Work begins on Nucor facility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012



CONVENT – With an assortment of heavy equipment moved into place, more than 100 contractors for North Carolina-based steelmaker Nucor Corp. have begun construction on the first of two direct reduced iron plants planned as part of a multi-phase endeavor for Nucor in St. James Parish.

In an open field along the east bank of the Mississippi River just south of the Sunshine Bridge, a mass of cranes, trucks, trailers and other equipment are starting work where Nucor representatives and state and local officials broke ground last March, less than two months after state environmental regulators issued the final air permits needed for construction to begin.

The $750 million DRI plant, which is designed to prepare 2.5 million tons of iron ore pellets each year as part of the steelmaking process, is the first of a five-phase capital project worth more than $3.4 billion, making it one of the largest industrial projects in the state’s history.

Nucor officials have said that all five phases of the project would ultimately create 1,250 direct jobs by 2019, if the company meets its promised targets. The first phase of construction is expected to produce 500 construction jobs, 150 permanent jobs and average salary figures of around $75,000.

Katherine T. Miller, Nucor communications manager, said in an email that current site activities include driving of pilings for the plant and ancillary equipment, as well as construction of storage domes for iron pellets. She also stated that Nucor plans to take applications for permanent employees of the plant in the first half of 2012 to have them trained by the end of the year.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by mid-2013, about six months ahead of a state deadline, Miller said. She said the current contractors at the site represent about a fifth of the total number of construction workers expected at peak construction.

Rodney Mallet, a state Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, said a major component of the DRI facility is being assembled in Baytown, Texas, which is just east of Houston. Once it is complete, the roughly 1,000-ton piece of equipment will be floated up the Mississippi River to the St. James site and lifted over the levee.

To secure the project for Louisiana, the state Department of Economic Development offered Nucor a $160 million incentive package spanning six years with the agreement that all five phases are started on time. Nucor is also taking advantage of more than $600 million in Gulf Opportunity Zone Bonds to help with construction. Miller said in the first nine months of 2011, Nucor has drawn about $22 million of its GO Zone money.

The state benchmarks for Nucor to meet throughout each phase of the project, which include provisions to take back promised funding if deadlines are not met. Under the state agreement, Nucor must pick up the second phase of construction by Dec. 31, 2015, and finish all capital expenditures by Dec. 31, 2018, said Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret.