Nucor plant in St. James celebrates completion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2014

By Monique Roth

CONVENT – Gov. Bobby Jindal and Nucor Corp. Chairman, President and CEO John Ferriola dedicated the company’s completed direct-reduced iron plant in St. James Parish on March 3.

The $750 million plant, located in Convent, is the first of a potential five-phase project in the parish. The company began operating the DRI plant on time in late December and has achieved the highest performance of any standalone DRI plant in the world. The plant is the largest DRI plant currently operating in the world and the first one to operate in the U.S. since 2009.

Nucor has created 140 new direct jobs to date and will reach its target of 150 jobs well in advance of the company’s year-end 2014 commitment to the State of Louisiana.

By the end of 2015, the company will inform Louisiana officials of its intent to complete the remaining four phases. Should all five phases be developed, Nucor’s total investment would reach $3.4 billion and total direct employment would reach 1,250, with an average annual salary of more than $75,000 per year, plus benefits. More than 500 construction jobs were created during the first phase, and estimates are that all five phases would result in 4,800 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 6,000 new jobs.

“Today marks an extraordinary milestone for Nucor, Louisiana, St. James Parish and every resident of our state as we celebrate a tremendous achievement,” said Jindal. “Nucor has built a successful first phase in this ambitious, world-scale project and is producing direct-reduced iron for its mills at a higher level of efficiency than anyone has ever achieved.

“Today, we can proudly point to an industrial accomplishment in Louisiana that is without peer, and we look forward to working with Nucor on future phases as we demonstrate that there’s no better place to invest and create jobs than Louisiana, just as there’s no better place to live, work and raise a family than Louisiana,” he continued.

The Convent plant receives imported ferrous oxide from Brazil, Canada and Norway. The iron ore is then conveyed from a Mississippi River terminal to the direct-reduced iron plant. There, the material reacts with natural gas at extremely high heat, the oxygen is removed from the ore, and refined iron pellets are conveyed back to river barges that ship the product to Nucor’s steel mills across the southeast U.S.

“Our DRI plant represents a major milestone for our company and for American manufacturing,” Ferriola said. “This project is a key part of our strategy to produce more of our own raw materials in order to better control costs and maintain our competitive advantage in the global steel industry.”

 “I would like to congratulate all 140 Nucor Steel Louisiana teammates for the safe, hard work they put in to get our DRI plant up and running,” said General Manager Les Hart, who oversees the Nucor Steel Louisiana site. “We are proud to call St. James Parish home, and we look forward to being an active community participant for years to come.”

In March 2011, Governor Jindal and Ferriola’s predecessor at Nucor, Dan DiMicco, broke ground on the project after the site selection and permitting process was completed. Nucor had announced in September 2010 its selection of St. James Parish for one of the largest industrial projects in Louisiana history.

To secure the project, LED offered a customized incentive package to Nucor, including performance-based financial assistance that totals $160 million over approximately six years, provided that all five phases are initiated as scheduled in the company’s agreement with the State of Louisiana. Nucor also is utilizing a federal Gulf Opportunity Zone bond allocation of $600 million, which the company alone will be responsible for repaying, and Nucor will utilize the state’s Quality Jobs Program.

“The completion of Nucor’s Phase I is truly a sign of the resiliency and vitality of our business climate,” said River Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chassity McComack. “Being nestled between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, this growth provides a huge advantage for our area and creates a multitude of unlimited opportunities for local success and workforce development. We are proud to have Nucor as a member of the River Region Chamber of Commerce and will be additive and supportive to their growing needs in the years to come.”