Alaska’s sole coal producer, Usibelli Mines, Inc. is expanding into biomass, using wood from Interior Alaska’s vast forests.
The company announced Friday that it has acquired Superior Pellet Fuels of Fairbanks, a manufacturer of wood pellets and compressed wood logs for local markets.
Aurora Energy Solutions, a new Usibelli subsidiary, will also construct a new-technology wood kiln using waste heat from a local coal-fired power plant operated by Usibelli subsidiary Aurora Energy.
Faibanks has serious winter air quality problems created in part by emissions from wood-burning stoves widely used in the community that use wet wood for fuel. Drying the wood reduces harmful emissions.
Usibelli owns and operates a coal mine at Healy, 115 miles south of Fairbanks, to supply coal to power plants at Interior Alaska military installations, the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and its own Aurora Energy plant in Fairbanks itself.
“This new facility will allow for the production of kiln-dried firewood that is far more efficient as a home-heating resource, while also greatly reducing the emissions from wood burning,” said Joe Usibelli Jr., Managing Member of Usibelli Investments.
Rob Brown, president of Aurora Energy Solutions, said energy for the wood kiln would come from the Fairbanks district heat system operated by the Aurora Energy coal-fired power plant in downtown Fairbanks.