MILLINOCKET, Maine — They lack a final permit, but businessmen looking to build on Katahdin Avenue what would be New England’s first torrefied wood machine are beginning to hire construction workers, they said Wednesday.
Thermogen Industries LLC and The Conti Group, a contractor building the foundation of the structure that will house the $48 million machine, are advertising locally to hire 10 to 15 workers, said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Cate Street Capital, Thermogen’s parent company.
They seek a field administrative assistant, laborers and equipment operators for the site preparation project. The work will begin this fall. Advertisements will be placed in newspapers and posted online. Applicants can also apply at conticorp.com/careers or at the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center in East Millinocket. Interviews will be held at the center.
“We chose Millinocket for the torrefied wood facility because of its proximity to northern Maine’s wood basket, but also because we care very much about helping to lift the Katahdin Region economy,” said Thermogen CEO and President Richard M. Cyr. “The site is ideally located for this type of manufacturing, and we are excited to begin the process of bringing new jobs to the area.”
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the project’s air permit, but issued its land development permits on Aug. 16. This allows site work to begin, agency spokeswoman Samantha Depoy-Warren said. The air permit’s issuance is expected by the end of the month.
“This is right on schedule,” Depoy-Warren said Wednesday. “We are proud to play a small role in something that will bring so many jobs to a region that needs them.”
Cate Street Capital plans to open the Thermogen plant in the fall of 2013. The company’s goal: to have 25 full-time employees producing 110,000 tons of torrefied wood per year for overseas, coal-fired, power plants, primarily in Europe and the United Kingdom. The wood will help the companies reduce dangerous emissions.
According to the application, the torrefied wood chips will be transformed from wood wastes into “stable and water-resistant” pellets containing 30 percent more energy than standard wood pellets. The facility will be a major source of volatile organic compounds, producing an estimated 50 tons annually of VOCs, which according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency can cause a host of health problems.
Facilities on a list of similar major-source pollutants include the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills, Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC and the Indeck biomass boiler in Enfield. All of them have scrubbers or other devices that contain or eliminate pollutant emissions or keep them within acceptable standards.
Local leaders see the plant as a tonic to the Katahdin Region economy, as manufacturing jobs such as these typically create at least four jobs indirectly for every job directly filled. The company plans to employ logging crews to gather the wood wastes and truck them to the plant for processing, then ship the finished product by rail to Searsport for embarkation.