Wood pellet plant could come to BR port

A Canadian company is looking to build a wood pellet facility on 90 acres of Port Allen property owned by the Port of Greater Baton Rouge.

Biomass Secure Power Inc., of Abbotsford, British Columbia, has an option on the property south of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and north of Northline Road that is good through August. A company executive said Wednesday that there is a good chance construction will begin then.

Jim Carroll, Biomass’ president and chief executive officer, said the plant could ultimately be a $400 million investment, if all four phases are built, and would produce 4 million tons of wood pellets per year.

The first phase will have three production lines, the first taking about 14 months to build and the second and third completed within 18 months from groundbreaking. The three lines will produce about 1 million tons of pellets per year.

Carroll would not disclose whether Biomass has any contracts lined up or if the project is financed, but he said he is confident that work can begin by about August.

“We don’t see any problem with completing everything we have to complete in that timeframe,” he said.

The company, shares of which trade over the counter, created Biomass Power Louisiana LLC to operate the plant.

Port Director Jay Hardman said the port has given Biomass some standard terms for leasing the land and for wharfage, but said a final lease would come before the port commission. The commission would have to deal with other issues, such as who would own the infrastructure if the two parted ways.

He also said the port will make sure Biomass has signed contracts for customers who would burn the wood pellets for fuel before signing an agreement, a lesson learned from its dealings with Point Bio Energy.

Point Bio had an option on port property but was taking a long time to get its financing together. The port decided to market the property, and Point Bio later leased land from Sun Plus Inc. near the port.

Like Point Bio, Biomass would sell the pellets it produces on the open market, Hardman said, making it somewhat different than a $30 million pellet transport facility that United Kingdom-based multinational Drax Group has planned at the port.

Drax would manufacture its pellets in plants in Morehouse Parish and in Mississippi and bring them into the port facility to be shipped out for use as fuel in Europe and by Drax itself.