International forestry experts visit Drax Biomass to learn about pellet industry’s role in sustainable forest management

Bastrop, LA – Drax Biomass today hosted a group of almost 20 forestry experts from around the world for a first-hand look at pellet manufacturing operations at the company’s Morehouse BioEnergy facility. Commissioned in 2015, this state-of-the-art facility produces compressed wood pellets from sustainably sourced wood for use as a low-carbon alternative to coal.

The group included scientists who are experts in forest management from Europe, Asia, the U.S. Forest Service and several U.S. universities with leading forestry programs. They spent the past week in Little Rock, Arkansas at an International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) workshop dedicated to sharing research and knowledge on alternative forest management strategies. The visit to Morehouse BioEnergy is one of several stops along a post-workshop tour of the region’s forestry sector.

“The tour has provided a great opportunity to explore a diverse array of silvicultural practices in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

It is especially valuable for our European colleagues to see the origin of pellets being used in the United Kingdom and the importance of global markets for forest products.”

— James Guldin, Supervisory Research Ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service and program chair for the IUFRO workshop

Since breaking ground on the Morehouse BioEnergy facility in 2013, Drax Biomass has become a major contributor to the region’s economy. The plant maintains almost 60 full-time employees and supports approximately 150 additional jobs across the logging, hauling and transportation sectors. Drax Biomass is also contributing to the revitalization of the local forestry sector, which has suffered from the closure of several large-scale paper mills in recent years.

“We’re proud of our facility’s role in the region’s forest-based economy.

Our suppliers depend on Drax Biomass to ensure that strong markets are in place to incentivize tree planting and retention of forests.  At the same time, we depend on – and work closely with – these suppliers to implement the land management and reporting practices required by our sustainability policies.”

— Gavin Black, plant manager at Morehouse BioEnergy

The Morehouse BioEnergy facility is capable of producing 450,000 metric tons of pellets each year from locally-sourced southern yellow pine.  All procurement and manufacturing operations are subject to rigorous internal and 3rd-party audits to ensure wood is sourced only from sustainably managed working forests, and never from areas that are officially protected or where sourcing activities would harm endangered species.

The finished pellets are transported by rail to Drax Biomass’s storage facility along the Mississippi River at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. From the Port, the pellets are then loaded onto highly-efficient cargo vessels for shipment to the United Kingdom, part of a world-class supply chain designed to safely and reliably deliver pellets to the Drax Power Station with minimal environmental impact.

The forestry experts discussed sustainable sourcing practices with Drax Biomass representatives, then observed the pellet manufacturing process from start to finish: beginning with the arrival of truckloads of pine thinnings and sawmill residual fiber at the weigh station, and moving through the chipping, screening, drying, shredding and pelletizing processes.

About Drax Biomass

Drax Biomass Inc. is a manufacturer of compressed wood pellets produced from sustainably managed working forests. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA with operations across the Southeastern U.S., we employ innovative manufacturing techniques to produce high quality pellets that can be shipped safely and efficiently around the world for use as a renewable, low-carbon fuel. Our pellets allow electric utilities to reduce their dependence on coal, lower carbon emissions and provide new sources of safe, reliable and affordable power. Led by an experienced team of operations professionals, Drax Biomass is committed to supporting the communities in which we operate by promoting sustainable forestry and investing in local economic development.

About Drax Group

Drax Biomass in part of the Drax Group plc. Drax is an innovative energy company that owns and operates the UK’s largest power station in Selby, North Yorkshire, typically providing some 8% of the UK’s electricity. A vital strategic asset, the Group has transformed itself into a predominantly biomass-fueled electricity generator through its use of innovative technology and sustainably sourced wood pellets. The largest decarbonisation project in Europe is underway to provide the UK with cost effective, low carbon, and reliable renewable power.

The Group employs around 1,400 people and also includes:

Haven Power, the Group’s retail arm, providing business electricity contracts that are simple, flexible and designed to customers’ specific requirements.

Billington Bioenergy, is one of the leading distributors of wood pellets for sustainable heating in the UK.