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Another Bio-Fuel Plant in South Ga
Friday, 16 October 2009

October 16--  Treutlen County's wood-burning fuel plant is under construction and now another South Georgia county is coming on line according to this report in the Florida Times-Union.

Brantley getting $130 million fuel pellet plant

It will create 70 jobs in Brantley County

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TERRY DICKSON/The Times-Union
John Swaan, executive director and CEO of Magnolia BioPower, is at the plant site explaining how the company will produce fuel pellets from wood that would otherwise go to waste.
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WAYNESVILLE - A new company announced plans Thursday for a $130 million factory in Brantley County that will turn waste forest products into fuel pellets and electricity.

Magnolia BioPower LLC will be on an 80-acre site off U.S. 82 about halfway between the Waynesville and Atkinson communities in eastern Brantley County and should be up and running by spring 2012, officials said.

The plant ultimately will employ about 70 workers at about $30,000 a year, Executive Director John Swaan said, although some skilled workers will earn more.

Daniel Dukes, a real estate developer who owns about 10,000 acres in Brantley and surrounding counties, will build the plant with loans and equity financing. He is Magnolia's president and chief financial officer.

Mainly a developer of residential property, he looked to diversify when the housing boom burst.

"We've been working on this project for a couple of years," Dukes said. "It arose out of having a bunch of land with trees on it."

The plant will be built in three phases: the first, a $50 million project possibly beginning by the end of the year, and two others at $40 million each following quickly, said Ron Ham, the company's project manager and vice president of operations.

When all phases are operating, the plant will turn out a million tons of wood pellets a year and generate 30 megawatts of electricity, officials said.

Ham wore two hats during Thursday's ceremony because he also serves as chairman of the Brantley County Commission. Speaking as chairman, he said the announcement is very good news for the rural county with little industry.

"This is a truly perfect industry for Brantley County," he said. "All of those people who have been down-sized, right-sized or early-retired during the economic recession will be able to go back to work."

The plant's wood pellets have the energy-producing potential of coal and will be shipped to Europe, where they are in widespread use as a coal alternative.

"We hope to see interest grow for domestic use," Swaan said. "This is a green fuel made from a renewable resource."

A Canadian who pioneered the wood pellet industry in that country before being lured south to join Magnolia, Swaan said the new company won't compete with paper mills and sawmills for forest products, but will use what those industries cast off.

"We don't want to take a saw log that has a higher value, a higher calling," he said. "That doesn't make sense. We'll use what the paper companies and sawmills don't want. There's so much that's wasted right now."

When the first phase opens, it will require 100 truckloads of forest product a day, Swaan said, increasing to 300 when all three phases are completed.

Material not used in the pellet-manufacturing process, including bark, will be used to fuel the electricity generators. The plant will use 15 megawatts in its operations. The remaining 15 megawatts will be sold back into the power grid. One megawatt can power up to 900 homes.

Swaan said the finished product will be trucked to the Port of Brunswick for shipment overseas. Should a domestic demand arise, there are nearby railroad lines.

"Locations don't come any better," he said. "All the ducks line up."

The company touted the emerging industry's "greenness," or environmental friendliness. And even Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers gave a qualified nod to it.

"Generally speaking, we're in favor of burning wood rather than coal to generate electricity," he said. "But I have not had an opportunity to be briefed on this particular plan.

"Seventy jobs for Brantley County is wonderful, but I do have a few questions, such as what the water consumption would be, and what the air effluents and water effluents are."

Ham said the plant would not be a major guzzler of water.

"Our feasibility study, economic impact study and environmental impact study are under way," he said. "Everything should be in place in 30 to 40 days."

 

 
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