Sulfur-melting plant headed for Virginia port?

Published 10:56 am Thursday, January 12, 2012

A sulfur-melting plant once headed for Morehead City may be finding a home at a port in Virginia.
According to reports in Wednesday’s The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., the Virginia Port Authority is negotiating with PCS Phosphate, a unit of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, to build the plant on the Elizabeth River.
The newspaper quotes Tom Pasztor, a company spokesman, as saying the company has been in talks with the Port Authority about a possible plant at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal.
Telephone calls to Ray McKeithan, manager of public relations for Potash Corp-Aurora, were not returned in time for the online edition of this report.
PCS Phosphate is quoted in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot that “the Portsmouth plant would comply with all ‘environmental obligations’ and include a scrubber system  that would minimize emissions and make it one of the most technologically advanced sulfur-handling operations in North America.”
It quotes Pasztor as saying the plant would cost more than $100 million to build
The Virginian-Pilot reports Pasztor as saying Portsmouth is one of a number of East Coast locations that PCS Phosphate is considering.
The newspaper also reports that officials from the company and J.J. “Jeff” Keever, senior deputy executive director/external affairs at the Virginia Port Authority, met with Portsmouth City Council members about the plan last week.
The newspaper reports that Port Authority’s board is to be briefed on the proposal at its Jan. 24 meeting.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal “has been dormant since container-handling operations were shifted to APM Terminals Virginia after the Port Authority signed a 20-year lease of that facility in July 2010.”
Last year, PCS Phosphate proposed to build the plant and a sulfur pellet storage facility – a project that would have had 18 full-time employees – at the state port in Morehead City.
But public outcry over the effects on the environment and the effects of two 125-foot smokestacks on the esthetics of the Morehead City waterfront led to the eventual opposition of Gov. Bev Perdue and prompted the company to halt the plan.
Opponents of the plan said they feared that foul odors and pollution associated with the project would hurt tourism.
Company officials later met with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, saying that the company’s plant site in Aurora was its preferred location for the plant. Under that plan, sulfur pellets would be shipped by barges from the port in Morehead City via the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to Aurora, where the sulfur would be melted and transferred to storage tanks.
But after studying that plan, company officials discovered that the operation’s costs had risen to $170 million, leading them to consider other operations, a company spokesman told the Daily News in late 2010.
Full coverage of The Virginian-Pilot article is available at the links below.