Nucor’s Convent iron plant starts production

Nucor site
Nucor site

Nucor Corp. said Friday it has started production at its $750 million direct reduced iron plant in Convent in St. James Parish.

The company said it already has hired 140 people to work in the DRI plant and aims to reach its planned 150-employee mark a year ahead of the 2015 goal.

The reduced iron plant is the first of several phases in a planned $3.4 billion complex that could employ 1,250 people and produce millions of tons of steel each year.

Production began Tuesday at the DRI plant and has maintained ramped-up levels since then. Materials being produced match the quality of the company’s DRI plant that has been operating in Trinidad since 2006, Nucor said.

“We are very pleased to announce this important step in executing our raw materials strategy,” said John Ferriola, Nucor’s president and CEO.

Nucor and its affiliates manufacture steel products, with operating facilities primarily in the U.S. and Canada.

The plant had been set to begin production in late September but was delayed after an iron ore storage dome collapsed on Sept. 25. No one was injured by the collapse, which caused Nucor to take a $14 million write-down. The company is investigating the incident.

The plant will use natural gas to make high-purity pellets from iron ore. Nucor will mix the pellets with scrap metal to make steel.

Other phases in Convent would include a second reduced iron facility, which would cost $400 million, a $500 million pellet plant, a $1 billion blast furnace and, in the final stage, a $750 million steel mill.

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said he was pleased Nucor was able to overcome challenges and start production.

“Nucor Steel first began working three years ago to become a part of our community,” Roussel said. “It is impressive that their teams were able to proceed with the original plans to begin before the end of the year.”

Stephen Moret, Louisiana Economic Development secretary, said he is pleased that Nucor is far ahead in its employment commitments.

“This is an important milestone in the development of Nucor’s facility,” Moret said. “We are looking forward to the company selecting which phase of the project it will pursue next.”

Once in full operation, the plant will produce 2.5 million tons of direct reduced iron per year, making it the largest DRI plant of its kind in the world and the first operating in the nation in several years.

Shares of Nucor closed Friday at $54, up $1.09 or 2.1 percent.