RAVENA — Ten years and $400 million in the making, the new Lafarge cement plant in Ravena was unveiled during a special ceremony Thursday.
Modernization of the plant, which was 50 years old when work began in 2008, had the goal of reducing demand for fuel resources, cutting emissions and making the facility more energy efficient and state-of-the-art.
“This was a 10-year project from concept to completion,” Ravena Plant Manager David Fletcher said. “It launched in 2008 with the initial concept. Then came the conceptual layouts, design plan and construction. During construction we employed about 800 people, and we finished in April. Then we began the start-up process — testing and making sure everything works right.”
Ten years after planning for the plant’s modernization, the new facility is now fully operational. The first day of production was May 30, according to Fletcher.
“This has been a very successful project for us and we have gotten great feedback from our customers,” he said.
The project was designed to maintain manufacturing efficiency while at the same time exceeding the new stringent environmental regulations known as the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
As a result, the new plant is expected to reduce the company’s carbon footprint significantly, leading to a reduction in emissions and requiring fewer resources.
The new dry kiln technology that replaced the old “wet” method will “use approximately 42 percent less fuel (per ton of product manufactured), produce 40 percent less solid waste, and consume less water, making the new facility even more efficient,” according to a company brochure handed out during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
John Stull, CEO of U.S. Cement for Lafarge-Holcim in the United States, said the modernization project ensures the company will remain competitive for years to come.
“We have done something really great here — we have a facility that can meet the needs of the Northeast and the needs of this community for many years,” Stull said. “We took an old plant and put in a new heart... We want to be a strong partner with the community.”
During the construction phase, the company employed around 800 construction workers, and over the course of some 2 million man hours, had only one minor injury on the site.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko attended Thursday’s ribbon cutting, and said the company has met a good balance — remaining financially viable, yet also a good steward of the environment.
“I salute your efforts to reduce the demand for fuel resources, to cut deeply into pollution that is emitted from this facility,” Tonko told company executives. “We all need to play a role in the environment so we can provide a better opportunity for future generations.”
“This is one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, cement plant in the world,” Tonko said. “Lafarge-Holcim is showing the technology is available, and we can reduce carbon footprint. We can be a sound steward of the environment, and it is being done right here.”
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy noted the company’s decision to continue investing in the local community.
State Sen. George Amedore, R-46, said the decision to make such a sizable investment at a critical time in the nation’s economy — in 2008, during the height of the Great Recession — was indicative of their commitment to the local area.
“This company chose — in 2008, when no one wanted to invest in construction, and in one of the most difficult states in which to do business — to dedicate themselves to investment in their company and in this community, reducing the use of fuel, solid waste consumption, and using less water, all while producing the best high quality cement in the business,” Amedore said.
“This company wanted to invest right here in Ravena, because of the men and women who work locally here — their dedication and their excellence shines brightly today,” Amedore said.
Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-102, expressed gratitude that the company decided to renew its commitment to the local community that has been the plant’s home for decades and, at the same time, to the environment.
It takes a balance between the needs of business and the environment, according to Lopez.
“Without companies like Lafarge, we cannot survive economically — this is a shared obligation,” Lopez said. “As a community, we need to address environmental goals, but at the same time, we need to support our companies.”
Coeymans Deputy Town Supervisor Tom Dolan reiterated the company’s dedication to the local community, and said Lafarge has been a loyal partner with the town. The positive impact of the modernized plant is tremendous, he said.
“You cannot underestimate the contribution to the local environment between the old and the new plant,” Dolan said. “It’s not just the technology — which is obviously huge — but the commitment itself, working to make this a better place to live and making a commitment to the environment, as well.”
Also attending the ceremony was Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School Superintendent Brian Bailey. The high school and middle school are situated directly across from the plant on Route 9W.
“They invested in the community and reduced the impact on the environment,” Bailey said. “It’s a very good thing for our community.”
The Ravena plant employs approximately 135 permanent workers for its daily operations.