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Drax starts operations at first of three satellite pellet plants

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Drax Group is ramping up to full production at Leola – the first of three new satellite pellet plants planned for Arkansas.

Leola, in Grant County, Arkansas, is part of a $40 million (€34.8 million) investment by Drax in the state. Including Leola, Drax operates six pellet plants in the US, which use biomass sourced from sustainably managed working forests in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The pellets are used at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to generate renewable electricity.

Matt White, Drax’s executive vice-president of pellet operations, commented: “Drax has made excellent progress in delivering our $40 million (€34.8 million) investment in Arkansas, with Leola – the first of three planned satellite plants – now in operation.

“The investments we’re making will bring 30 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas alongside supporting international efforts to tackle climate change.

“These plants support Drax’s plans to develop BECCS – a vital negative emissions technology that will be needed around the world to tackle the climate emergency.”

The three satellite plants are expected to produce around 120,000 tonnes of pellets annually from sawmill residues. This supports the company’s plans to double its pellet production capacity to 8 million tonnes by 2030 to meet its own requirements, as well as its customers’ needs in Europe and Asia.

The plants are located near sawmills so they can utilise sawdust and other by-products from timber production. Situating the pellet facilities near sawmills also reduces infrastructure, operational and transportation costs.

Construction of the second satellite plant in Russellville, Pope County is currently underway with commissioning expected this year.