Wood pellet manufacturer to invest $115 million in George County

The new facilities at the Bayou Casotte Harbor will initially be able to export about a half million tons of wood pellets per year.
The new facilities at the Bayou Casotte Harbor will initially be able to export about a half million tons of wood pellets per year.

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Green Circle Bio Energy will invest $115 million in George County.  Representatives with Green Circle Bio Energy just announced the company is locating an energy wood pellet manufacturing facility in the George County Industrial Park.

That plant could create as many as 141 new jobs. The majority of the project's jobs will be at the George County facility with the remainder being at the Port of Pascagoula. Additional temporary jobs will also be created during plant construction.

The facility is expected to be operational by spring 2015 and will produce wood pellets for shipment from the Port of Pascagoula to European markets to be sold to electric generating facilities as a renewable alternative to coal. Initially, the plant will have the capacity to produce 500,000 tons of wood pellets per year.

A news release from Governor Phil Bryant says, "Green Circle's decision to locate these operations in George County is great news for the entire state, and I am proud to welcome the company as the newest member of Mississippi's business community.  I appreciate the Green Circle team for placing their confidence in our supportive business climate, investing in our state and creating these job opportunities for the residents of south Mississippi. I wish the company many years of success in Lucedale."

Morten Neraas is Green Circle Bio Energy's CEO.  "We are looking forward to being a part of George County and its future economic growth. The Industrial Park is the ideal location for our expansion. It's inside a large wood basket area, and it's close to the Port of Pascagoula, which will export the wood pellets," said Neraas.  "Our relationships with the Board of Supervisors and the Port of Pascagoula led us to George County."

The Mississippi Development Authority provided assistance in support of the project for infrastructure needs at the project site. George County provided assistance for the project, as well.

"Mississippi has an abundance of natural resources that attract companies such as Green Circle Bio Energy to the state, and MDA is proud to welcome this great company to George County," said MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen. "We are grateful to the George County Board of Supervisors, the City of Lucedale, the Southern Planning and Development District and our utility partners who worked so diligently to bring Green Circle to Mississippi."

Green Circle Bio Energy produces biomass-based renewable energy. The company operates in an international market for carbon neutral energy. The company's wood pellets are grown in sustainable forests in the Southeastern U.S. To learn more, please visit www.greencirclebio.com.

This deal includes a partnership with the Port of Pascagoula.  Thursday morning, port officials approved a memorandum of understanding with George County that outlines plans to build a $30 million marine terminal this fall at the Bayou Casotte Harbor. As we first reported back in April, the improvements are being made specifically to allow for wood pellet exports. And we've now learned those pellets will come from a new plant locating in George County.

In April, Port Executive Director Mark McAndrews told WLOX News a warehouse shed at terminals "E" and "F" will be removed and silo storage added.

"Rail and truck unloading facilities, a conveyor system to the ship on the inside berth here," McAndrews explained.

The new facilities will initially be able to export about a half million tons of wood pellets per year.

Growing wood pellet capacity in America, especially in the South, has made the U.S the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world. Most of the pellets are headed for Europe, where they will provide fuel for utility plants.

Ten million dollars of the $30 million project cost will be funded by a state bond issue. The port and primary user will provide the remainder.

Port Director McAndrews said the export facility could be up and running by early 2015.

In March, another wood pellet manufacturer, Gulf Coast Renewable Energy, announced plans to build a $25 million production plant in George County's industrial park. That project is not connected to Thursday's announcement.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.