The Earth Partners acquire South Dakota pellet plant

By Anna Simet | September 30, 2014

Land restoration and bioenergy development company The Earth Partners LP has acquired Deadwood Biofuels, a 71,000-ton wood pellet plant in Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Earth Partners is a joint venture between Canadian silviculture and forest management company Brinkman & Associates and Reforestation and Applied Ecological Services, a U.S.-based ecological restoration company. “As a bioenergy and land restoration project development company, Deadwood Biofuels represents one of the kinds of projects we’re actively developing right now and call ‘conservation biomass,’ ” said Emily McGlynn, Earth Partners sustainability manager.

The Deadwood plant utilizes pine beetle killed wood, forest residues, thinnings and low-grade timber sourced from South Dakota’s Black Hills, materials removed to improve forest health. “We are really trying to stand up business models that showcase how you can utilize private markets to finance land restoration,” McGlynn said. “After a number of years of analyzing opportunities to do that, biomass markets have come to the forefront as one of the best possible ways. Deadwood is an excellent example of supporting sustainable management restoration of forests that have been degraded by insect infestation, and using it to generate a renewable energy product. We’re really excited to have one of our first examples up and running.”

While the Deadwood plant represents the company’s first operating asset, more projects are in development in Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico, said Chas Taylor, director of business development. “Our partner companies and people in our company have designed, developed and operated pellet plants and other forestry operations before, and we’re developing a number of other projects in other regions,” he said.

Taylor said the Deadwood plant has been operating continuously throughout the acquisition, and that the plant would maintain a focus on serving local residential and industrial markets—exporting is not currently on the drawing board. “In terms of capacity, we’re aiming to take it up to 100,000 tons over time.”

“That’s one of the things that Earth Partners is excited to bring to bare—our resources with our equity investor and our management experience from other pellet mills to really optimize the existing asset and bring added value,” McGlynn said, adding that most of the key management at Deadwood Biofuels will remain the same, and as the facility is optimized, addition of employees is likely.