Enviva to construct Alabama pellet plant

By Erin Voegele | October 07, 2019

Enviva is moving forward with plans to construct a new wood pellet plant in Sumter County, Alabama, and increase the production capacity of its existing wood pellet plant Sampson County, North Carolina.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement Oct. 4 announcing Enviva plans to invest $175 million to construct the Sumter County facility. The plant is initially expected to have the capacity to produce 700,000 metric tons of pellets annually. The facility could later expand to 1.15 million tons per year.

Information released by Ivey’s office indicates the facility is to be located at the Port of Epes Industrial Park. Construction on the facility is expected to begin in early 2020, subject to receiving the necessary permits. Construction is expected to take 15 to 18 months to complete.  

Enviva said the proposed facility will primarily use a mix of softwood and scrap from mills sourced from within a 75-mile radius. Pellets produced at the facility will be transported by barge via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Enviva’s terminal at the Port of Pascagoula in Mississippi for export to Europe and Asia. The new facility is expected to create a minimum of 85 full-time jobs and generate an estimated 180 additional jobs in logging, transportation and local services in the region.

“We are privileged to have been invited by the people of Alabama to invest in a remarkable community like Epes,” said John Keppler, chairman and CEO of Enviva. “With its thriving forest resources, great local workforce and favorable transportation logistics, we look forward to the opportunity to grow sustainably in West Alabama for decades to come.”

Enviva announced plans to build and operate a deep-water marine terminal at the Port of Pascagoula in August. At that time, the company said development of the terminal will allow the company to construct several wood pellet plants in Mississippi and Alabama. The Sumter County facility would be the second plant developed in that planned cluster. Enviva previously announced plans to develop a pellet plant in Lucedale, Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Permit Board approved Enviva’s permit to begin construction on the Lucedale plant in July. Documents published by the Mississippi DEQ indicate the facility will be designed to produce 1.42 million tons of pellets annually.

Work is also progressing on the expansion of Enviva’s existing pellet plant in Sampson County, North Carolina. One day prior to Ivey’s announcement regarding the proposed Alabama facility, Enviva issued a statement indicating the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality has issued an air permit for the Sampson plant that will allow the facility to install additional air emission controls, increase production, and allow flexibility to increase the percentage of softwood the plant can utilize.

Information published by the North Carolina DEQ shows the Sampson facility will now be able to produce up to 657,000 tons of wood pellets annually, up from the previously permitted volume of 537,625 tons.