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Case Study

Pellet Plant Control System Redesign and Automation

As a result of surging demand for wood pellets in European markets, Highland Pellet needed to expand and upgrade its facility in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The goal of the project was to improve operational performance and increase production capacity. TIGA provided the design, engineering, and implementation of the control and electrical system upgrades needed on this brownfield expansion project.



Highland Pellet is a leading supplier of sustainably sourced biomass to industrial markets in Europe and Asia. Their wood pellets are used as fuel for renewable base load electricity production at converted coal power plants. As a result of European regulatory changes requiring more renewable forms of energy production, demand for wood pellets was rising quickly in 2019.

To meet Highland Pellet’s contractual obligations and the growing business opportunity, the company wanted to expand their Pine Bluff Facility production capacity. The upgrade, which would typically require over two years, needed to be safely and efficiently condensed down to eighteen months.


As a recognized leader in systems integration and engineering services, TIGA was brought in to support the plant’s growth. After a detailed review of the Pine Bluff operations, TIGA developed a comprehensive plan to redesign the control system and to increase process automation. The approach included the assembly of a formidable team of Siemens automation experts to meet the compressed timeline.

TIGA completed all electrical engineering and design services; the control system engineering & design; the electrical panel design and fabrication; and the control system commissioning and startup.

Highland Pellet invested in new equipment outfitted with the latest technology to ensure the Pine Bluff facility would deliver the highest quality product, minimize its carbon footprint, and meet all regulatory requirements. TIGA facilitated the commissioning and implementation of these major pieces of process equipment. TIGA also designed and configured all communication between the plant and the packaged equipment which included four Buettner - Dryer packages and two LDX - RTO/Wet ESP islands. The team at TIGA also designed all power and motor controls for these equipment packages.

In addition to programming and configuring the control panel, TIGA redesigned the control room to better accommodate existing and new equipment.

To ensure all operations are fully compliant with strict Air Permit and Environmental regulations, TIGA developed the data infrastructure as well as the monitoring and data recording processes to facilitate required data submissions to the state of Arkansas. TIGA also specified and installed additional measurement points in the field and brought that data back into the system.

TIGA fully automated the loadout area to not just load from the 1000-ton bins but to also bring the pellets straight from the plant which maximized pellet availability as well as maintained pellet quality. In addition, TIGA fully automated the truck dump area which included routing and delivering the product being dumped to the necessary location.


Within the 18-month timeline, TIGA successfully designed and deployed extensive plant-wide automation and electrical upgrades at Highland Pellet’s Pine Bluff Plant. The new plant capacity is 675,000 metric tons per year, making it the 2nd largest wood pellet plan in the US. This 15% production increase will help Highland Pellet meet new demand increase.

In addition, TIGA’s process improvements automated 40% of manual processes which reduced operational safety-risks and decreased the needed manpower required to run the plant. TIGA built and automated much of the data infrastructure necessary for the recording and reporting processes to ensure compliance with state, federal, and client regulations.

As demand continues to increase for the pellet industry, Highland Pellet has plans to expand to new facilities. TIGA’s future work will include all systems integration and engineering work for the future plant developments.

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