Port Panama City gets $10 million grant to build a new biomass storage facility

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration announced on Thursday that $10 million will come to Port Panama City.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration grants $10 million to Port Panama City. This will help the port build a new biomass storage facility. (WJHG/WECP)

The money will go toward building a new biomass dome storage facility. It will have a capacity of 20,000 tons and it will increase the bulk cargo exporting capabilities by 300,000 tons per year. In turn, estimating $50 million in new export activity annually.

EDA officials say this money is coming from federal disaster supplemental funds from 2017, so the resiliency factor is big going into building this facility.

Port officials say it will be built to withstand any kind of future storm.

While federal government funds help to create this, the state is also investing $3.2 million.

This structure will primarily hold wood pellet, as the demand for wood pellet fuel is increasing across Florida. So officials say having enough storage is vital to help to the area rebuild after Hurricane Michael, while also creating more green energy.

"The wood pellet trade has really grown in the Port. It started out, you know, as just a, like, one ship a month, maybe 300,000, 400,000 tons per year, and now we're handling more like 750,000 tons a year and it has the potential to grow a little more," said Executive Director of the Panama City Port Authority Wayne Stubbs.

"This is a new technology, so we're shifting from coal as you know, which one could consider as a less clean technology to biomass and so it's actually considered to be carbon neutral which means that whatever carbon is emitted is going to absorbed by the planting of future trees," said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for U.S. Economic Development Administration Dr. John Flemming.

This will also bring 25 new jobs to the area.

Officials say they're hoping to start construction on the new dome at the beginning of 2020 and have it done by the end of the year.

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