Groundbreaking for RWE’s new US Pellet Plant

RWE Innogy has marked the start of the construction phase of a 750,000 tonne per annum wood pellet plant, in Waycross in the southern region of the US state of Georgia.

Once complete, the output from the plant is due to supply RWE power plants in Europe, for use both in dedicated biomass facilities and co-fired with coal.

The biomass pellets are initially to be used as fuel in the existing power plants of  Amercentrale in the Netherlands where biomass from Georgia will contribute to extending the current 30% co-firing to up to 50% in the medium term.

The two power plant units belong to Essent, which has been acquired by RWE, and have a total installed capacity of 1245 MWe and 600 MWth.

It is anticipated that the use of biomass pellets is to be extended in the years ahead to include additional dedicated biomass facilities and conventional power plant sites in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the UK, RWE says.

The Swedish company BMC Management AB is in charge of project management for the Georgia facility, which will require 1.5 million tonnes of fresh wood anually. The total investment is €120 million and the plant will directly create between 70 and 80 new jobs, RWE notes. The company is also investing in the development of port facilities in Savannah through its subsidiary Georgia Biomass LLC, it adds.

Construction in Waycross is expected to take around 15 months and the first pellets are due to be produced in the third quarter of 2011.

Georgia Biomass will mainly rely on regional construction companies to build the plant while plant engineering will be provided by leading American and European companies.

Dr. Hans Bünting, member of the board of directors at RWE Innogy, said: “This step enables RWE to strategically expand its leading position in biomass. We are securing a source of raw materials in a permanently growing market. Even by American standards, Georgia has a vast expanse of sustainably managed forest land. Although the pellets have to be transported to Europe, the CO2 emissions are extremely low. This allows us to make a significant contribution to climate protection.”

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