The Harlan County Industrial Development Authority recently applied for a grant to help fund a proposed wood pellet factory. IDA Chairman Harry Gibson discussed some specifics of the project in an interview on Tuesday.
According to Gibson, the IDA has submitted an application to the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands to seek a grant from a new economic development fund appropriated by Congress for coal mining areas of Appalachia. The grant application requests approximately $2.55 million for the construction of a wood pellet manufacturing facility. The application is currently undergoing the review process by the United States Office of Surface Mining.
Gibson said the factory will be supplied with waste wood from already-existing logging operations occurring in the area.
“The wood pellet facility will utilize pulp wood material harvested during normal logging operations to create wood products that will be bagged and sold in the home heating market,” said Gibson. “Most of the product created at the plant will be exported. Most of this pulp wood material being used in this process is currently being left in the forest as waste.”
Gibson said the plant will require 600 tons of pulp wood material per week day to meet the design needs. The 600 tons would equal approximately 11 shipping containers to be shipped out.
According to Gibson, the plant will be able to utilize waste sawdust from sawmill operations as well as parts of the trees left over by logging operations.
“I don’t see where we are going to cut an additional tree,” Gibson said. “We’re just going to utilize what we’ve been throwing away.”
Gibson pointed out the project will be the first company to utilize the new Free Trade Zone designation for Harlan County, which will allow goods and products to be imported and exported from Harlan with US Customs inspections being performed here.
Both the Harlan Fiscal Court and the Cumberland Valley ADD have provided resolutions in support of the AML grant application and project.
A letter from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, Department for Natural Resources Division of Abandoned Mine Lands confirms the grant application has been approved by the review committee to be presented to the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement as one of the projects to be considered as part of the 2016 AML Economic and Community Development Pilot Program.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde