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Making an Old Mill New

By Anna Simet | February 21, 2014

Lately at Biomass Magazine, we’ve been boasting our efforts on our annual North American Pellet Production map. We began doing it close to four years ago, starting from a massive pile of papers of existing (possibly existing), under construction (maybe under construction) proposed (pipedream or the real deal?) and idled (but possibly dismantled) pellet plants. This information wasn’t available anywhere else, so we started from scratch. For a while, I had nightmares about pellet plants.

So as you know, over the past few years, we’ve whittled down, sorted and organized all of that data, and each year we refine and update it. Still, we discover mills that we did not know existed.

Such as we did this week.

I came across a local news article about a pellet mill opening in Snowflake, Ariz., and was a little surprised, because we only have one other mill documented in that state, and this was not the one.  We didn’t even hear about proposal or construction, which is odd. I knew there was a biomass power plant located there, but not a pellet mill.

Naturally, that spiked my curiosity, so I spent a while trying to track down contact information of the owners.

Luckily, I got a hold of one of the three partners. Turns out, it is not a new mill. It’s an existing mill that was closed about four years ago, formerly known as Precision Pellet. It makes sense that we didn’t know about it, as we likely began our data collection efforts shortly thereafter.

At initial thought, Arizona doesn’t seem like the most logical location for a pellet mill. This week, some friends of mine were wearing shorts and flipflops while there. Their “cold” weather is many upper Midwestern states’ spring/early summer weather. Doesn’t seem like the residential market there would be too hot.

But I’m told that it is an ideal location. Feedstock, for one reason. Partner Dan Holderman pointed out to me that there are a lot of resources out there, especially because of forest thinning needs/efforts. He added that their fingers are crossed that the region doesn’t experience any forest fires this year, because that could cause some significant setbacks.  And, of course, there’s the opportunity to sell up into other states.

Right now, Southwest Renewable Resources isn’t putting out a significant amount of pellets, as the company is busy rearranging and revamping the mill. “I have new equipment coming in, parts are on line and off line; electricians are in there working,” Holderman said.

The plant’s under construction for the time being, so to speak.

On what Southwest’s strategy is when it ramps up production, Holderman kept a tight lip for now, but said they’re not planning on staying local, and have lots of different interests.

Interests outside the energy market, perhaps?

Nope.

Once they’re polished up and running smoothly, they’ll be ready to share more about their plans, Holderman said.

Underlying point here? If you notice our map is missing something, we’d love to hear about it. A phone call or an email, or track me down at the Pellet Supply Chain Summit in Orlando next month, which is co-located with the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

Pellet producers get two free passes to the events, so make sure to take advantage.

More here.

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