PELLETS #BDLJO#MBDL ;JMLIB#JPNBTT&OFSHZJTDPNNJTTJPOJOHJUTNVDIBOUJDJQBUFENFUSJDUPOOFTQFSBOOVN nameplate production capacity, wood pellets manufacturing plant at the site of the former %JYJF1FMMFUTQMBOU#VUVOMJLF%JYJF1FMMFUTUIJTQMBOUQSPEVDFTi;JMLIB#MBDLwQFMMFUTNBSLJOHB radical departure from the growing list of large production white pellet plants already built, nearing startup, or announced in the Southeast US. Bioenergy International No 79, 3-2015 21 DIXIE PELLETS STARTED UP IN 2008 at 520 000 tonnes capacity – one of the first large-scale, new generation wood pellet plants with plans to export pellets to electricity generation markets in Europe. But Dixie Pellets allegedly experienced a range of manufacturing, river transport and product quality issues. One industry observer added “bad luck” to Dixie’s problems, and said Dixie “wasn’t that far away” from making it a successful operation. But Dixie couldn’t get there, and in 2010, Houston based Zilkha Biomass purchased the plant at a bankruptcy auction. Initially, Zilkha Biomass had planned to move the machinery and operate a plant elsewhere, but it stayed the course on the banks of the Alabama River. Zilkha Biomass performed a major overhaul of the Dixie plant including, most importantly, the product coming out of it. The company expects to build more plants, truly greenfield projects with greater production capacity. It has already announced plans to build one in Monticello, Arkansas, and is engineering it to include modifications based on its experiences at Selma. Now, as Vice President of Engineering Clyde Stearns says, it’s a matter of establishing a premium product that imitates coal in an immature market. “It is a tough challenge,” Stearns says, “but this is a gamechanger.” Background Certainly the father-son ownership of Zilkha Biomass Energy has an impressive track record with energy business ventures and cutting edge technologies. Selim and Michael Zilkha used computer modeling to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico in the late 1980s and 1990s and ultimately sold their highly successful Zilkha Energy Co. to Sonat for US$1.3 billion in 1998. They next turned to renewable energy and formed Zilkha Renewable Energy, which became one of the nation’s largest developers wind farm projects before Goldman Sachs bought it in 2005.Zilkha Biomass Energy CEO Jack Holmes has been right there with the Zilkhas, dating back to the 1980s as president and chief operating officer of Zilkha Energy. Their initial foray into bioenergy was the development of a direct-fired biomass-fueled gas turbine for generating power at commercial and industrial facilities. But then something » Aerial view of Zilkha’s newly commissioned Selma plant on the Alabama River. The former Dixie Pellets plant has been overhauled and modified for “black” pellets, (photo courtesy Zilkha). pers of wind oldman 5. ng gy. nto bioenergy Despite the brand name, the end result is in actual fact more brown than black.
Bioenergy no 3 May 2015
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