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April 18, 2014

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Hiring, Work Heat Up At US Nitrogen Site

Sun photo by Kristen buckles

Marty Moon, US Nitrogen Director of Operations, is the company’s local point person for hiring and staff training.

Originally published: 2013-01-31 11:14:21
Last modified: 2013-01-31 11:17:25

Massive Pieces Of Equipment

Start Arriving For Installation



MIDWAY -- Hiring has begun for the new US Nitrogen plant in Midway, and construction is moving at an accelerated pace.

Starting to arrive from sites in Texas and Louisiana are massive pieces of equipment that will form the core of the plant.

Activities have also focused on design work being done by Weatherly Inc., an engineering company in Atlanta.

"They [Weatherly] are working through the full gamut of the process," said Jim Boldt, vice president and chief financial officer of Austin Powder Company, the parent company of US Nitrogen.

Those disparate pieces, along with key personnel, are now starting to come together in Greene County.

Project manager Justin Freeark, a chemical engineer, is now at the 490-acre US Nitrogen tract off Pottertown Road after having spent the past year in Houston and Atlanta supervising work on equipment for the plant.

"Each piece in the puzzle is different," Freeark said. "Right now we're putting together foundations for the absorption tower."


The absorption tower, as it turns out, has a fascinating story.

When fully assembled, it will be the tallest structure in Greene County at 140-feet, or 14 stories high.

The structure will weigh 450,000 pounds (225 tons) and be 14 feet in diameter.

Freeark said the tower, which was refurbished in Lake Charles, La., is now in Knoxville.

The structure is due to arrive from Knoxville and be in place at the Midway plant by late March or early April.

How the structure got from Lake Charles, in southwest Louisiana, to Knoxville takes some explaining.

From Lake Charles, the tower had to be floated by barge into the Gulf of Mexico, east to the Mississippi River Delta, and northward up the Mississippi River to Cairo, Ill.

At Cairo, the barge carrying the massive tower navigated onto the Ohio River, moving east to Paducah, Ky., where it accessed the Tennessee River.

Once on the Tennessee, the barge made its way through northern Alabama and northward to the nearest point to Greene County it could go -- Knoxville.


The final leg of the tower's journey to Greene County must be by highway, and for that, approval of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) approval is required -- and has been requested by US Nitrogen.

Freeark said a lane of Interstate 40 and Interstate 81 from Knoxville to the tower's final destination in Midway will need to be closed "at a couple of points" in order to get the special vehicle carrying the tower over and around various bridges.

Power lines will need to be raised in some locations, he added.

Once the tower arrives at the US Nitrogen site in Midway in late March or early April, a 500 ton-plus crane will be used to right the structure.

The crane itself will take two days to get in place and be set up for the lift of the tower.

But once preparations have been made, the tower will be raised and in place in about an hour, Boldt said.

"It's a tedious lift, but it's spectacular," he added.


Freeark estimates that 2,500 yards of concrete have so far been poured at the site.

Equipment and material for the facility continue to arrive.

Two carbon dioxide absorption columns for the site's ammonia plant have arrived, Boldt said. Each weighs 125 tons.

Both reciprocating compressors for the ammonia plant arrived just before Christmas in 19 semi-truck loads from Houston, Freeark said.


The ammonia plants for the facility, which were made in Cincinnati, were acquired by US Nitrogen from another company operating in Peru, where the plants had not been used.

US Nitrogen is 90 percent complete on a project to refurbish the ammonia plants in Houston to meet specific needs at the Midway site, Freeark added.

The nitric acid plant is the next stage in the process, Freeark said.

That plant was purchased in Lake Charles, La., and is being refurbished in Houston.

Components of the nitric acid component could be shipped here by sometime this month, Freeark said.

Overall, the construction phase of the Midway plant is about 25 percent complete, Freeark and Boldt estimated.


US Nitrogen Director of Operations Marty Moon, who is in charge of hiring and training plant personnel, has arrived from Apache Nitrogen Products in Benson, Ariz., where he had worked for 20 years in the nitrate industry.

"We'd like to kick off and get people on board by June," Boldt said, emphasizing that the company is now engaged in a three- to four-month process of identifiying and hiring employees.

"We hope to hire from the immediate area," Boldt said. "There's a well developed industrial core between Knoxville and Kingsport with Greeneville right in the middle."

The plant is on track to open in the first quarter of 2014, he said.

Prior to that time, the 80 or so US Nitrogen employees that will be hired will undergo 25 weeks of operator training.

"Marty [Moon} will be a very key player in developing our staffing plan and curriculum," Boldt said.

Moon stated that the company wants to recruit from the Greene County area.

"We're looking for mechanical aptitude, fairly decent and basic math skills, and a caring attitude," Moon said in a recent interview with The Greeneville Sun.

Employee training, Moon said, will include fundamentals, process overview, and how to operate the facility.

"It's a full range of things we look for," he added.

He encouraged applicants to go online to apply at


A primary contractor on the project continues to be local company C&C Millwright Maintenance Co., Inc. Jerry Fortner is the president.

"C&C remains a primary contractor on the project. They built the administration building, and are doing all the foundations," Boldt said. "Jerry [Fortner] continues to be very supportive."

Local engineer Lori Jones works for C&C as project scheduler. She is coordinating the civil (engineering) site work.

Summers Taylor is handling all of the work to get the ground at the plant to "dead level," Boldt said. Most of that work was completed last spring and summer.

A contract still needs to be signed with the Greeneville Light & Power System to accommodate the heavy electrical needs of the plant, Boldt said.

"I think we're getting close on a contract, we've been talking about a few points," Boldt told the Sun in a telephone interview late Wednesday afternoon.

"My desire is to put that to bed in the next couple of weeks," he added.


Shawn A. Rana, a vice president of Austin Powder Company who, along with Boldt, led the company's efforts to move to Greene County, has been reassigned within the company.

Michael A. Gleason, president of Austin Powder, said in a recent interview that Rana is working on "four or five" projects that the company is attempting to put together in the U.S. and Canada.

"Shawn is working the front end of a number of projects for us right now," Gleason said. "All of these special projects are in the nitrogen products arena."

Boldt added that Rana's area of expertise within the company is business development, and he is in demand on those projects.


US Nitrogen will produce liquid ammonium nitrate at the plant.

Company officials have repeatedly emphasized that the chemical is neither explosive nor flammable and that it will be transported elsewhere for its end use.

Ohio-based Austin Powder Company, the parent company of US Nitrogen, has been in business since 1833 and is a prominent domestic and international producer of explosives used in quarrying, mining, construction, and seismic projects.

Company officials have said that US Nitrogen eventually plans to produce 420 tons of liquid ammonium nitrate per day at

Nitric acid and ammonia will also be made there for use in the production of the ammonium nitrate.

When the plant is fully operational, plans call for about 20 truckloads of the liquid ammonium nitrate to leave the facility each day for facilities in other states.

The ammonium nitrate solution that will be manufactured at the plant is known as ANSOL or ANS.

It will be produced for use at other locations by Austin Powder Company as an ingredient in explosives.

Company officials have repeatedly stated publicly in response to some local concerns about safety, that, by itself, the liquid ammonium nitrate is neither flammable nor explosive.

After being manufactured here, they explain, the liquid product will be transported to other company plants elsewhere for combination with other ingredients under certain conditions to form material for use as explosives.

"While we are an explosives company, we aren't going to be making exposives here. I think that's an important thing to realize," Boldt has stated.


The US Nitrogen plant is expected to have a full-time workforce of 80 employees with jobs paying an average of $50,000 a year, company officials have said.

The company will purchase massive amounts of electricity, water and natural gas:

* an estimated $18 million annually in natural gas;

* an estimated $5 million annually in electricity; and

* an estimated $1 million annually in water.

The 490-acre US Nitrogen site represents the largest tract of land owned by any industry in Greene County.

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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