The Greenville Steam Company was one of the town's 10 largest employers when it shut down in April 2011. Credit: Matthew Stone / BDN

GREENVILLE, Maine — A company plans to install a biochar manufacturing line at the shuttered Greenville Steam Co. biomass power plant.

Biochar is a charcoal made from heated organic material, such as forest and agricultural waste, also known as biomass.

Clean Maine Carbon LLC filed an application for an air emission license through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which was approved for processing Aug. 31, Deputy Commissioner David Madore said.

The company plans to build a kiln that will convert wood material to biochar in an oxygen-deprived environment at the facility at 185 Greenville Steam Road.

Clean Maine Carbon’s vision is to be profitable, provide high-quality jobs in Piscataquis County — though it’s unclear how many — and bring clean energy to northern Maine. Good jobs are often hard to come by in Piscataquis, Maine’s poorest county, and maintaining a clean environment is important for the recreational tourism economy that supports much of the population.

“Once operational, the owners will prioritize securing skilled labor and goods from the surrounding communities,” the website said.

To date, the company has invested more than $4 million to bring Greenville Biomass online, according to its website.

Clean Maine Carbon anticipates equipment to be delivered in mid-November, according to the construction schedule outlined in the application. Installation and start-up should be completed by January 2023.

A group of lifelong Mainers primarily owns Clean Maine Carbon, according to its website. The company’s application lists Patrick Jones of Dade City, Florida, as its president. The authorized agent from Resource Policy Group and controller are also based in Florida.

Greenville Biomass began operating in the mid-1980s, and for nearly two decades, the facility was a strong employer in the region, according to Clean Maine Carbon’s website. When the regulatory landscape changed, it became more challenging to remain profitable, and Clean Maine Carbon bought the facility in 2017. If the state approves an air emission license, the facility will once again be functional. 

Once constructed, the manufacturing line will process about 2,200 pounds per hour of green wood, which has been recently cut and hasn’t had a chance to dry. It will yield about one-fourth ton of biochar for each ton of green wood processed, according to the application.

Clean Maine Carbon will provide biochar to NextChar, a company based in Amherst, Massachusetts, on a regular basis, according to a comment from NextChar CEO Stephan Rogers on the website.

The proposed equipment has the potential to emit air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, the application said.

As part of Maine DEP’s regulations, Clean Maine Carbon will need to demonstrate that emissions from the proposed equipment will receive Best Available Control Technology, or BACT.