Zilkha Biomass held grand opening Thursday

Published 11:45 pm Thursday, May 14, 2015

After a few years of planning, developing and building, Zilkha Biomass Energy’s Selma plant is ready for business.
The Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority hosted a ribbon cutting at the plant Thursday morning to celebrate its grand opening.

“This is really exciting because this is a 10-year dream that has become a reality,” said Michael Zilkha, co-founder and owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy. “It is very, very exciting because my father and I have been at this for 10 years. It has been a tough 10 years. It has been very, very hard.”

The plant produces Zilkha’s black pellet, which is a renewable fuel similar to coal. While other companies produce similar pellets, Zilkha’s are different.

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“It is the fact that [the pellets] are waterproof and that they are denser, so it costs 30 percent less to transport them,” Zilkha said. “They have more energy in them than conventional pellets, and they’re denser. They can [also] be left outside.”

The plant will employ more than 50 people directly and even more indirectly for the harvest of the wood used to produce the pellets and transportation of them once they are produced.

Selma was the perfect place for Zilkha to build a plant because of its access to trees, which are used to produce the waterproof pellets.

“We picked Selma because there were a lot of trees within 60 miles, which is about the distance you want,” Zilkha said. “There is an excellent wood basket, so that made it a good place.”

Michael Zilkha and his father, Selim, are no strangers to the energy business.

“First we prospected for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, then we built one of the largest wind energy companies in the United States, and now we find ourselves in biomass attempting to turn wood, a homegrown resource, into a viable and seamless, cleaner alternative to coal.”

Zilkha Biomass Selma’s first customer will be the city of Paris.

“This plant at Selma is our first commercial plant, and the advanced waterproof pellets it produces are to provide one-sixth of the heating in the city of Paris this winter,” Zilkha said. “How wonderful that our homegrown energy crop … should find a new use halfway around the world, helping in the process to counter climate change. It is just a wonderful thing to think of the continuity from Selma to Paris and how small the world really is.”
The Zilkha plant takes the place of the old Dixie Pellets facility.

Zilkha upgraded the facilities and made modifications that fit to their specific pellets. The plant will produce 275,000 tons of pellets each year.

“We are truly grateful for your welcome and the hard work of so many residents in Selma and around Selma to help us get our plant to the point where it is now operational,” Zilkha said to the people that helped make the Selma plant possible.

Zilkha said his family aspires to one day build more plants in the state of Alabama.