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Carmeuse plans multi-million dollar Clear Brook expansion

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

A $45 million manufacturing expansion at Carmeuse Lime & Stone in Frederick County will bring jobs and cleaner air to the area, according to the mining company.

The Clear Brook plant will be installing two new vertical lime kilns, which will replace less-efficient horizontal kilns commonly used across North America, according to a news release from Carmeuse.

Gov. Bob McDonnell approved a $250,000 grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership, according to a news release from the governor's office. It states Carmeuse is investing $45 million into the expansion project.

Jim Bottom, area operations manager for Carmeuse facilities in Clear Brook, Middletown and Strasburg, said Tuesday the expansion will lead to 25 new jobs, which will have salaries in the $40,000 to $60,000 range.

"In addition to that, throughout the construction over the next year and a half or two years, you're talking about the equivalent of 40 full-time employees over that period of time," he said.

Carmeuse submitted an air permit application to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in February, Bottom said.

"Carmeuse is very happy to be partnered in Virginia," he said. "I believe our decision to grow our company here was one that's predicated on what the governor has been able to do for us, and the great workforce that's available in the valley here."

The Clear Brook facility produces several types of products: construction aggregates; high-quality, high-calcium limestone used in animal feed and glass manufacturing; and lime, Bottom said. The latter is where the new kilns will come into play, he said.

"Lime is used heavily in the environmental treatment of gas coming off of coal-fired power plants," he said.

It's also used a great deal in the steel industry and in wastewater treatment, according to Bottom.

The news release quotes Bottom as saying Carmeuse is environmentally conscious.

"Many of the products produced by Carmeuse benefit the environment," he states in the release. "For example, a significant amount of lime and limestone are used in the flue gas desulfurization process at coal burning power plants. Lime and limestone reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere, which reduces acid rain."

The new kilns are the "most state-of-the-art" possible when it comes to emissions, Bottom said Tuesday afternoon.

"The emissions will be slightly less than [created by the current kiln] and we will be making twice as much lime," he said.

In his news release, McDonnell praised Carmeuse.

"All Carmeuse products are produced from high-quality natural deposits of limestone, and the Frederick County mine has ample infrastructure to accommodate the need for increased production," he states in the release. "The lime business is expanding rapidly due to regulations that require coal fired utilities to perform additional scrubbing, and Carmeuse's consistent growth in Virginia speaks volumes about our positive business climate and wealth of available natural resources."

The Frederick County Board of Supervisor's approval last December of Carmeuse's request to rezone 92 acres of parkland next to the Clear Brook quarry from rural to extractive manufacturing was instrumental in the expansion plans, according to Bottom.

"We wouldn't have had the reserves to be able to drive the investment," he said. "We've been in operation in Clear Brook since 1959."

The plant is now in a position to be able to keep mining for at least another 40 to 50 years, Bottom said.

"These are jobs that you can't export," he said. "Thank goodness the resources that are in the ground are right here in Frederick County."

Bottom said he's most excited about the job creation aspect of the expansion.

"Given the fact the stuff you read about and hear about in the media, certainly this kind of enhancement is something positive, and we're very excited about it," he said. "I can't say that enough with a big smile on my face. That's great for this region. I know too many people that are out of work."

The Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission helped in securing the grant, its executive director, Patrick Barker, said Tuesday afternoon.

"It definitely reinforces the real progressive, forward-thinking nature of our area's manufacturing, and more so our county's aggressive nature and desire for that kind of manufacturing and everything that comes with it and the desire for more of it," he said. "It's a good win for the county."

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