Highland Pellets commissions Arkansas pellet plant

By Anna Simet | December 08, 2016

Highland Pellet’s 600,000 metric-ton wood pellet plant in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is officially open and undergoing commissioning, expecting to be producing pellets by the end of the year.

The project has been completed on time and under budget, according to the company, despite challenges brought on by well-above-average rainfall.

Plans for the $229 million, four-line plant were initially announced in August of 2014, and the company engaged Astec Inc. as engineering, procurement and construction contractor. It is Astec’s second major wood pellet plant project, as the firm previously built a $60 million, 500,000 metric-ton plant in Hazelhurst, Georgia, for Fram Renewable Fuels.

Andritz and Progress Industries provided pellet mill and wood yard equipment.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the plant on Nov. 21.  According to the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce, “There was an overwhelming number of residents attending to show their support for the new industry.”

Highland will employ 68 people directly, and nearly 1,000 in indirect jobs in Jefferson County and surrounding communities. The direct financial impact on the Pine Bluff area is more than $86 million annually, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which, along with the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, worked closely with Highland Pellets on the project, providing tax incentives to help the company prepare the plant’s industrial site infrastructure.

The facility will use about 1.4 million tons of wood feedstock annually, mostly southern yellow pine. Pellets produced at the facility will be transported by Union Pacific on mainline rail to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for export to Europe.

This is the first wood pellet facility Highland Pellets has built, and the company plans to build additional facilities in neighboring states.