MILLINOCKET, Maine — Construction activity at the site of what will be New England’s first torrefied wood machine has begun, workers said Thursday.
Demolition work on the foundations of several buildings and other prep work at the Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill on Katahdin Avenue ramped up this week with about a dozen workers on site Thursday.
About the only thing missing, Cate Street Capital spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said, is a start date for construction of the $48 million torrefied wood machine.
“We hope to have that soon,” Tranchemontagne said Thursday.
As of this week, a dozen construction workers are on the site, with as many as 60 workers expected before the work is done, Tranchemontagne said.
Local contractors are handling most of the construction work on site. The workers hope to remove the old foundations first to make way for foundations of new structures.
The work follows by about a week a one-year anniversary celebration of the revitalization of the paper mill in East Millinocket held by leaders from GNP and Cate Street Capital, parent company to GNP and Thermogen Industries LLC, the subsidiary that will produce the torrefied wood. D&S Engineering of Millinocket is Thermogen’s representative at the Millinocket site.
Cate Street plans to open the Thermogen plant at the site of its Millinocket paper mill in the fall of 2013. Cate Street bought the mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket in October 2011.
The company’s goal: to use about 240,000 to 250,000 tons of wood waste to produce 110,000 tons of torrefied wood per year at the Katahdin Avenue mill site. 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.
The plant’s customers — coal-fired power plants in Europe and the United Kingdom — will use the torrefied wood to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
A type of microwaved wood pellet that burns as hot as coal without coal’s pollutants, torrefied wood burns about 30 percent hotter than typical wood pellets.
Plans call for 20 to 25 workers to be hired to operate the single torrefied wood machine. If all goes well, company officials hope to eventually place as many as five machines on the premises.
The prep at the site has been going smoothly, workers said. Their activity has been the first on the site since the paper mill there shut down in September 2008, not counting demolition work done by the previous company owner.