Making the best of beetle kill
Grand County Correspondent
KREMMLING, Colorado ” Among the logs stacked outside the pellet plant in Kremmling, there are pieces of wood that deserve a better fate than being ground up for fuel and mulch.
Or such is the theory behind a recent partnership formed between Confluence Energy, which operates the pellet plant, and Colorado Blue Logs, LLC.
The two businesses will start dedicating the best wood for lumber, marketing its unique blue stain ” caused by a fungus carried by the beetle ” for architectural features.
“There’s a great deal of synergy,” said CBL President Lorne W. Curl. “I’m a high-end purchaser, and he’s a low-end purchaser. The high-quality timbers get put to a better use than just being pellets. Nobody wants to see them going to waste.”
“If we can make a house (with) this, there’s no sense crushing it up into a pellet,” said Confluence Energy President and CEO Mark Mathis. “We should be putting the best value to it.”
Colorado Blue Logs plans to build a processing facility next door to the pellet plant.
Officials hope to start building the 6,000-square-foot facility in Kremmling in January and could start production as early as April.
The new partnership will employ an additional 20 to 25 people.
Curl will use straight logs that are between six and 10 inches in diameter.
Colorado Blue Logs has also partnered with Breckenridge Timber to Log, which invented a machine to strip beetles from logs so they can be put to use.
Curl said the company wants to be a positive part of the community by supplying jobs to local people, contributing to the economy, building affordable housing and increasing retail establishments in the town.
“We want to invest in the town as well as in the industrial-side,” he said.
Curl is looking at where they could build more affordable housing for employees. They hope to build 900 to 1,200-square-foot houses.
“We will build those homes out of our own product,” he said.
The company hopes to start hiring in January.
Four people are employed at the current facility, Breckenridge Timber to Log located in Keystone.
Colorado Blue Logs will build a bigger operation in Kremmling but will continue the partnership with Timber to Log, he said.
Curl said Confluence Energy and Colorado Blue Logs share a vision of a no-waste industrial effort.
“We have a much greater ability to grow and expand by having a partnership with Confluence Energy,” he said.
Confluence Energy, Colorado’s first wood-pellet mill, started operating 24 hours a day earlier this month to keep up with customer demand.
The mill will use approximately 180,000 to 225,000 ton of green material per year and produce enough wood pellets to meet the heating needs of 30,000 to 40,000 homes.
The plant started creating Eco-Flame Pellets on Aug. 11. Pellets are used in home heating stoves, commercial and industrial heating applications.
Confluence Energy Pellet Plant has 26 employees and will create an additional 50 logging and truck driving jobs, Mathis said.
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