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Our Katahdin to develop One North Forest Products Campus

Our Katahdin to develop One North Forest Products Campus
The Port of Searsport, Maine (photo courtesy Sprague).

In the United States (US), Our Katahdin, a volunteer-driven non-profit organization to support community and economic development in the Katahdin region of Maine (ME) has announced the collaborative development of a sustainable Forest Products Campus (FPC) and transportation corridor connecting the One North industrial site in Millinocket to Searsport, Maine.

The FPC will be anchored by an existing wood-pellet facility and supported by upgraded and expanded rail infrastructure that will link forest products industry production facilities to the international deep-water port in Searsport.

Led by Our Katahdin project partners the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) and NBM Railways, a J.D. Irving Group company, the railway improvement project is scheduled to begin design and permitting in 2023, with construction anticipated to begin in 2024.

The One North Forest Products Campus and rail corridor will send Maine-manufactured wood pellets across the globe, creating good-paying jobs in Millinocket, bolstering the forest products supply chain across rural Maine, and further positioning Maine’s forest products industry as a leader in meeting the world’s growing need for clean and sustainable energy sources, said Governor Janet Mills.

Pellet production plans

The One North FPC pellet mill and associated timber-related industrial development will process biomass from the North Maine Woods as well as forestry residuals from existing industries across the state, providing a market for regional land owner thinnings, low-grade timber, and residuals.

The FPC will provide an opportunity for additional value-added forest product manufacturers to co-locate on the campus.

Highland Carbon Solutions LLC (HCS), a project development affiliate under common control of wood pellet producer Highland Pellets LLC of Pine Bluff, Arkansas (AR), has agreed to the collaborative development of an industrial-scale wood pellet production facility at the One North campus.

My Administration worked closely with One North and its partners on this project, and now I am pleased to welcome Highland Carbon Solutions as they embark on this exciting new chapter for the Katahdin Region and our state, said Governor Janet Mills.

Large-scale pellet manufacturing in Maine supports the state’s forest products industry, generates local jobs and economic activity, and contributes a clean-burning, renewable fuel source to global energy markets.

We are delighted to move forward with HCS, a partner with a proven track record of success in sustainable, clean wood pellet production. Sustainability is a core principle of both organizations, said Steve Sanders, Director of Industrial Site Development.

Rail infrastructure is a vital component

Improved rail infrastructure is a vital component in developing the FPC. Improvements to the rail line and ancillary infrastructure include increased railcar storage capacity at the NBM Railway’s Millinocket railyard within One North and improved siding locations along the railway corridor between Millinocket and Searsport.

Our railways are an economic foundation for the State of Maine, catalyzing private industrial development and supporting good-paying jobs. MaineDOT is excited to coordinate the preparation of a federal funding grant application to improve rail connections to the lines from Millinocket to Searsport. This funding will help leverage a huge amount of private investment, represent a big win for Maine’s forest products sector, and position Maine as a leader in the clean energy economy, said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation.

A rail spur site plan has been developed for One North and includes the addition of safety gates to three at-grade rail crossings within the Town of Millinocket.

Without expanded rail capacity, the One North FPC would not be possible. The rail project greatly expands the state’s ability to facilitate bulk transport of goods, from points of production to oceanic shipping terminals, said Sean DeWitt, President of Our Katahdin.

Our Katahdin is partnering with the MaineDOT, HCS, and railroad partners NBM Railways, and Canadian Pacific Railway to submit a US$56.8 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in support of the proposed development.

We are grateful to have the full support of the MaineDOT and their railroad partners in this crucial first step, Sean DeWitt added.

The application will leverage multi-million matching funds provided by HCS and NBM Railways.

The 106.5-mile rail corridor between Millinocket and Searsport, owned by NBM Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway, will be used to transport pellets in specialty, bulk-transport rail cars from the One North FPC campus in Millinocket to Sprague’s Searsport terminal for export to European energy markets.

The Mack Point terminal in Searsport is a versatile and well-equipped marine cargo and rail terminal that connects Maine’s forest products to global markets. Improving the rail corridor from Millinocket to Searsport compliments the investments made by the State of Maine over the last few decades at the Port of Searsport and will directly benefit Maine people and businesses, said Matt Burnes, Executive Director of Maine Port Authority.

The application will be submitted by the end of November 2022. The FRA’s CRISI review process is expected to be completed by mid-2023. With improved rail infrastructure, the Forest Products Campus and Corridor is expected to be operational by 2026.

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