Enviva Partners, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, issued a statement thanking the North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) for their work to ensure that residents’ and other interested parties’ voices were heard during a month-long public comment period including a public hearing held at the Northampton County High School on August 20. The comment period and hearing were part of a permit modification process initiated by Enviva’s request to increase air quality controls and annual production capacity at its Northampton wood pellet production plant. 

The plant is currently permitted to produce up to 535,260 tons of wood pellets per year while utilizing up to 30% softwood on a 12-month rolling basis.

The permit application calls for emission reduction controls while increasing annual production to 781,255 tons per year “by upgrading pellet dies with a new prototype,” and increase the amount of softwood processed from 30% to a maximum of 80% “to meet new customer demands for increased softwood percentage and production rates.”

The air control plan calls for installing a new direct-fired wood dryer equipped with a new wet ESP and regenerative thermal oxidizer and installing a new RTO after the existing wet ESP on the existing dryer; the plan also calls for removing two existing green wood hammermills, constructing five new green hammermills and installing two new dry shavings hammermills and affiliated dry shavings material handling equipment.

Economic analysis data indicates that Enviva’s Northampton plant contributes over $150 million annually in regional economic impact. The plant supports nearly 300 direct and indirect jobs and the plant’s average hourly wage is more than double the per capita county income. Enviva has invested over $100 million at its Northampton plant, and in addition spends approximately $70 million in operating expenses per year. Enviva reports that the United States Census Bureau indicates the number of families in Northampton County living below the poverty rate has decreased by over 15% since Enviva’s Northampton plant opened.

Enviva purchased the 121 acre plant site near Garysburg in August 2011 and produced its first pellet in April 2013. The North­ampton plant was the company’s first greenfield pellet mill along the Atlantic Coast, following the startup of a plant at a former wood products plant site in Ahoskie, NC. Enviva now operates seven wood pellet plants.