Wisconsin wood pellet plant breaks ground

By Jerry W. Kram
Web exclusive posted August 28, 2008 at 1:35 p.m. CST

Indeck Energy Services Inc. and Midwest Forest Products Co. recently broke ground on Indeck Ladysmith LLC, a 90,000-ton-per-year wood pellet plant in Ladysmith, Wis. The facility, which is scheduled to be operational in July 2009, will take wood waste from sawmills, paper mills and furniture manufacturers, and form wood pellets for residential and industrial applications.

The residential pellets produced by the plant will meet specifications for premium wood pellets, said Don Hartdegen, project manager for the Indeck Ladysmith facility. Premium pellets have lower ash content than industrial grade pellets. The plant will use the Canadian National Rail Line for bulk loading and international exports.

Hartdegen said Indeck became interested in the Ladysmith project when it was approached by a Wisconsin utility interested in developing a wood fired power plant. That deal never came to fruition, but Indeck continued to develop the idea of using the areas bounty of timber. "We did some research and found that Ladysmith would be a good site for such a plant," he said. "That fell through but we realized there was a tremendous upside market for wood pellets."

The plant will create 15 full-time permanent positions plus 60 construction jobs as well as indirect jobs for truckers, loggers and other services. "Wisconsin and the entire country must begin meeting our energy needs with renewable sources," said Wisconsin state senator Russ Decker, who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. "The high quality heating pellets which will be produced by this facility will help us achieve our goals and improve our environment by reducing our carbon footprint. I am so pleased to have this facility built right here in Rusk County."

Hartdegen said there is a significant market for wood pellets in the region, especially with the increases that have been seen in heating oil and natural gas. The market for wood pellets is also booming in New England and Europe, and the company hopes to capitalize on its rail connections for export markets. "We found that both industrial and residential pellets are in demand, so we designed our plant to be flexible," he said.

Indeck, headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Ill., is a privately held developer of renewable energy facilities including ethanol and biodiesel plants. Other projects in development by the company include another wood chip facility in Mississippi and a bagasse briquetting plant in Louisiana. Midwest Forest Products of Hayward, Wis., is involved in pulpwood processing and procurement, chipping, trucking, timber harvesting and timberland management.