Alaska Coal Firm Acquires Pellet Mill

Officials with Alaska-based Usibelli Mines, Inc. recently announced the company has acquired Superior Pellet Fuels of Fairbanks, which produces wood pellets and briquettes for local markets. New Usibelli subsidiary Aurora Energy Solutions is also installing a new generation wood kiln that will utilize waste heat from a nearby Aurora coal-fired power plant.

The project is part of an overall effort to improve air quality in Fairbanks, where firewood is the primary mode of heating but the market is mostly green wood, leading to higher emissions. Fairbanks has been out of compliance for years with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards because of local temperature inversions during cold winter weather that concentrate pollutants at low levels in the community, creating health hazards.

The kiln, supplied by SII Dry Kilns, will produce dry firewood that burns much cleaner, up to 7,000 cords annually. Officials with Superior Pellet Fuels say the acquisition will also allow financing for long-needed expansion and a move to year-round production. The projects will provide regional residents with more local options for low-emissions wood fuel. A small local natural gas utility is expanding in the area, but it still relies on trucked in liquified natural gas.

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