Satellite Pellet Mills Will Count On Sawmill Byproducts

Drax Group will begin constructing the first of three new “satellite” pellet plants in Arkansas, the company has announced.

The three plants are together expected to produce around 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, Grant County—with commissioning expected in October. The company will begin construction on two more plants in other locations in the coming months. In total, Drax will invest $40 million in the state, creating approximately 30 new direct jobs and many more indirect jobs across three Arkansas communities.

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.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, comments, “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. 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 Leola satellite pellet plant is expected to produce around 40,000 metric tons of sustainable biomass pellets a year. Drax will utilize the sawdust and other dry residual materials from West Fraser’s co-located facility. By co-locating the pellet facilities with sawmills, Drax will benefit from lower infrastructure, operational and transportation costs.

The company will host job fairs to recruit for positions at the Leola site later this month.

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