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Atikokan hopes pellet plant finds more customers

Atikokan's wood-pellet plant will stay open while its owner looks for a buyer for a sister plant in Wawa.

THUNDER BAY -- The American company that operates a wood-pellet plant in Atikokan is reducing production there, and suspending operations at a similar plant in Wawa.

Rentech Inc. announced Tuesday that the Wawa wood-pellet plant is being idled "due to equipment and operational issues that would require additional unbudgeted capital investment."

The company said that while it explores alternatives for the Wawa facility, maintenance workers will keep it ready to start up again in the event that it finds a purchaser or a third-party investor.

While the Atikokan plant remains open, Rentech said it is reducing production as it is no longer shipping pellets to a customer in the United Kingdom through the Port of Quebec. However, it will continue to deliver pellets to the Ontario Power Generation station located just outside Atikokan.  Rentech has a 10-year contract to supply 45,000 tonnes of pellets annually.

Atikokan Mayor Denis Brown said the pellet plant employs about 45 people directly, and supports from 25 to 35 additional jobs in harvesting and transportation, "so it's pretty important to the town."

"Right now, there is no layoff in Atikokan. They are looking for another customer to replace the pellets that were going to the same place as the Wawa mill, and if they find another customer then it will be okay and maybe nothing will change," Brown told in an interview Wednesday.

Brown said he is hopeful for the future because Rentech spent a lot of money establishing the Atikokan plant and has seven years left on its contract with OPG.  

In a news release, Rentech said it "will continue to explore alternatives for selling additional pellets from the Atikokan facility to increase its utilization."



Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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