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The North Carolina Council of State recently approved a lease agreement that will enable the North Carolina State Ports Authority to enter the highly competitive wood pellet industry.The agreement between the authority and Enviva Holdings L.P. calls for Enviva to build a wood pellet export facility at the Port of Wilmington, which is served by CSX Transportation and the Wilmington Terminal Railroad. The facility is designed to receive, store and load wood pellets for export to Europe, where the pellets would be used as a renewable energy source.The export facility would feature two storage domes, a rail-car unloading station, and a ship loader and conveyor system. Final design would take about 18 months to complete and the agreement stipulates that the facility be operational by January 2015, state officials said in a press release.Enviva would finance construction costs … which are estimated at $35 million … and operate the facility. The initial lease term is 21 years and the agreement includes two additional five-year renewal options.According to forest-industry experts at North Carolina State University, U.S. production of wood pellets is expected to increase from 3 million tons in 2009 to nearly 10 million tons by 2015, state officials said. With a vast amount of renewable and sustainable wood fiber sources, North Carolina is an attractive location for wood biomass plants, they said."This is a great way to increase the state's global connection through our ports, supporting North Carolina businesses, expanding economic opportunities, enhancing port operations and bringing jobs to the greater Wilmington area," said North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.