on this project. “Lou Ann Nisbett, executive director of The Alliance for Jefferson County located in Pine Bluff, has been a pleasure to work with and was instrumental in giving us comfort that Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, and the State of Arkansas are ready to support our project,” Chapin said.

Although off-take agreements and feedstock partners are still confidential, the company said they are working with industry partners including a leading forestry company to provide sustainable fiber feedstock and Cooper/Consolidated for management of the logistics supply chain for export. Groundbreaking is expected to begin this October with pellet production in March 2016.

“We are actively evaluating additional pellet projects, but our primary focus right now is on building a world class pellet facility in Pine Bluff,” Chapin said.