Company says not locked into anything, still chasing full pellet production

While the political storm continued around them this week, Todd May, general manager responsible for the pellet division at Holson Forest Products in Roddickton, said the company is still working toward getting pellet production running full steam.

“One of the comments that we’ve seen quite often and read quite often is that Holson has failed. And I don’t think that’s the case. The progress has certainly been slowed and delayed, but certainly we haven’t failed because we haven’t walked away. … We’re certainly working towards accomplishing what we set out to do,” he said. “(The company) still exists and the assets still exist and they’re being maintained.”

Related story: Province pays out again for Holson Forest ProductsMaintaining insurance on those idled key assets is one thing the province has been helping with.

More to the point, the government has paid out to make sure insurance coverage — on equipment purchased with $10 million in past public funding — does not lapse.

In the past year, $65,000 was contributed by the province to Holson insurance costs, while another $120,000 was provided for an engineering study and a new business plan.

May said the work in the last year has determined specific pieces of equipment will be needed to proceed on pellets. He said Holson had focused on industrial pellets, but is now looking more at pellets for residential usage in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere, leading to the need.

“We have had discussions with RenTech,” he said, confirming only that the two companies have been in contact. Work with RenTech remains a possibility, he said, adding Holson does not have any set commitments.

The company, he said, is actively seeking potential partners.

Holson’s operations — more specifically, provincial government financial support for the company — became a topic of debate in the House of Assembly during question period Thursday.

To that, May said the company has received about $10 million in public funding, but has also committed between $4 million and $6 million of its own money to its plans.

“Holson and government both see the long-term benefit of developing a solid pellet industry here on the northern peninsula,” he said, “because it’s more than just Holson Forest Products that would be benefitting … it’s all of the harvesting operations as well and other supports and spinoffs that are generated from this industry here.”