Usibelli subsidiary buys Superior Pellet Fuels, plans wood kiln

By Aurora Energy Solutions LLC | June 22, 2020

Aurora Energy Solutions LLC, a new company owned by Usibelli Investments, announced June 10 that it has acquired the assets of Superior Pellet Fuels and is constructing a state-of-the-art wood kiln. The kiln will produce clean-burning dry firewood that will help the greater Fairbanks area achieve required reductions in PM 2.5 emissions.

“We are excited to bring forward a meaningful solution that will help improve the air quality for residents and businesses in the Fairbanks North Star Borough,” said Joe Usibelli Jr., managing member of Usibelli Investments.

In 2018, a task force called the Fairbanks Air Quality Stakeholders Group considered many possible remedies to help bring the Fairbanks area into compliance with requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. One proposed solution, which received unanimous support from the stakeholders, was to bring a wood kiln to Fairbanks that would allow the production of reliable, clean-burning dry firewood. 

“This new facility will allow for the production of kiln-dried firewood that is far more efficient as a home heating resource, while also greatly reducing the emissions from wood burning,” said Usibelli. “Superior Pellet Fuels has offered premium wood pellets and compressed logs to the community for the last 10 years. The combination of kiln-dried firewood, along with the reliable biomass products from SPF, provides residents and businesses with several cleaner-burning heating options that are locally sourced, and manufactured right here in Alaska.”  

Rob Brown, president of Aurora Energy Solutions, stated that the energy for the wood kiln would come from the district heat system of the Aurora Energy coal-fired power plant in downtown Fairbanks. “Aurora Energy district heat will flow into the kiln and dry the wood,” said Brown. “This is a win-win situation. Our wood kiln can operate with zero new emissions, and the dry wood product we produce can have a dramatic impact on lowering PM 2.5 emissions and will improve air quality in the community.”

Chad Schumacher, former general manager of Superior Pellet Fuels, will serve as the new general manager of Aurora Energy Solutions and will oversee the new kiln and the continued wood pellet and compressed log operations. Schumacher said that tremendous opportunities lie ahead for both operations. “Because of the investments being made by Aurora Energy Solutions, the pellet plant operations can transition from seasonal to year-round,” said Schumacher. “As a result of having a consistent employee base combined with improvements that will be made to existing infrastructure, we’ll not only gain operational efficiencies, but our customers can expect to see higher-quality premium pellets and compressed log products.” 

SII Dry Kilns of North Carolina, a leader in manufacturing, building, and installing kilns for the lumber and forest products industries, is customizing the Aurora Energy Solutions kiln. The components of the kiln should arrive in Fairbanks in August and enter operational service in the fall. Aurora Energy Solutions is preparing a site in the Fairbanks industrial area, near Phillips Field Road, to accommodate the kiln and a sales office.

‚ÄčAurora Energy Solutions President Rob Brown said the new venture creates ten new jobs (six full-time and four part-time) and will provide other benefits to the community. “This project provides a home-grown solution for local challenges. There’s been a long-time problem of not having a reliable, year-round supply of high-quality, dry firewood. Now we’ll be able to produce up to 7,000 cords of dried firewood each year,” said Brown.

The company plans to offer wholesale and direct retail sales to consumers for kiln-dried firewood, premium wood pellets, and compressed logs at its locations in Fairbanks and North Pole.