If Ascend Performance Materials’ Decatur plant wins a $175.7 million cogeneration project, it will be able to move totally away from the use of coal for its power generation.

Hal McCord, site director of the Decatur plant, told the Decatur Industrial Development Board on Wednesday the plant now uses natural gas and coal plus electricity from Tennessee Valley Authority for its power.

“The three cogeneration units won’t increase our capacity, but it will improve the plant’s sustainability,” McCord said. “The system will be set up to create a balance with steam instead of coal. We’ll be out of using coal.”

Ascend spokeswoman Alison Jahn said the project would allow the plant to reduce its emissions by 50%. She did not know how much coal the plant uses. In cogeneration systems, heat generated from production of electricity is reused.

Ascend continues to sell steam to Toray, so it needs TVA to fulfill its power needs, McCord said.

The cogeneration units as well as related capital and infrastructure would support growth in production of adiponitrile and hexamethylenenediamine, both used to make nylon salts, and specialized chemicals.

The IDB voted unanimously to approve $7.45 million in tax abatements that would be used if Decatur wins the project.

The abatements for the plant in Decatur’s police jurisdiction include $4.14 million in property tax abatements, which will be divided over 10 years, and $3.32 million in sales and use taxes during construction.

The plant is competing for the expansion project with the company's 2,000-acre facility in Chocolate Bayou, Texas, and possibly a site outside of the United States.

“Engineering is looking at our options, including incentives, costs and the benefits to the company, when they make the decision on which plant will get the project,” McCord said.

McCord said the project isn’t a must-have for the 67-year-old plant to remain viable, but it will set it up a possible expansion.

"(Adiponitrile) is only made in the Decatur plant for Ascend so it’s considered important to the company,” McCord said. “We do have competition in China and overseas.”

The project is expected to add 10 high-end manufacturing jobs with an average salary of $100,000 per year, not including benefits. Ascend now employs more than 300 workers in Morgan County, according to IDB records.

McCord said the company expects to make a decision by the end of the year on whether Decatur will win the $175.7 million project.

IDB chairman Jason Putnam told McCord after the vote that he looks forward to seeing him again at a future meeting when the company approves Decatur for the project.

If Decatur wins the project, the expansion will create $481,000 a year in school-related property taxes for a 10-year period and $1.3 million in sales and uses tax revenues from construction for Morgan County, Decatur and Hartselle school systems.

The IDB also approved increases to abatements for OCI Alabama that were previously approved in July.

OCI Alabama General Manager Richard Kalber told the board Wednesday that it underestimated the cost of a second process line within the existing process building.

The board approved OCI’s request to increase its abatement for non-education property taxes from $105,250 over 10 years to $163,350. It also approved the company’s request to increase the abatement for non-education state and city taxes related to construction from $115,600 to $177,780.

The cost has risen from $3.5 million to $5.25 million for a line that will supply additional product volume, backup production, and research and development capability, Kalber said.

OCI is a chemical manufacturer that makes sodium percarbonate, a dry bleach used in consumer products such as laundry detergent, laundry bleach and auto-dishwashing applications.

The project is expected to create $20,180 in education-related property taxes annually during the 10-year abatement period. Taxes for education can't be abated. Additionally, sales and use taxes during construction would create $25,395 for school systems in Morgan County.

bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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