Drax Group, world-leading sustainable biomass production and supply company, will begin constructing the first of three new “satellite” pellet plants in Leola, Arkansas. The $40 million project is expected to create roughly 30 new direct jobs in Grant County.
The three plants are together expected to produce approximately 120,000 metric tons of sustainable biomass pellets a year from sawmill residues, supporting the renewable energy company’s plans to increase self-supply to its power station in the U.K. Drax will begin construction of the first plant later this month near a West Fraser sawmill in Leola with commissioning expected in October. The company will begin construction on two more plants in other locations in the coming months, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“By building these new pellet plants Drax is bringing jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas, boosting the state’s post-COVID economic recovery," Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said. “Through this investment, Arkansas will play an important role in combating climate change, supporting Drax to increase the amount of sustainable biomass we produce as part of our plans to pioneer bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. By using sustainable biomass, we have displaced coal-fired power generation, reduced carbon emissions and provided renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses in the UK.”
The development of the “satellite” pellet plants is part of Drax’s strategy to increase biomass self-supply to five million tons by 2027, improving supply chain resilience while reducing pellet costs. By co-locating the pellet facilities with sawmills, Drax will benefit from lower infrastructure, operational, and transportation costs.
“Each of these three Arkansas communities will be uniquely impacted by today’s announcement,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Families in different regions across the state will experience new opportunities and their communities will experience continued growth because of Drax’s investment. I congratulate Drax on this exciting news and look forward to the ways that Arkansas will be influential in accomplishing the company’s mission to provide renewable electricity for millions of homes and businesses.”
Drax has transformed its power station in the U.K. to become the largest decarbonization project in Europe by converting it to use sustainable biomass instead of coal. Drax owns and has interests in 17 other pellet plants and development projects across the U.S. and Canada.