New Jobs Coming to the Black Belt

MONTGOMERY - Governor Bob Riley and John Goodish, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the United States Steel Corporation, announced Friday the company plans to build a steel facility in Sumter County in Alabama's Black Belt.

The facility could reach an employment level 235 full-time workers and have an economic impact of $450 million in the Black Belt after the facility has attained full production.

"This project will transform much of the Black Belt in a way nothing else ever has.  It will launch these communities toward a brighter future.  It will bring a new hope to the families who live there, and its impact will last for generations," Governor Riley said.  "We promised to transform the Black Belt, to help this area reach its full potential, and with US Steel's help, that promise is being fulfilled."

The announcement took place during a celebration of accomplishments of the Governor's Black Belt Action Commission.  Governor Riley created the Action Commission to measurably improve the quality of life in Alabama's Black Belt.  The Action Commission is made up of volunteers who have worked in areas including economic development, health care, education and infrastructure.

The steel facility, to be built in Port of Epes in Sumter County, is a carbon alloy synthesis facility and a cogeneration facility that would create 75 full-time and 250 temporary construction jobs in its first phase of operation. 

After the facility has attained full production and adequate product testing has occurred, the project may then move into further phases subject to business conditions.  Upon completion of all phases, 235 full-time positions will have been created and $450 million will have been invested in the project over a period of years.

The project will improve the cost competitiveness of U. S. Steel's Fairfield Works near Birmingham.  Completion would take an estimated 18 months after the permitting process is concluded. 

The proposed facility would utilize state-of-the-art technology supplied by Carbonyx, Inc. that processes coal into CokonyxTM carbon alloy material, a product that can displace traditionally manufactured coke, a key ingredient in steelmaking.  The facility would produce 250,000 tons of CokonyxTM carbon alloy material per year.   All of the CokonyxTM carbon alloy material produced at the proposed facility would be used at U.S. Steel's Fairfield Works.  The Carbonyx process employs technology that results in a significant reduction in emissions and energy consumption when compared to a traditional coke making facility or other commercial non-recovery processes.   Additionally, the gasses created during the process would be utilized in the proposed cogeneration facility. 

U. S. Steel will work with appropriate agencies and stakeholders to complete the permitting process for the initial project phase, which the company hopes to conclude later this year.  The decision to proceed following the receipt of the necessary permits will depend upon permitting, business conditions and approval of U. S. Steel's Board of Directors.

"The future of steelmaking requires new thinking and the use of breakthrough technologies in order to operate in cost-effective and environmentally responsible ways," said U. S. Steel Chairman and CEO John P. Surma. "By partnering with Carbonyx, Inc., U. S. Steel is demonstrating its willingness to utilize innovative technologies as alternatives to traditional coke making that will still result in a high-quality carbon source for our Fairfield Works and ensure consistent environmental performance and compliance.  We look forward to working cooperatively with Governor Riley, the federal, state and local elected officials representing Alabama's historic agricultural Black Belt, and other stakeholders involved in this important project."

U. S. Steel's operations in Alabama date back one hundred years to the company's acquisition of Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company on Nov. 1, 1907.  Today, the company operates two facilities in Fairfield: Fairfield Works, which is the largest steelmaking facility in Alabama and has an annual raw steelmaking capability of 2.4 million net tons, and Fairfield Tubular Operations, a seamless pipe mill that produces tubular products primarily for the energy industry.  U. S. Steel also manages and develops various real estate assets in Alabama through its USS Real Estate division. 

Located in the Gulf South's Coastal Plain, Alabama's historic agricultural Black Belt is named after the dark, mineral-rich topsoil that is produced by the weathering of an exposed limestone known as the Selma Chalk.