Enviva is being slated as a friend and venture for Sampson County. In an effort to show that friendliness to the county, representatives from the company, in conjunction with the Sampson County Economic Development Commission and Sampson Community College, welcomed the community to an informational session and reception Wednesday night.
For the last three years, Enviva has been working to secure the site for the development of a state-of-the-art wood pellet production plant, whoe site will be located on a 200-acre tract adjacent to the intersection of N.C. 403 and Interstate 40 at exit 355. Construction on the new facility is currently under way.
According to Morgan Pitts, manager of communications and external affairs for Enviva, the facility will produce 500,000 metric tons of wood pellets each year. The plant is expected to be open and fully operational in February 2016.
Enviva, Pitts said, will utilize sawdust, wood chips, tops and limbs of trees and low grade round wood to make the pellets. These pellets are then shipped overseas to countries who use them to produce electricity without having to burn coal. The biggest customer for Enviva, overseas, is the United Kingdom, with the Asian country of Japan increasing their demand everyday.
“Sampson County is poised to play a key role in the clean energy economy,” Pitts said to the crowd during the reception.
As a major producer and exporter of wood pellets for energy generation, Enviva is currently investing approximately $107 million through the Enviva Pellets Sampson LLC project, which will directly employ 79 full-time workers and indirectly support over 150 additional jobs in the supply chain. Enviva is one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of processed biomass fuel in the form of 100 percent wood pellets.
The expected average annual wage for employees will be $38,682. Recruitment for positions will begin in July and run through October.
Ricardo Hillmann, plant manager for the northern Sampson County location, explained the operational standpoint during the Wednesday night presentation. The plant, he said, will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Enviva manufactures wood pellets at six facilities located across the South, using sustainable practices and processes that keep American forests healthy and abundant, company officials said. It sells wood pellets to coal-fired electricity generating plants, which reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals by converting to wood pellets as fuel.
“The southeast is a great region for pellet production,” Pitts noted.
Working with Sampson Community College, Enviva is partnering to provide its employees top-of the-line training in the pellet production industry. Job training will be provided by the company through SCC to develop the specific skills needed for the job.
The Sampson Board of Commissioners has taken many steps to attract Enviva to northern Sampson, including offering performance-based incentives to the company back in September 2013 totaling $2,899,812 for the first 10 years of the plant’s operation and extending an option on the land in hopes the project would be realized.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Lockamy has hailed Enviva’s selection of Sampson County as a win-win scenario for the industry and for the county.
“Enviva brings to Sampson County good jobs and a much-needed growth in our tax base, and we offer Enviva an inviting community of bountiful resources and hard-working people and a local government that values and supports its corporate citizens,” Lockamy said.
In recent months, a bid was also approved by the board to construct an elevated water storage tank at I-40 and N.C. 403 to not only serve Enviva and provide fire protection for the company, but accommodate future development along the corridor.
As part of the estimated $1.8 million water infrastructure project, approximately 5,500 linear feet of 12-inch water main will be extended from the intersection of N.C. 403 and Burch Road to Enviva, and a 500,000-gallon elevated water storage tank built.
In his welcoming of the company, Lockamy noted that Enviva’s selection of Sampson County as the location for their wood pellet production plant illustrated how partnerships could result in progress.
“We are indebted to our state partners, without whom we could not have developed what I call the infrastructure for success,” Lockamy said.
For anyone who visits the site, Hillman said they will continue to see material being brought in for construction and towards the end of this year, materials will begin to come in to test equipment. The first shipment of pellets is slated for early 2016.