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Eastport to Get $120M Wood Pellet Plant, With Up to 75 New Jobs
02/22/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

A bit of good news for the economy of Downeast Maine: A manufacturer of torrefied wood pellets says its new Eastport production plant could end up employing as many as 75 people. Thermogen Industries, a subsidiary of New Hampshire-based Cate Street Capital, announed plans this morning to build the $120 million facility next to the city's port. The project will allow the company to easily ship its fuel products to the European market and - local officials hope - attract more business to the area. Jay Field reports.

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Eastport to Get $120M Wood Pellet Plant, Up to 75 Listen

Eastport has the deepest natural seaport in the continental U.S. Two years ago, the city's port authority began work on a $6.5 million expansion in a bid to attract more businesses like Thermogen. Chris Gardner runs the Eastport Port Authority.

"Thermogen will be able to link its production facilities into our already existing loading facility, and be able to load directly from their facility into any outbound vessels," Gardner says.

Thermogen is a subsidiary of New Hampshire-based Cate Street Capital, which also owns the new Great Northern Paper Co. in East Millinocket. A little over a year ago, Cate Street purchased exclusive rights in North America to manufacture torrefield wood - or biocoal - using microwave technology.

Scott Tranchmontagne, Thermogen's spokesman, says Eastport is relatively close to its source of raw materials, "biomass materials that we would use to make the torrefied wood pellets," he says. "You know, the market for our product right now is coal-fired power plants overseas. Being so close to the Eastport port, literally a stone's throw away, is ideal."

Thermogen is already converting the old paper mill in Millinocket into a biocoal plant. The company has signed a 20-year lease with the Eastport Port Authority and hopes to begin construction in 2014. Plans call for a facility that could produce 200,000 to 300,000 tons of biocoal a year.

The company expects to hire 75 people at the plant. John Southern, Eastport's city manager, says the project will benefit the entire region.

"This is obviously going to create more jobs than are needed in Eastport. So it will bring young, working people into Eastport and create jobs for the whole surrounding area," Southern says. "And you'll obviously see some ripple effect from that in the creation of other supporting businesses."

An advisor to Gov. Paul LePage introduced officials at Thermogen to members of Eastport's port authority. Maine Sen. Susan Collins helped secure some of the funding that paid for the port upgrades that helped make the deal a reality.


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