Carroll backs plan to expand cement plant in Union Bridge

November 25, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Lehigh Portland Cement Co.'s plans to nearly double the size of its Union Bridge plant received the backing of the Carroll County commissioners, who approved using $125 million in state bonds for the $260 million expansion yesterday.

The industrial revenue bonds, issued by the Maryland Energy Finance Administration, will help pay for Lehigh's first major modernization since it opened in Carroll County in 1910.

Cement output at the plant will increase from 1 million to 1.9 million tons per year.

When completed in 2001, the plant will become the company's largest in North America.

In a unanimous vote, the commissioners signed off on the state's plans to issue the bonds. The approval is purely administrative and poses no financial risk or burden for the county.

The Allentown, Pa., company, a subsidiary of Heidelberger Zement AG of Germany, had hoped to break ground on the Union Bridge plant last year and open it next year. But delays, including receiving air emission permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment, have set the project behind.

The plant will emit less nitrogen oxide and dust after the modernization, but more volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide.

The Department of Environment will hold public hearings on the air emission changes before permits are issued.

David M. Roush, Union Bridge plant manager, said he expects the company to break ground in the spring.

The modernization will replace four aging rotary kilns with one modern kiln. The company will build new grinding mills and buildings, where the raw material is blended and stored.

The new process will change the way cement is made for the first time in the century.

The plant, which burns coal and tires, will need 40 percent less fuel after the project is completed.

"This is a more efficient way of producing cement that will be conserving electricity," said Luther Miller, director of the Maryland Energy Finance Administration.

Miller said the administration has $310 million in outstanding loans to businesses throughout the state that made energy-saving improvements similar to those planned at Lehigh.

Lehigh had planned a $180 million expansion and renovation that would increase production capacity by 50 percent. Roush said the company enlarged the project over the past two years.

Carroll County officials and Maryland Midland Railway Co. are planning to accommodate the expansion by shifting rail lines and truck routes that serve the plant.

The county plans to build Shepherds Mill Road to link the plant at the southeastern end of town with Ladiesburg Road, an access road to Route 75. The railway plans to install tracks parallel to Shepherds Mill Road, connecting the plant to the main rail line.

The Lehigh plant produces cement for south-central Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington and Virginia.

The expansion is not expected to create jobs at the plant. The company employs 200.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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