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New business venture acquires Superior Pellet Fuels in Alaska

In the United States (US), Aurora Energy Solutions, LLC, a new company owned by Usibelli Investments, a subsidiary of Usibelli Coal Mine Inc., has recently announced that it has acquired the assets of Superior Pellet Fuels (SPF), a briquette and wood pellet producer with operations in North Pole, Alaska (AK).

Chad Schumacher, General Manager of Aurora Energy Solutions (left); Joe Usibelli Jr., Managing Member of Usibelli Investments; and Rob Brown, President of Aurora Energy Solutions at the North Pole wood pellets and briquette manufacturing facility in Alaska (photo courtesy Aurora Energy Solutions).

In addition to the acquisition of SPF assets, Aurora Energy Solutions is constructing a state-of-the-art wood kiln in Fairbanks, Alaska (AK). The kiln will produce clean-burning dry firewood that will help the greater Fairbanks area achieve required reductions in PM 2.5 emissions.

We are excited to bring forward a meaningful solution that will help improve the air quality for residents and businesses in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, said Joe Usibelli Jr., Managing Member of Usibelli Investments.

Resolving air compliance

In 2018, a task force called the Fairbanks Air Quality Stakeholders Group considered many possible remedies to help bring the Fairbanks area into compliance with requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

One proposed solution, which received unanimous support from the stakeholders, was to bring a wood kiln to Fairbanks that would allow the production of reliable, clean-burning dry firewood.

This new facility will allow for the production of kiln-dried firewood that is far more efficient as a home heating resource, while also greatly reducing the emissions from wood burning. Superior Pellet Fuels has offered premium wood pellets and compressed logs to the community for the last 10 years. The combination of kiln-dried firewood, along with the reliable biomass products from SPF, provides residents and businesses with several cleaner-burning heating options that are locally sourced and manufactured right here in Alaska, said Joe Usibelli.

Power plant heat utilization

SII Dry Kilns of North Carolina (NC), a leader in manufacturing, building, and installing kilns for the lumber and forest products industries, is customizing the Aurora Energy Solutions kiln. The components of the kiln should arrive in Fairbanks in August and enter operational service in the fall.

Aurora Energy Solutions is preparing a site in the Fairbanks industrial area, near Phillips Field Road, to accommodate the kiln and a sales office. Aurora Energy Solutions President Rob Brown said the new venture creates ten new jobs – six full-time and four part-time – and will provide other benefits to the community.

This project provides a home-grown solution for local challenges. There’s been a long-time problem of not having a reliable, year-round supply of high-quality, dry firewood. Now we’ll be able to produce up to 7 000 cords (≈ 25 300 m3) of dried firewood each year, said Rob Brown.

Brown also explained that the energy for the wood kiln would come from the district heat system of the Aurora Energy coal-fired power plant in downtown Fairbanks.

Aurora Energy district heat will flow into the kiln and dry the wood. This is a win-win situation. Our wood kiln can operate with zero new emissions, and the dry wood product we produce can have a dramatic impact on lowering PM 2.5 emissions and will improve air quality in the community, said Rob Brown.

Chad Schumacher, former General Manager of Superior Pellet Fuels, will serve as the new General Manager of Aurora Energy Solutions and will oversee the new kiln and the continued wood pellet and compressed log operations. Schumacher said that tremendous opportunities lie ahead for both operations.

Because of the investments being made by Aurora Energy Solutions, the pellet plant operations can transition from seasonal to year-round. As a result of having a consistent employee base combined with improvements that will be made to existing infrastructure, we’ll not only gain operational efficiencies, but our customers can expect to see higher-quality premium pellets and compressed log products, said Chad Schumacher.

The company plans to offer wholesale and direct retail sales to consumers for kiln-dried firewood, premium wood pellets, and compressed logs at its locations in Fairbanks and North Pole.

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