World’s largest wood pellet plant opens in Mississippi

World’s largest wood pellet plant opens in Lucedale

by: Cory Johnson

Posted: Oct 3, 2022 / 12:14 PM CDT

Updated: Oct 3, 2022 / 02:38 PM CDT

LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) – The world’s largest wood pellet plant is nearly fully operational in Lucedale, Mississippi.

The plant is owned by Enviva Biomass, based in Bethesda, Maryland. The company has hired 90 full-time employees to support plant operations in Lucedale.

The $140 million construction project supported about 400 cumulative jobs after the October 2019 groundbreaking, Enviva says. The company expects to generate an annual economic impact of $250 million in the region.

Friday’s ribbon-cutting capped off major investments from all levels of government to bring the plant to life. Dozens of local and state elected officials were on hand to celebrate the plant’s opening.

“The county worked closely with our utility partners – electric, water, and natural gas – to provide the resources for this plant to operate. We worked with our state and federal legislative partners to help funded these vital expansions,” said George Co. Board of Supervisors President Frankie Massey. “Our partnership with Enviva has brought this state-of-art facility to our Industrial Park providing new jobs, enhancing our infrastructure, and improving our property tax base.”

George County supervisors granted a 10-year tax abatement, worth about $13 million, to incentivize the construction. The Mississippi Development Authority contributed $4 million for the county to upgrade wastewater and other infrastructure in the industrial park.

$1.7 million in state legislature appropriations and grants, and about $50,000 from the county, expanded the Mississippi Export Railroad line behind the plant to send pellets to the Port of Pascagoula.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration sent another $1.4 million to help expand Highway 198 to handle 200 log trucks per day delivering timber to the plant.

The county also received a $1.3 million rural development loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 2013 to make land and infrastructure improvements to attract a pellet plant in the industrial park.

In Jackson County, $60 million built a deep-water marine terminal and storage domes at the Port of Pascagoula.

The company says the Lucedale plant will support more than 200 indirect jobs in the region in adjacent industries like logging and trucking.

“By utilizing low-value wood, Enviva has created a new market that, in turn, provides landowners and loggers with additional income while also incentivizing forest growth,” said Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson. “We are so proud that Mississippi wood is being used in Enviva’s pellets to power homes and industry all over the world.”

Most of the softwood timber and paper mill residuals used to make the pellets are sourced from areas within 75 miles of the plant. The state department of agriculture says timber covers 65% of Mississippi land. It is the state’s third-largest commodity with 1,000 logging companies.

10 Enviva plants throughout the southeast produce 6.2 million metric tons of wood pellets annually. It is the world’s largest producer of industrial-grade wood pellets with plans to double production capacity over the next five years to 13 million metric tons.

Most of the pellets made in Lucedale will ship to power plants in Asia and Europe as an alternative to coal with fewer carbon emissions.

The Lucedale plant’s capacity is currently 750,000 metric tons per year with plans to increase to 1 million next year.

Enviva announced plans in April to build its fourth Mississippi plant in neighboring Stone County. Another plant is also under construction in Sumter County, Alabama. Once operational, that plant’s 1.1 million metric tons per year capacity will make it the world’s largest pellet plant.