EASTPORT — The state’s easternmost deep-water port is gearing up to help the British Isles burn Maine wood.

The first shipment of 16,000 tons of wood chips destined for Killybegs, Ireland, is expected to be loaded by early August. E. J. Carrier Inc. of Jackman, a logging company, will coordinate bringing the chips to the Eastport Port Authority.

“We’re quite excited,” said Port Director Chris Gardner. “We thought it would happen last year, but there were market concerns on the other side of the pond.”

Ultimately, he said, the goal is to chip about 200,000 tons of wood chips each year for use as biomass fuel.

Killybegs, the largest fishing port in the county Donegal and Ireland as a whole, will serve as a hub for transferring the chips to smaller vessels and then throughout the British Isles.

Gardner said the wood chips will be purchased as much as possible from local sources and will not compete with the sourcing of wood for the nearby Woodland Pulp’s mill.

He said the chips will be made of wood considered too inferior for wood fiber.

“The port feels very comfortable in trusting the expertise of the Carrier family that they will not upset the fiber market for the Woodland mill,” said Gardner.

He added that the competition is not for trees, but in finding enough people to harvest.

Proponents of wood chips as fuel cite the cost, which they say is less expensive than cord wood because the harvesting is faster and more highly automated.

Wood chip biomass does not have waste disposal issues since wood ash can be used directly as a mineral-rich plant fertilizer.

Two companies in Ireland—Killybegs Stevedoring Co. and the Ronan Group, a renewable energy company—have formed a joint venture called Killybegs Bulk Handling Co., to receive the wood chips.

Phyto-Charter LLC will be in charge of exporting the wood chips after heat treating them as required by the European Union to prevent any possible contamination by the pinewood nematode.

Pinewood nematode causes pine wilt disease. The microscopic pest kills the trees by damaging the natural flow of water within the tree.

The company will phytosanitize the chips on board the shipping vessel with a system developed with the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute.

Phyto-Charter recently received certification for its system—the first such certification in the U.S. for the wood chip product, Gardner said.

Countries in the European Union require a phytosanitary certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to import wood fiber, whether hardwood or softwood.

Larry Carrier, owner of E. J. Carrier, said Eastport’s bulk conveyor system and bulk storage yard made the operation possible.

The shipboard heat treating system was developed by the University of Maine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, which focuses on sustainable forest management and the creation of innovative bioproducts.

The first vessel will be chartered from Fednav, which is based in Montreal.

Stephean Chute, managing director of Phyto-Charter, said biomass heating in Ireland and Britain is a new business.

John Boyle of Killybegs Stevedoring, said construction of the wood chip handling facility in Killybegs is being privately financed, but support will be needed from the Irish government to extend the pier to receive the ships and not compete with space needed by fishing boats.

In addition to wood chips for fuel, Phyto-Charter will heat treat product for medium density fiberboard mills and the pulp and paper industry.