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Officials anxious for details on $70M pellet plant

McDavid, Kris . Miramichi Leader ; Miramichi, N.B. [Miramichi, N.B]01 Aug 2018: A.1.

Officials in the Miramichi region are optimistic that good news is about to be revealed on a major forestry development that has been in the works for the last number of years.

Representatives of Northern Energy Solutions, the Fredericton-based firm planning to build a $70 million pellet plant on the former UPM-Kymmene paper mill property, are set to pull back the veil on their proposal this week after organizing an open house for Wednesday.

The event will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Beaverbrook Kin Centre, with NES president Ross Creelman and project manager Fenton Travis both expected to be on hand to provide the latest information on a project that has been in the works since 2014.

Information released by the company this week notes that the venture is still on track to create about 65 direct jobs at the new facility, as well as roughly 70 indirect positions in the company’s woodlands and trucking operations.

The scope of the business plan would see around 630,000 metric tonnes of biomass – essentially low-grade waste wood – delivered to the new plant every year.

That raw product would then be converted into an annual output of about 275,000 tonnes of wood pellets, which would be shipped through the Port of Belledune to overseas markets where the pellets would be harnessed as an alternative fuel source for power plants in Europe looking to transition away from coal.

Wayne Bushey, the president of the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview on Monday that his organization has been keeping tabs on the pellet plant file since the proposal first came to light nearly four years ago.

He said that if the mill is eventually built and put into production, there’s simply no way to overstate the impact this would have on the regional economy, while also filling a void in the Miramichi’s long, proud tradition in the forestry sector.

“It’s quite a few jobs, it’s going in a great location and I couldn’t be more happy because this is something that we need,” Bushey said.

“This company has quite a background in this field, so they’re bringing expertise to the table and we’ve been talking about a pellet mill for so many years now, but this looks great.”

Pellets are a form of renewable wood fuel that are typically made through a process that compresses sawdust and other wood waste used in the milling process.

The only other forestry operation in New Brunswick currently producing this type of product is the Groupe Savoie mill in St-Quentin, which churns out pellets used in residential, commercial and industrial heating applications.

Creelman, for his part, has built and operated mills before. His team, years ago, established the Marwood value-added mill in Traceyville near Fredericton, which remains a going concern to this day.

According to a statement from the company, NES is in the process of finalizing applications to the provincial Department of Environment and Local Government in order to be granted an industrial permit.

The timing of the open house comes just weeks before the writ is expected to drop on the upcoming provincial election campaign.

It was roughly around this time back in 2014 when the former Alward Progressive Conservatives announced that it had signed a letter of intent with the company guaranteeing them access to 378,000 cubic-metres of Crown softwood that would be required to power the operation.

The current Liberal government has subsequently approved extensions of that allocation in order to buy the company time to finalize its plans.

Northern Energy Solutions had spent several months liaising with potential clients and building relationships in Europe in order to firm up markets for the product it intends to produce in Miramichi.

From the outset, NES officials had identified the former UPM property – which for years saw hundreds of workers flow through the mill gates every day – as its location of choice.

Now a post-industrial brownfield owned by the province, the land is situated adjacent to rail and highway infrastructure, both of which will be key to the company’s plans to get the pellets to the mill and out to market.

The mill also had direct access to the Miramichi River and the firm has cited the possibility of marine transportation as a future option as well.

That, however, would likely hinge on a major dredging of the river in order to open it up to larger vessels once again like it did in the past.

It’s expected that as many as 100 jobs would also be created during the construction phase of the venture as well. Once completed, the mill would operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, according to the company.

Lorne Amos, the executive director of the Miramichi Valley Business Association, has been in contact with company officials since the earlier stages of the project and said the company has held up its end of the deal.

He said he’s hopeful NES will ultimately be granted the requisite approvals from the province so  that it can finally move ahead with this and get people working again in an important sector.

“This would be a major win and a bit of a boon to the economy, most certainly,” Amos said. “This would also provide a lot of work for woods workers, private woodlot owners and especially trucking companies that would be involved in hauling all of that stuff to the mill.”

The project is being counted on heavily to help breathe new life into a once proud and robust forestry base in the city that has since been reduced to just a single active mill, the Arbec oriented strandboard mill at Morrison Cove.

Discussions about establishing a pellet plant in the Miramichi area have been a common thread for the last number of years, however never quite to this degree or level of depth.

Roughly six years ago, the region’s private woodlot owners struck a tentative agreement with Swedish energy giant Vattenfall AS to move ahead with establishing a facility near the Northumberland Forest Products Marketing Board building in the Miramichi Industrial Park, however those plans eventually fizzled.

CREDIT: Kris McDavid

DETAILS

Subject: Forestry
Location: Miramichi River Europe
Identifier / keyword: miramichi region optimistic revealed major
Publication title: Miramichi Leader; Miramichi, N.B.
First page: A.1
Publication year: 2018
Publication date: Aug 1, 2018
Publisher: Postmedia Network Inc.
Place of publication: Miramichi, N.B.
Country of publication: Canada, Miramichi, N.B.
Publication subject: General Interest Periodicals–United States
Source type: Newspapers
Language of publication: English
Document type: News
ProQuest document ID: 2080439989
Document URL: https://search.proquest.com/docview/2080439989?accountid=33009
Copyright: Copyright Postmedia Network Inc. Aug 1, 2018
Last updated: 2018-08-01
Database: Canadian Newsstream

Database copyright © 2018 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

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