News | February 2019

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Black Pellets Plant Finds New Life

The Zilkha “black” pellets manufacturing plant in Selma, Ala. is attempting a comeback. A new ownership has completed refinancing of nearly $60 million. The mill operation, which started up in 2015, is now called Zilkha Biomass Selma LLC, which is owned by Zilkha Biomass Fuels I LLC, a subsidiary of NextGen Black Pellets LLC, which is the management buyout group that purchased the operation in late 2016.

The funds will be used to recom mission and place the mill back in operation and for capital expenditure projects to produce black pellets as a substitute for coal in power plant operations.

“I’m feeling relieved for the men and women in the forest industry, and I was proud to stand with the men and women in forestry and fight this good fight,” says Tom Thomson, an Orford tree farmer and son of the late Gov. Mel Thomson. Thomson helped organize foresters and supporters of the bill, which will require utilities to purchase a portion of their electricity from the state’s wood-burning power plants.

The mill is expected to start commercial operation in the first quarter of 2019. The mill will produce 60,000 metric tons in the first year of operation, 200,000 in the second year, and 240,000 in subsequent years, for export to worldwide markets. 

Zilkha reports its black pellets have co-fired at rates up to 50% substitution for coal without changes to the processing equipment. The product offers higher energy value and higher bulk density, according to the company.

Dixie Pellets actually built the first pellet plant on the site in 2008, producing conventional “white” pellets, but the venture failed. Houston-based Zilkha Biomass purchased the operation at a bankruptcy auction and started it up with a “steam explosion” or “thermal conditioning” process for producing black pellets. Zilka touts its product and process as lower cost than torrefaction.

The plant had primarily procured in-woods fuel chips and some chip mill clean chips, mostly southern yellow pine.

As the plant previously ran, chips off two rotary dryers went to one of three bins, each feeding two vertical reactors. Once filled, the capping valve was closed and steam was inserted. After a certain amount of cooking time, the pressure was reduced, the blow valve at the bottom opened and the release of steam pressure blew the material over into a blow tank cylinder. The pressures, temperatures and exact sequence was the proprietary part of the technology.

First shipments were sent abroad and a supply agreement was in place, but disagreements with the purchaser soon reportedly arose and markets dissipated.

The mill was idled in early 2017 as the new ownership examined various scenarios, including selling the facility. But the ownership moved forward and completed a $59.8 million refinancing last September.

The company continues to seek licensees to its Zilkha Black Pellet technology.

The original Zilkha Biomass Energy had planned to build a second manufacturing plant in Monticello, Ark. on an 80 acre site, but the acreage has since been released back to the Monticello Economic Development Commission for other development.

Next Enviva Mill May Be Lucedale

In early January George County and Jackson County in Mississippi each voted to approve incentive packages, which are contingent on Enviva making a final investment decision to proceed with building a wood pellet mill at Lucedale and a shipping terminal at Pascagoula, respectively.

The final investment decision may be made contingent on approval of all necessary permits, according to a statement by Enviva, which expects capacity to be consistent with Enviva’s other largescale production plants.

“Although we are still proceeding through the permitting process and will shortly make a final investment decision, I can tell you that we are excited to build on our success in Mississippi by investing in new facilities in George and Jackson counties,” comments Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler, who notes that Enviva’s very first facility, a small plant in Amory, produced its one millionth ton of wood pellets in early January.

“We are very grateful for the warm welcome and support we’ve received from state and county leaders, and we look forward to being good neighbors and contributing to economic prosperity in these counties,” Keppler adds.

Enviva operates seven pellet mills with stated production capacity of 3.3 million metric tons and one is starting up this year in Hamlet, NC, which will add another 600,000 metric tons. On top of that, Enviva has announced it will increase production capacity by 400,000 metric tons between its plants in Northampton County, NC and Southampton County, Va.

The company ships its pellets to overseas markets and has recently signed off-take contracts with Japanese customers.

Enviva continues to look at other Southern U.S. sites for possible new plant construction.

Torrefaction Plant Begins Construction

New business Futerra Torrefacao e Tecnologia S.A. (Futerra Fuels) has started construction of its first commercial scale torrefied pellet production plant in Valongo, Portugal. The plant will have an annual production capacity of 120,000 tons of torrefied pellets and 55,000 tons of regular industrial wood pellets per year.

The company reports that its torrefaction process is based on “swirling bed” technology. The plant in Northern Portugal is surrounded by eucalyptus forests that once served the pulp and paper industry.

The total investment is €38 million. The successful commercialization of this new technology was designed and supplied by Yilkins B.V. of The Netherlands.

Ligna Hannover Offers Multiple Events

Ligna, the trade fair for woodworking and wood processing plant, machinery and tools, will present a wealth of innovations and applications for the entire wood industry May 27-31 in Hannover, Germany. Exhibtors will use 1.4 million sq. ft. of display space spread across 10 exhibition halls and an open-air site at the Hannover Exhibition Center.

• “Access to Resources and Technology” is the focus theme for the 3rd Wood Industry Summit, which will be held in Hall 26. Organized by Deutsche Messe in partnership with the German Forestry Council (KWF), it is an international dialogue and technology showcase comprising a forum, lounge and exhibition area. For the first time, the summit will also feature the “Future Workshop for Forestry & Wood” showcase—a group pavilion for startups that is inspired by the German government’s “Charter for Wood 2.0” policy.

• For the first time, Deutsche Messe and the German Woodsmen’s Championships Assn. (VWMD) will be co-staging the German Logging Championships—the “Formula 1” of forestry skills—on the openair site at Ligna. At the 14th German Logging Championship, Germany’s best 100 or so forestry professionals will demonstrate their chain saw skills under the watchful eye of an expert panel of judges.

The outdoor demonstration site premiered successfully in 2017 and is back again for LIGNA 2019. It is a dedicated area where the latest forestry machines and technology developments are shown in action. The outdoor site is organized in partnership with the German For - estry Council (KWF) and will be located in the middle of the German Logging Championship area.

l 2019 will mark the ninth time that the German Forestry Council (KWF) is spearheading a special forestry technology presentation at Ligna. Held in Pavilion 33 beneath the iconic EXPO canopy, the unique, technology-centric forestry industry meeting hub is organized by KWF with input from the German Assn. of Forestry Contractors (AFL) and the Lower Saxony Forestry Service (as represented by the Lower Saxony School of For - estry – NFBz). Among the featured topics is Forestry 4.0 with emphasis on digitization.

The group display that the North Rhine-Westphalia Forestry Service is staging in one of the pavilions beneath EXPO canopy will explore innovations for sustainable forest management and focus on the further development and digital integration of work processes across the entire primary wood industry value chain. The main topic highlights include resource efficiency in the use of forestry machines and the development of new digital training systems for operators of forestry machinery.

The Energy from Wood showcase will be located in halls 25 and 26, on the open-air site and in pavilions 32, 33 and 35. The showcase will present technologies that woodindustry manufacturers can use to recover process energy and re-use it for heating and electric generation.

Graanul Invest Joins Committee

Mihkel Jugaste, head of quality and certification systems at major wood pellet producer Graanul Invest, was chosen to the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) standards committee for the next three years.

“Sustainability requirements for biomass have become a vital part in numerous industries and we need centralized standards that can be applied globally,” Jugaste comments.

Other selected members of the committee include:

—Gary Bull, Professor and Head of the Forest Resources Management Dept. at the University of British Columbia

—Richard Donovan, senior forestry specialist and advisor

—Pedro Faria, strategic advisor at CDP

—Nina Haase, certification practitioner and board member of the ainforest Alliance

—Martin Junginger, Professor of Bio-based Economy at Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University

—Dave Tenny, founding President and CEO of National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO)

—Sune Balle Hansen, Biomass Sustainability Lead at HOFOR, Greater Copenhagen Utility

—Gordon Murray, Executive Director of Wood Pellet Assn. of Canada (WPAC)

—Gaby Rahn, Manager Biomass Business Development at Vattenfall Energy Trading

—Yves Ryckmans, Chief Technology Officer, Biomass at ENGIE Laborelec

—Mike Williams, Project Director for The Westervelt Co.

Mid-Atlantic Expo Coming On Strong

Information about the 2019 Mid- Atlantic Logging & Biomass Expo was delivered to prospective exhibitors in early November and exhibitors quickly began confirming space. All available live sites have been claimed by CBI, Barko/John Woodie Enterprises, Caterpillar/Gregory Poole/Carolina CAT, John Deere/James River Equipment, and Tigercat. Ditch Witch of the Carolinas signed up for a chipper site, and ATG Tire and CSI claimed static sites.

Ordered in 2017, the ClassiSizer provides Biosyl with a capacity of more than 10 t/h b.d. The unit can handle heterogeneous raw materials, various chips dimensions and different wood species. Depending on the machine configuration, either dry, wet or both materials can be processed. The high-quality flakes produced by the ClassiSizer can be dried by a drum or a belt dryer in the downstream production process.

The event will be held Friday and Saturday, May 3-4 near Laurinburg, NC on the site prepared for the 2017 event, which was cancelled due to a hurricane.

“The sandy site, located in Scotland County between Laurinburg and Laurel Hill, is the best one yet for the show. It has plenty of mature timber, great access and is welldrained,” says Jack Swanner, Expo Coordinator.

Established in 2013, the first three Mid-Atlantic Expos, held near Smithfield, NC, drew an average attendance of 4,000.

Sponsored by the Carolina Loggers Assn., NC Forestry Assn., and Hatton-Brown Publishers, the family- friendly event will feature the latest forestry and transportation equipment technology, supplies and services; loader contests; and entertainment for children.

Visit, phone Swanner at 828-421-8444, or email

Bandit Completes Transition To ESOP

Bandit Industries, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, has finalized its transition to a 100% ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). Former owners Mike Morey Sr., Dianne Morey and Jerry Morey had announced their intention to sell the company in an ESOP last summer.

The management team that has been guiding Bandit for the last several years will remain in place under the ESOP.

“We’re excited to begin this new era in Bandit’s history,” says Jason Morey, Bandit’s North American sales manager and member of Bandit’s management board. “We continue to grow, expand and gain market. We’re putting the finishing touches on two new building expansions that will increase our capacity and efficiency for our parts departments and final assembly.”

Jamie Morey, the Bandit Parts and Service manager and granddaughter of Mike and Dianne, comments, “As we move forward with Bandit now an ESOP company, myself and the rest of management are excited to keep pioneering and moving forward with the legacy that was left to all of us. As a granddaughter and management board member, it has been a real honor to watch this company transform into what greatness it is today.”

Former owner Jerry Morey says the future of Bandit now belongs to its employees. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for all of our employees. They’ll all have a share in the business, with a lot of incentive to continue to add to what we’ve already built, Bandit’s employees will continue to make this company even stronger.”

Enviva Plans More Production

The world’s biggest producer of wood pellets plans to grow bigger. Enviva reports it expects to increase production capacity of its wood pellet plants in Northampton, NC and Southampton, Va. by 400,000 metric tons per year.

Enviva expects to invest $130 million in additional production assets and emissions control equipment. Enviva anticipates completion of construction in early 2020 with startup shortly thereafter.

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