An excavator works at a mill site in Millinocket during the winter.
An excavator claws at a structure at the former paper mill site on Main Street in East Millinocket in this 2017 file photo. Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. / BDN

East Millinocket could welcome a new tenant at its former paper mill site if a Canadian renewable energy company receives state approval to open a facility that would convert wood chips into heating fuel.

Ensyn Fuels Inc. is negotiating a lease with the town of East Millinocket to open a biorefinery at the site of the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill. It would be the second business at the mill site to use a process that heats wood chips to manufacture another product.

The Ottawa company would produce renewable heating oil at the former mill by converting biomass, like wood chips, using thermal technology, according to an air quality licensing application filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

If approved, the company would use 165,000 tons of wood chips per year to produce about 20 million gallons of biocrude, according to the application.

Ensyn is asking the agency for approval to operate a dryer, renewable fuel oil storage tanks and a generator at the former mill site.

Ensyn and the town of East Millinocket, which owns the former mill site, have been negotiating a lease for over a year to allow the firm to operate a manufacturing facility there, said board of selectmen chair Mike Michaud. Ensyn has an option to lease about 20 acres at the property.

The town is also awaiting information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to see if the firm can set up shop at the former mill site.

Ensyn was interested in the mill for quite some time, Michaud said. Lee Torrens, the president of Ensyn, was not immediately available to comment Tuesday.

“It’s a little past the preliminary stage,” Michaud said. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”

Michaud said he was hopeful that the two parties would release a lease agreement in the next couple of months before the option to lease runs out in July.

Ensyn would begin construction immediately if its state license is approved, with an expected completion date of April 1, 2024, the firm said in its Department of Environmental Protection application.

It would become the second renewable energy tenant at the former mill, which closed for good in 2014.

Biocarbon Standard, a Portland-based renewable energy company that produces a fertilizer alternative, signed a lease in February 2021 to operate a pyrolysis facility there.

Nearby at the site of the former Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill, another company is also proposing a biorefinery that would use waste wood to produce a heating oil substitute.

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.