A new company has proposed to build a fertilizer plant at Longview’s Mint Farm Industrial Park, in a project that will create up to 80 to 100 permanent jobs, the company announced Wednesday.
Pacific Coast Fertilizer LP is a joint venture backed by Texas-based Saturn-Ferrostaal Chemicals LLC, Ferrostaal, Haldor Topsoe, and Canada-based Pacific Fertilizer.
The 53-acre plant would be built in the heart of the Mint Farm. Pacific Coast Fertilizer would buy 17 acres from the City of Longview and the remaining acreage from PNW Metals Recycling.
Construction of the plant would require a peak workforce of 1,000 people, according to the company, which projects the facility going into operation in 2021. The company did not disclose cost estimates for the project.
“We are proven developers with strategic partners including world-scale developers, engineering firms and technology providers,” Lee Raymond, project manager with Saturn-Ferrostaal, told The Daily News. “We at Pacific Coast Fertilizer are committed to safely and securely producing and delivering a nitrogen-based fertilizer to meet the needs of the agricultural community in the Northwest. We want to be good neighbors and we want to be good employers.”
The company chose Longview because the Mint Farm is already permitted to accept industrial projects. In addition, it has an industrial history and natural gas — the feedstock for fertilizer production — is available from a pipeline right off the site, company officials said.
The announcement is some long-awaited good news for the Mint Farm, which the city developed more than two decades ago hoping to lure employers and thousands of jobs. Pacific Coast Fertilizer will nearly double the current level of employment there – a little over 100 jobs, said Joe Phillips, economic development coordinator for the City of Longview.
“Right now the community could use more jobs, certainly. We’re not talking 80 to 100 minimum-wage jobs. We’re talking about professional jobs, managers, technicians, accountants, office staff. We’re talking about jobs that are going to need some training and higher-paying jobs. So that’s an attraction for sure,” Phillips said.
Pacific Corps said it expects to hire locally and provide substantial training for specialized roles. While operators and maintenance workers can be trained, the company would also need engineers, IT support, accountants, superintendents and other professionals with some kind of post-secondary education, the company said.
Construction will likely be done with a contractor who uses union labor, although Pacific Coast does not yet have a project labor agreement with building trades unions, the company said.
The liquid fertilizer would be sold to agricultural retailers throughout the Northwest and shipped by truck and ships. Pacific Coast Fertilizer would transfer its products by pipeline to nearby docks owned by Millennium Bulk Terminals’ or Weyerhaeuser Co. It will produce the equivalent of 11 semi-truck loads of liquid fertilizer daily.
Producing the fertilizer would require about 45 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. The project would tap into existing natural gas pipelines near the Mint Farm Industrial Park. Minimal extensions would be required, the company said.
More specifically, Pacific Coast would combine hydrogen from natural gas with nitrogen from the air. The two components are combined through a catalytic reaction that creates anhydrous ammonia. The finished product is applied to the soil.
Ammonia is not very flammable on its own, but high airborne concentrations can ignite at extreme temperatures (1,200 degrees). Although the substance is corrosive to the skin and eyes, it is not considered explosive unless it is exposed to a fire source.
Explosions are rare. However, in 2013, an explosion at fertilizer in small town in Texas injured 160 people and killed at least five. The Texas plant stored both anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate. But Pacific Coast is not producing ammonium nitrate, which was part of the improvised explosive used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.
The company said it follow strict regulatory guidelines to reduce risks.
“This is about producing this nitrogen-based fertilizer safely and securely. We can’t stress that enough,” Raymond said. “There are multiple permits in the construction process ... but then there’s multiple conditions that are applied while we operate. ... We absolutely embrace that.”
Northwest farmers and retailers typically pay a premium on nitrogen-based fertilizers imported from Canada and the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, Raymond said.
“Currently there really aren’t any producers in the Northwest,” Raymond said. And as a result Northwest farmers pay the (nation’s) highest price — about $150 more per short ton — than farmers and retailers pay on the Gulf Coast, he added.
Pacific Coast would provide a local fertilizer supply that would cut costs and carbon emissions from transportation, the company said.
Although Pacific Coast is a new company, the developers behind the project are experienced in building similar facilities the U.S., the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East.
“We are from the business because we’ve done this from the beginning and stayed and invested in those projects really all the way through,” said Dr. Markus Ising, head of technology management at Ferrostaal Topsoe. “ It’s not just that we developed these projects and then jump off at financial close and pass it on to somebody else. It’s really our baby and we really target to do this.”