Torrefied wood manufacturer to meet Millinocket leaders

John Halle
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Posted Feb. 02, 2012, at 5:32 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 02, 2012, at 10:06 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Municipal leaders will meet with the president and CEO of Cate Street Capital in a closed-door meeting on Monday to discuss the company’s plans for producing torrefied wood at its Katahdin Avenue paper mill site, company officials said Thursday.

“It is simply a meet and greet — a chance for John Halle and the Town Council and the town manager to talk about the big picture plans for Thermogen,” Cate Street spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said Thursday. “John has not yet had a chance to meet with the Town Council and the town manager.

“John likes to do that. He wants to ensure that they have a personal connection to himself and the team members,” Tranchemontagne added.

A Cate Street subsidiary, Thermogen Industries describes itself on its website, thermogenind.com, as “a multi-faceted manufacturing company that utilizes cutting edge technology to produce bio-based products for energy generation and commercial applications.”

Thermogen announced on Dec. 1 that it had secured, for $20 million, exclusive rights from Scotland-based Rotawave Biocoal to manufacture a type of machine — called the Targeted Intelligent Energy System, or TIES — that makes biocoal, or torrefied wood, intended to replace coal burned at electricity plants.

Thermogen, Tranchemontagne said Thursday, plans to install five TIES machines in Millinocket starting in November or early 2013. Creating jobs for 22-25 workers directly and dozens of truckers, loggers and other support providers indirectly, the first $35 million TIES machine would supply United Kingdom utilities with biocoal, company officials have said.

Millinocket would be the site of the first of four or five biocoal mills eventually nationwide.

Town and federal officials, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have said that Cate Street’s investment in the region, which includes the restart of the East Millinocket mill and the eventual restart of the Millinocket mill, represents the best economic news the region has had in years.

The company is in the midst of negotiating long-term contracts to supply torrefied wood to British coal-fired plants, Tranchemontagne said Thursday, and has applied to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for permitting for its first machine. Construction of that machine is due to begin in the spring.

“I don’t think there will be anything new to say,” Tranchemontagne said of Monday’s meeting. “Things are just in progress.”

The company’s plans for the Millinocket paper mill are less clear.

Company officials have said they would restart the mill when market conditions permitted but that this wouldn’t likely occur without a natural gas pipeline, as proposed by Gov. Paul LePage, that would be installed from the Old Town area and run through Lincoln into Millinocket about two years from now.

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