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Construction Underway at Drax Group’s Wood Pellet Plant in Russellville

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Drax Group of Selby, England, announced Friday that construction is underway at the second of the three “satellite” wood pellet plants it is building in Arkansas.

Arkansas Business reported in Sept. 6 Whisper that the second plant would be built in Russellville. The company announced the first plant’s location near a West Fraser sawmill in Leola (Grant County) in May. 

Drax said Friday that operations are expected to begin at the Leola plant later this year and at the Russellville plant next year. The location of Drax’s third plant has not been disclosed. 

All three represent a $40 million investment that will create approximately 30 direct jobs plus additional indirect jobs.

The plants will be located at sawmills and are expected to produce about 120,000 metric tons of sustainable biomass pellets a year from sawmill residue. Drax said their access to that raw material will reduce its costs and emissions.

The plants are part of Drax’s strategy to increase biomass self-supply to 5 million tons by 2027, with the company’s goal being to improve supply chain resilience and reduce pellet costs. Drax recently converted its power station in the U.K. to use “sustainable biomass” instead of coal in what it claims is the largest decarbonization project in Europe.

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.

“The investments we’re making will bring jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas alongside supporting international efforts to tackle the climate emergency,” Drax Senior Vice President Matt White said in a news release Friday. “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.”

Drax is one of three manufacturers that recently started or completed wood pellet projects in South Arkansas, growth that Arkansas Business reported on last month

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said Drax’s investment in the state signals a bright future for its timber industry. Preston also called it a “great example” of how the global economy works. 

“Through this partnership,” he said in the release, “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.”

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