St Marys Cement is undertaking a major project at its Charlevoix, Mich., plant that includes expanding cement capacity and modernizing the facility, reported the Petoskey News-Review.

The current plant was largely built in the 1970s, said Randy Pryor, plant operations manager. The expansion will use modern technology practices that minimize the environmental footprint of the plant.

“Technology helps us be more environmentally friendly from an emissions standpoint,” Pryor said. “Less power, less fuel used, which includes tighter emission limits for our operation that is consistent with our focus on environmental performance.”

When the project was first announced in January 2015, it was targeted for completion by spring 2017, but company officials decided to extend the construction schedule. The modified project targets completion for spring 2018.

“We knew going in that the original schedule was very aggressive,” Pryor said. “As the project progressed, we dedicated more time on the engineering activities and adjusted equipment delivery schedules accordingly. This, along with the challenges of construction in northern Michigan, particularly with the uncertainty of our winter weather, led us to make the change in the project schedule.”

Contracting crews at St Marys Cement are busy working on the new roller mill, which is expected to be up and running in early May, Pryor said.

“We stopped the plant on April 2,” Pryor stated. “Our goal was a 30-day turnaround and hoped to be back in operation by early May. Weather has been a factor and we have had some days that have not been as productive as we hoped. We are trying to complete as fast and safe as possible. The main thing is we get the work done safely.”

There are 133 permanent employees at the Charlevoix plant with 104 of them designated as hourly employees. During the shutdown, all St Marys Cement employees are still on the job, Pryor said.

“We are doing maintenance that we would normally do during an annual outage,” Pryor said. “We are getting everything into good running order so when we start in the new plant it’s a smooth changeover.”

A new, higher-capacity coal mill also is under construction.

“We have two old vertical mills that we use to process coal right now,” Pryor said. “Combining them into one new mill is more efficient and newer technology. It’s a different process, more fuel efficient, less power-intensive for per-ton product produced.”

By 2018 crews are expected to complete the new cooler and modified kiln, which is the final part of the project. The new upgraded and expanded facility is expected to last another 30 years.

“Right now, we’re projecting March or April of 2018 when we will shut down the old plant and tie everything in with the new plant,” Pryor said. “This is an investment in the employees and in Charlevoix. This ensures our presence here for at least another 30 years. It is consistent with Votorantim [St Marys parent company] team message on sustainability.”  

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