In-Woods Operations

The Great Opportunity

Take a look at our news section in this issue and you’ll see no shortage of announcements about industrial wood pellet plants—some proposed pro­jects, some nearing startup, some just started up, further developments on some we had forgotten about. It’s an exciting time for a worldwide industry still in its infancy.

Sometimes we’re guilty of focusing so much on the new pellet plants that we overlook what’s going on in the woods. That’s what prompted us to search for an in-woods operator who has bought—so far successfully—into this new wood fiber market. What better place to start looking than the supplier network for the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, Enviva.

We have visited and published articles on Enviva’s wood pellet plants in Ahoskie and Garysburg, NC. The storage and movement of such a large supply of chips is fairly overwhelming as you walk the grounds of those plants, and begs the question: Who is doing the work in the woods?

We learned that a healthy portion of it is being done by Tidewater Land & Timber and J&R Logging, which share an office in Pantego, NC, near the Atlantic Coast. We had a great visit to the J&R Logging in-woods operation and some excellent discussion with the principals. Alas, our cover story on Tidewater Land & Timber and J&R Logging begins on page 14. It’s really a story about a procurement forester, Stephen Tucker, and a logger, Joedy Cahoon, and how they’ve integrated their operations and expertise to become a big supplier of micro chips for Enviva.

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From Left: Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief; Jay Donnell, Associate Editor; Dan Shell, Western Editor; Jessica Johnson, Associate Editor; David Abbott, Senior Associate Editor; David (DK) Knight, Co-Publisher/Executive Editor

It’s also a strong lesson in maintaining business relationships, because Tucker’s relationship with Enviva fiber supply manager, Danny Maness, goes back some years—back to when Maness worked for Champion International. You remember Champion International don’t you? International Paper bought it out in 2000. Tucker meanwhile worked for Weyerhaeuser Co. Cahoon, a longtime producer of fuel chips, enters the picture back then as well. We’ll let you read the story—a very interesting one—to find out how all of that evolved into today’s impressive endeavor.

Of course we also had a lot of interest in the chippers that J&R Logging was running, and arrived to find a Continental Biomass Industries grinder and Bandit Industries chipper, both geared for producing micro chips. The article delves as well into how the operators settled on these particular units.

Which brings us to a final point—that the number of excellent chipper and grinder machines offered by a dozen or so manufacturers is truly remarkable. We don’t envy those manufacturers as they compete for sales in that marketplace. We’re discovering that for many in-woods operations the decision of which chipper and/or grinder to go with is an excruciating one that comes after tons of due diligence.

It’s worth it. The new industrial wood pellet industry is providing tons of demand.