Carbonyx Inc. to open Jackson County plant - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Texas-based company expanding to Jackson County

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Aluminum has long been a staple of Jackson County's industrial base, but there's a new economic element on the table.
A Nov. 21 announcement involved the manufacture of cokonyx to be used by the steel industry.

Texas-based Carbonyx Inc. will be building a facility in an expanded Jackson County Maritime and Industrial Centre at Millwood. The plant will use West Virginia coal to produce a key ingredient in the steelmaking process. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and should take about 18 months to complete "once several key elements are finalized throughout the next several months."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made the announcement at a state capitol press conference Nov. 21. He said the industry represents state-of-the-art technology that relies on coal as the main input for its manufacturing process, making it an important new customer for regional coal producers. 

"Carbonyx is a tremendous innovator in the steelmaking business--and they've decided to invest right here in the Mountain State because of our top-notch workforce and winning business climate," he said. "This company could have chosen anywhere in the world to build this plant, and they chose Jackson County.

"This means an investment of tens of millions of dollars and at least 60 good-paying jobs, which is great news," Tomblin added. "The plant's impact will reach beyond Jackson County: Carbonyx will use West Virginia coal to produce a key ingredient for steelmaking, which is in demand from major steel companies. This announcement is a huge victory for our entire state."

Carbonyx Inc. President and CEO Sid Gaur said West Virginia was a "natural fit" for the carbon alloy facility due to its coal reserves and long standing tradition with the steel industry. He also noted that state government recruiters "went the extra step" during the site selection process.

The company's patented technology "revolutionizes" the way steel is made. For centuries, steelmakers have relied on coke, a high-carbon, hot-burning fuel source, to manufacture their product. Carbonyx has developed a coke substitute called Cokonyx, a carbon alloy that offers both lower cost and less environmental impact than traditional coke. 

Positions included in the initial 60 hires will include management, operators and maintenance personnel. Prospective applicants should visit the company's website at www.carbonyx.com. 

West Virginia's Economic Development Authority gave preliminary approval to a $15 million, 10-year loan to finance equipment at the plant. 

The Governor said the West Virginia Development Office spent more than a year in talks with Carbonyx officials to land the facility. He noted the Jackson County Development Authority and the Jackson County Commission also played key roles in securing the Carbonyx investment. 

The plant is locating on property that was formerly owned by Century Aluminum, according to JCDA Executive Director Mark Whitley. Century's nearby smelter has been idle since 2009 and the company has cited high energy costs among the reasons.

Whitley noted that new technology to be utilized at Carbonyx may provide Century and other electrical users with financial relief.

"A byproduct of their process will generate electricity that will be sold back into AEP's (American Electric Power's) grid," he said. "Hopefully, over time, it may help lower the cost of electricity for Century Aluminum. There will be more electricity going back into the system and thus maybe everyone will benefit from lower costs."

Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle addressed the psychological aspect. He said the Carbonyx news, coupled with the recent announcement of the massive ethane "cracker" plant in adjacent Wood County, improves the outlook of those in his community.

"It's good to hear good news," Ihle said. "It's long overdue. It's going to build momentum if those of us in Ravenswood and the area will continue to build upon that and work together to facilitate a positive atmosphere so these kinds of good things can continue happening."