POPE COUNTY, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — The Drax Group has started construction on the second of three satellite pellet plants in Arkansas. Drax is a world-leading sustainable biomass production and supply company that has three locations in northeastern Louisiana.

The company says work is underway at the site in Russellville, Arkansas. They expect commercial operations to start in 2022.

Drax says this is part of a major investment project for the state of Arkansas. They plan to invest $40 million in to the state and hire about 30 new direct jobs and more indirect jobs across the state of Arkansas.

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston says, “The investment that Drax is making throughout Arkansas is proof that the state’s timber industry is poised for a bright future and is a great example of how a global economy works. Through this partnership, these three Arkansas communities will experience further growth and opportunities, and Drax will be able to continue working toward its mission to provide renewable electricity for millions across the pond.”

Drax says the three pellet plants are expected to produce around 120,000 metric tons of sustainable biomass pellets a year from sawmills, thus supporting this renewable energy company’s plans to increase self-supply to its power station in the U.K.

“The construction and future operation of the Drax pellet plant in Russellville is certainly welcome news. On the occasion of this exciting announcement, I’d like to welcome Drax as a new partner in our community and thank them for the investment they are making in our community,” says Russellville Mayor, Richard Harris.

According to the company, developing these “satellite” pellet plants near sawmills is part of their strategy to increase the self-supply of biomass pellets to five million tons by 2027 by improving the supply chain resilience while reducing pellet costs.

Locating the plants near sawmills provides the satellite plants with ready access to sawdust and other residues left over when timber is processed, reducing emissions in the supply chain as well as reducing infrastructure, operational, and transportation costs.

Matt White, Drax Biomass Senior Vice President, says, “Drax has made great progress in delivering our $40m investment in Arkansas, with the second of three satellite pellet plants now under construction. The investments we’re making will bring jobs and opportunities to rural communities in Arkansas alongside supporting international efforts to tackle the climate emergency. These plants support Drax’s plans to develop bioenergy with carbon capture and storage – a vital negative emissions technology that will be needed around the world to meet net zero targets.”

Drax has transformed its power station in the U.K. to become the largest decarbonization project in Europe by converting it to use sustainable biomass instead of coal.

Earlier this year construction began at Drax’s first satellite pellet plant in Leola, Grant County, and commercial operations are expected to begin late this year. Progress is being made on selecting the third and final site.