Enviva is North America’s largest pellet producer, with four large pellet mills in operation and another one under construction. Those five mills together will be able to turn 3 million tonnes of wood into pellets every year. All of them are located in the southern US and rely heavily on whole trees.
One of Enviva’s pellet mills, Ahoskie in North Carolina, has been investigated by conservation NGOs as well as scientists. It was found to use at least 80% hardwood (i.e. native rather than plantation trees) and to source much of the wood from the clearcutting of bottomland hardwood forests. These are ancient swamp forests, some of the most biodiverse temperate habitats worldwide, and one of the most threatened. According to the US-based Dogwood Alliance, “the [swamp] forests contain the most biologically diverse freshwater ecosystems on the planet. There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of salamander or carnivorous plant species.”
Here you can see a video that shows what Enviva is doing to North Carolina’s forests here.
Enviva has defended those practices by arguing that these forests are being logged for much more expensive sawn timber – but only 25% of the wood can be used by sawmills, while 75% of it goes to Enviva. This means that without Enviva’s mills, forest owners would have no incentive to clearcut the swamp forests.
Enviva is a key supplier of Drax and they have long-term supply contracts with E.On and another European energy giant, GDF Suez.