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Essroc cement plant to hold open house

May 19, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • The quarry site at the Essroc plant in Martinsburg, W.Va., is shown from 485 feet above ground atop a preheating tower
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An investment of more than $500 million in one of Berkeley County's oldest industries will be celebrated June 5 at Essroc's new cement production facilities near Martinsburg.

An open house from 2 to 6 p.m. will give the public the opportunity to take bus tours of the plant at 1826 S. Queen St., Essroc spokesman Marco Barbesta said Wednesday. A dedication ceremony is scheduled to be held at 10:30 a.m. that day.

"From the 1800s (until now), this is the best its ever been," plant manager Paul Biel said of the former Capitol Cement Corp. plant. "For me, it's been a very positive transition ... it's a big change."

Capitol Cement was purchased by Essroc in 2002. Essroc, headquartered in Nazareth, Pa., is a member company of Italcementi Group, which is the fifth-largest cement producer in the world, according to the company's profile.

The new plant has the ability to deliver 2 million metric tons of cement per year and Biel said the company has plans to ship more product via CSX Transportation and Winchester & Western's rail lines.

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The company has upgraded its connection to CSX and has plans to build a rail spur from the plant to Winchester & Western railroad's track west of U.S. 11, Biel has said.

Clinker, typically made from limestone, is ground and then mixed with a little gypsum to produce cement. The first batch of clinker was produced by the new kiln on Oct. 29, 2009, but plant engineer Matt Becker said testing and analysis of the new operations continues.

Upgrades to the plant include an enclosed limestone storage dome, cement/concrete laboratories, a five-stage preheater-precalciner, kiln, clinker storage silo, two vertical finish mills, a control room/administration building and a new customer entrance via New York Avenue.

The dome, along with a new conveyor system that is completely enclosed have been key components to reducing dust, and Barbesta said the community, particularly a nearby car wash business, has noticed the difference. Access roads at the 849-acre plant site also have been paved, Barbesta said.

With the plant's conversion from a wet to a high-tech dry production process, the company said it invested in more than 23,000 hours of advanced training programs and safety enhancements. Production switched from three kiln lines to one and the old kiln lines are now being removed, Barbesta said.

With the upgrades, the capacity of clinker production was increased to 5,500 metric tons per day, according to the company's profile of "The New Line" at Martinsburg. Previous production was less than 2,500 tons per day.

A new bridge to carry the rail spur over U.S. 11 is expected to "more than adequately" meet bridge clearance standards, Gary W. Scott, chief of West Virginia Department of Transportation's Railroads and Utilities Unit, said Wednesday. The state has received preliminary plans for the project and Scott said "there shouldn't be any hurdles."

Biel said Essroc looked at the "chaos" they could have created by only upgrading their existing rail connection to CSX along South Queen Street and decided to pursue a second rail connection with Winchester & Western.

"CSX gave us a proposal to enlarge their service through the city, and in their proposal the community would not have been happy," Biel said.

The grade of the CSX spur would have to be changed if it were to alone handle the increased volume, Biel said.

"Because it would have been expansion through their houses and their yards, and we viewed that as not being good for community relations," Biel said.

The new spur to Winchester & Western will be built on land that Essroc has already purchased, Biel said.

The two rail connections together will enable distribution of products in a 500-mile radius, Biel said.

"There's not enough business here to sustain us, it's not possible," Biel said.

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