N.C. Ports gains state approval for pellet export project

By North Carolina State Ports Authority | June 12, 2013

The North Carolina Council of State approved recently approved a lease agreement that gives the North Carolina State Ports Authority the go-ahead to enter the highly competitive wood pellet industry.

The move is part of a continued focus on efforts to expand economic opportunities in the state and enhance the viability of North Carolina’s ports.

The agreement between the Ports and Enviva Holdings LP could allow for construction of a wood pellet export facility at the Port of Wilmington. The agreement could bring an estimated $2 million annual investment and at least $1.25 million in annual revenue. If built, the facility would receive, store and load wood pellets for export to Europe, where they would be used as a renewable energy source.

According to forest-industry experts at N.C. State University, U.S. production of wood pellets is expected to increase from 3 million tons just four short years ago, to nearly 10 million tons by 2015. With its vast amount of renewable and sustainable wood fiber sources, North Carolina is an attractive location for wood biomass plants.

“This is a great way to increase the state’s global connection through our ports, supporting North Carolina businesses, expanding economic opportunities, enhancing port operations and bringing jobs to the Greater Wilmington area,” said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.

The at-port facility could create approximately 70 new jobs, and support at least 80 indirect jobs in the logging and transportation industries.

Under the agreement, Enviva could construct a facility that will consist of two storage domes, a rail car unloading station and a ship loader and conveyor system. Enviva would finance the construction — estimated at approximately $35 million — and would be responsible for operating it. The initial lease term is 21 years, with two additional 5-year renewal options.

Final design and construction of the facility would take approximately 18 months. The agreement calls for the facility to be operational by January 2015.