Pellet manufacturer buys Virginia port terminal

By Lisa Gibson | February 16, 2011

Pellet manufacturer Enviva LP will be able to expand its shipping capacity with the acquisition of a deep water port terminal in Chesapeake, Va. The investment will enable the company to receive, store and load in excess of 3 million tons of woody biomass for export annually.

The location is one of a few on the Eastern Seaboard suitable for the export of wood pellets and will serve as the shipment point for pellets manufactured at Enviva’s recently announced plant in nearby Ahoskie, N.C. The new plant will produce 330,000 tons of wood pellets annually from more than 600,000 tons of raw supplies, according to Enviva.

The Chesapeake port is Enviva’s second and the company will continue to ship pellets made at its Gulf region plants from its Mobile, Ala., port. The Virginia terminal was formerly owned by Giant Cement Co., which will continue to use a portion of it for cement sales. Expansion of the terminal will require 40 to 60 skilled workers and contractors during the initial phase of construction, and its permanent staff of 12 is expected to double by the third year of operation. Upgrades are expected to be complete in November, coinciding with pellet production at the new Ahoskie facility, according to Enviva.

“The Chesapeake region has for a long time been a key nexus of international trade in the United States,” said Enviva CEO John Keppler. “We are particularly excited to be one of the first green economy manufacturers to rebalance the flow of trade in favor of exports from this port in Virginia.” The company said the terminal purchase is a reflection of its commitment to ensuring the safety, reliability, sustainability and quality of its product. It also allows the company to better satisfy growing overseas demand for wood pellets.

The port terminal can accommodate a wide range of ships and loading options required for the export of more than 40,000 metric tons (44,000 tons) of Enviva’s pellets per vessel. The company is also looking into the development of at least two other manufacturing facilities in the Ahoskie area. Enviva’s customer base is mainly utility, industrial and retail customers throughout Europe, but increasingly in the U.S. With expansion plans on the horizon, Enviva’s pellet production capacity will exceed 1.3 million tons annually by the end of 2012.