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Drax starts construction on second Arkansas pellet plant

UK-headed wood pellet and renewable power company Drax Group plc has announced that its North American pellet operations business, Drax Biomass Inc. has begun construction in Russellville on the second of three satellite wood pellet plants in Arkansas (AR).

Drax Group plc subsidiary Drax Biomass Inc. has begun construction in Russellville on the second of three satellite wood pellet plants in Arkansas (photo courtesy Drax Biomass).

According to a statement, work is underway at the site in Russellville, Pope County in northwestern Arkansas, with commercial operations expected to begin at the plant in 2022.

The move is part of a US$40 million investment by Drax in the state, creating approximately 30 new direct jobs and many more indirect jobs across Arkansas.

The investment that Drax is making throughout Arkansas is proof that the state’s timber industry is poised for a bright future and is a great example of how a global economy works. Through this partnership, these three Arkansas communities will experience further growth and opportunities, and Drax will be able to continue working toward its mission to provide renewable electricity for millions across the pond, said Mike Preston, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce.

The three pellet plants are expected to produce a combined total of around 120 000 tonnes of wood pellets per annum from sawmill residues, supporting the renewable energy company’s plans to increase self-supply to its power station in the UK.

The construction and future operation of the Drax pellet plant in Russellville is certainly welcome news. On the occasion of this exciting announcement, I’d like to welcome Drax as a new partner in our community and thank them for the investment they are making in our community, said Russellville Mayor Richard Harris.

Increase self-supply capacity

The development of the “satellite” pellet plants, which are situated near sawmills, is part of Drax’s strategy to increase biomass self-supply to five million tonnes by 2027, improving supply chain resilience while reducing pellet costs.

Locating the plants near sawmills provides the satellite plants with a ready feedstock of sawdust and other residues left over when timber is processed, reducing emissions in the supply chain as well as reducing infrastructure, operational, and transportation costs.

Earlier this year construction began at Drax’s first satellite pellet plant in Leola, Grant County, and commercial operations are expected to begin late this year. Progress is being made on selecting the third and final site.

Drax has made great progress in delivering our US$40 million investment in Arkansas, with the second of three satellite pellet plants now under construction. The investments we’re making will bring jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas alongside supporting international efforts to tackle the climate emergency. These plants support Drax’s plans to develop bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – a vital negative emissions technology that will be needed around the world to meet net-zero targets, said Matt White, SVP of Drax Biomass.

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