MILLINOCKET, Maine — The $35 million torrefied wood machine slated for Katahdin Avenue would be at least as quiet and odor-free as the paper mill it would go next to, a representative of its New Hampshire-based developer said Thursday.
Cate Street Capital project manager Dammon M. Frecker spoke publicly for the first time about his company’s plans to apply within two weeks for state permits to start building the machine by early September. About 35 residents attended the Town Council meeting.
The plant would hire 25 full-time workers and begin producing, from about 240,000 to 250,000 tons of wood wastes, about 110,000 tons of torrefied wood pellets annually for European sale in summer 2013, Frecker said. Four wood trucks per hour would visit the site in daytime.
“It is really a game-changing technology that is ready to take off,” Frecker said of torrefied wood, which in Cate Street’s plan would be a cleaner-burning wood treated with microwaves to burn at about a 1-to-1 ratio with coal used in coal-fired electricity plants.
Councilors were pleased with the Cate Street plan, which was revealed to them two weeks ago. It would be executed by Cate Street’s Thermogen Industries LLC subsidiary and be the first activity on the site since the paper mill there shut down in September 2008.
“I am looking forward to the noise,” Councilor Jimmy Busque said. “The site has been too quiet for too long. Noise is life. Noise is jobs.”
“I look forward to seeing the shovel break ground,” Councilor Michael Madore said. “I think it will be a wonderful addition to the community … I’ll just be glad to see something move up there.”
Thermogen paid more than $20 million in December and secured exclusive rights from Scotland-based Rotawave Biocoal to manufacture a type of machine — called a Targeted Intelligent Energy System, or TIES — that makes biocoal, or torrefied wood.
If all goes well, the torrefied wood machine would be the first of as many as five on the Millinocket site. Several industry insiders predict that the amount of torrefied wood consumed now, several million tons annually, would increase to more than 20 million tons annually by the year 2030, Frecker said.
During his presentation, he extolled the mill site’s easy access to rail lines, electricity, the Golden Road — one of Maine’s prime conduits into one of the Northeast’s largest contiguous forests — and water, in this case Ferguson Lake, as crucial to the company’s decision to locate in Millinocket.
The torrefaction facility would operate round the clock, draw less than 0.5 percent of the water the paper mill drew, and send wastewater to the town’s water treatment plant representing less than 0.2 percent of the wastewater plant’s total capacity, Frecker said.
“There will be no discernible odors [from torrefaction] off the site. There won’t be any dust emissions off the site,” Frecker said.
The machineries’ off-site noise will come in under 50 decibels during the daytime and under 60 decibels at night, which would make it quieter than his voice during the presentation, Frecker said.
“We don’t anticipate that this is a project that will keep you awake at night,” he said.
The torrefaction machine, which uses microwaves to burn moisture and waste product from its wood and capture combustible gases during the process, would be about as safe as a paper mill if dramatically mishandled in a large-scale accident, Frecker said.
“There are gases associated with the project. There are particulates associated with the project that are combustible materials. Those exist,” Frecker said, “but there are a lot of things in life that if dramatically mishandled can cause problems.”
Project engineers are designing a system that maximizes safety and will work with local officials to ensure that all safety concerns are met, he said.