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Wood Pellet Plant Planned On Tenn-Tom

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, along with other state and local officials and executives from Bethesda, Md.-based Enviva, gathered in rural Livingston, Ala., the county seat of Sumter County, October 4 to announce Enviva’s plans to build a $175 million wood pellet production plant there.

The proposed facility would be located at the Port of Epes Industrial Park, which is located on the west bank of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway above Demopolis Lock and Dam. The plant is expected to create at least 85 full-time jobs, along with 180 additional regional jobs in the fields of logging, transportation and support services.

The announcement was made at the Sumter County Courthouse in Livingston.

“We are very excited about the prospect of Enviva joining Alabama’s business community with a very important manufacturing project in Sumter County,” Ivey said. “Enviva is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets for energy, and Alabama is proud to support the company’s efforts to provide a renewable fuel solution for worldwide power generation.”

Ivey added that the project will have a far-reaching impact on the region, both directly employing residents and improving regional timber markets.

Mitch Mays, administrator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, said the Enviva project is a welcome addition to industries located on the waterway.

“We were very pleased that Enviva chose a site on the Tenn-Tom Waterway,” Mays said. “This is a great company that will have a significant impact on Epes and Sumter County. Once this project is completed, we expect tonnage on the Tenn-Tom to increase significantly. The Tenn-Tom Waterway continues to provide economic opportunities to the member states of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee.”

Enviva expects construction to move forward in early 2020 and last for 15 to 18 months.

“We are privileged to have been invited by the people of Alabama to invest in a remarkable community like Epes,” Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler said. “With its thriving forest resources, great local workforce and favorable transportation logistics, we look forward to the opportunity to grow sustainably in West Alabama for decades to come.”

Enviva, which owns and operates eight other pellet plants in the Southeast, produces more than 3.5 million metric tons of wood pellets annually, which are exported to Europe and Asia for power generation. The facility at Epes will initially produce 700,000 metric tons of pellets annually. Production could ramp up to just over 1 million tons per year. The plant will source a mix of softwood and scrap from mills within a 75-mile radius. Pellets would then be transported by barge via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to Pascagoula, Miss., then on to international markets.

Greg Canfield, commerce secretary for the state, praised the Enviva project, describing it as reflective of Ivey’s commitment to economic development for Alabama’s rural communities.

“We’re committed to helping create jobs through economic development in Alabama’s rural areas, and the opportunity for Enviva to locate this wood pellet plant at Epes is a significant development for Sumter County,” Canfield said.

Ken Tucker, president of the University of West Alabama in Livingston, and Sumter County Commission Chair Marcus Campbell both voiced their praise of the project.

“We are excited to have a company of Enviva’s international reputation interested in Sumter County,” Tucker said. “The significant number of jobs created, and the large amount of capital invested would truly be transformational for our region.”

Campbell underscored the important role teamwork played in bringing the project about.

“Great things happen when we work together with shared goals for the betterment of our county and region,” he said.

According to Ivey’s announcement, Enviva anticipates growing its pellet production operation further in the Gulf region, with exports continuing to move down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway to a future deepwater terminal at Pascagoula.