Port of Pascagoula plans wood pellet export facility

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The growth of wood pellet manufacturing means a big opportunity for the Port of Pascagoula. Plans are in the works for a $30 million port improvement to accommodate future wood pellet exports.

The State of Mississippi will provide about one-third of the financing for this economic development project, built at the port's Bayou Cassotte facilities.

"This facility was built in the early 1960s. It's approaching the end of its useful life," said Port Executive Director Mark McAndrews, as he pointed to a large map of Bayou Cassotte.

McAndrews said 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," he explained.

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

"The demand is going to increase. Which is why this facility is designed to be expandable to accommodate more product," said McAndrews. "You need deep water. You need to accommodate Panamax type ships. And we were a good fit. And we felt it was a good fit for us."

The wood pellets exported from the Port of Pascagoula will be manufactured by a new plant in North Mississippi. 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. And that energy connection is just right for Pascagoula.

"Huge volumes that Chevron does through here. And the LNG facility. And the rest of our energy-based products. We feel it's a good fit for Pascagoula," said McAndrews.

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 says the export facility could be up and running by early 2015. He expects the wood pellet manufacturer will announce details about that operation in the next few weeks.

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