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Solid Energy opens southern hemisphere's largest wood pellet plant

Friday 5th March 2010

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Solid Energy, the state-owned coal and thermal fuels producer, has opened the first stage of a project that aims to produce up to 300,000 tonnes of high efficiency-burning wood pellets from forestry industry waste and logs annually.

Prime Minister John Key opened the facility, capable currently of producing 40,000 tonnes of pellets annually for a rapidly growing world market for wood pellet fuel, which stands at 11 million tonnnes a year, of which around 3 million tonnes is exported offshore globally.

A maiden export shipment of 6,500 tonnes for European power plant use is being assembled at Port of Napier, the first in a three year, $15 million contract with the European utility sector. Solid Energy's wood pellets subsidiary, Nature's Flame, is also selling pellets to domestic consumers in Italy, where wood pellet burners have become a common alternative to higher cost electricity and gas heating.

Situated in the Aratiatia industrial park, near Taupo, the plant currently uses electricity for processing but is geared to be able to use geothermal energy for kiln-drying as it expands in response to anticipated demand.

Solid Energy CEO Don Elder said it was the largest in the southern hemisphere, and "lifts wood pellets into the mainstream of New Zealand energy options and signals the beginning of a new income stream for New Zealand exports".

Because they are produced from plantation timber, Solid Energy claims the pellets as a renewable thermal fuel, with total European wood pellet imports valued already at around $400 million a year.

 

Businesswire.co.nz



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