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Celanese’s investment in natural gas boilers preserves Giles County jobs and reduces pollution.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Celanese Corp. broke ground last week on a $150 million project to replace seven coal-fired boilers at its Narrows acetate plant with units powered by cleaner-burning natural gas. The project will be good for the environment, good for Giles County’s economy and good for a company that is making a major investment in a plant it has operated since 1939.
As Jon Mortimer, Celanese’s vice president of manufacturing and operations, said: “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s just the right time.”
Celanese announced plans for the project last fall, about two months before the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new air pollution rules for industrial boilers to limit emissions of mercury, acid gas and soot.
As EPA moved toward finalizing the new rules, Celanese had to decide whether to retrofit its coal-fired boilers or convert to natural gas to comply with the new standards. Either would be an expensive proposition.
In 2011, a Celanese executive told a congressional subcommittee that the company — Giles County’s largest employer — would have to “look at other options” if compliance costs at the Narrows plant proved to be too great. The company also raised concerns about EPA’s proposed compliance deadline, which the agency relaxed when it issued its final rules.
Ultimately, Celanese decided that modernizing the Giles County plant was worth the investment. Generous state and local incentives probably made the decision easier. Celanese is getting a $500,000 direct grant from the state, another $1.5 million in performance-based state grants and about $4.5 million in tax incentives from the county.
The project will create 150 jobs during construction and 22 permanent positions. The permanent jobs will pay a handsome average annual salary of $100,000.
That’s not the only benefit for the community. Celanese said the conversion to natural gas boilers will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 35 percent.
The company has paid fines to state and federal regulators in recent years to settle claims about improper monitoring of emissions at the Narrows plant. Reducing the plant’s carbon footprint is a positive step for public health and for the Giles County economy. It is, indeed, the right thing to do.
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