El Dorado to see plant rebuilt, jobs

Posted: December 6, 2012 at 12:53 a.m.

— A chemical company in El Dorado plans to replace its nitric acid plant that was damaged in an explosion in May by building a new $120 million facility that will expand its operations, El Dorado Chemical Co. announced Tuesday.

The new plant is expected to be operating by 2015, and the company plans to hire more than 100 new employees in the next three years, said Greg Withrow, general manager of El Dorado Chemical, which produces sulfuric acid and nitric acid for agricultural and industrial use.

Withrow said El Dorado Chemical now has 145 fulltime employees and about 50 contractors.

“We plan to hire more,” he said. “This is the first project announcement we had. We will have some others in the coming months that will increase our production.”

Joe Holmes, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the agency is helping to build the new plant but did not know what state incentives the company would receive.

“Needless to say we are very pleased the company is rebuilding and fully support them,” he said.

LSB Industries Inc., the parent company of El Dorado Chemical, said in a news release that insurance money from the explosion earlier this year will pay for most of the new facility.

The Oklahoma-based company also said in the release that it signed an agreement with Weatherly Inc. for the licensing, engineering and procurement of the plant.

LSB Industries said El Dorado Chemical resumed operations of its sulfuric acid plant this week, marking the final phase of repair and recovery after the May 15 explosion.

El Dorado Chemical halted all operations for three weeks after the explosion, Withrow said. The company said in news release in May that the explosion was caused when a reactor at the nitric acid plant exploded. No one was hurt in the explosion.

Withrow said an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the company’s insurance company is still ongoing. He said the explosion had a silver lining, as it led to the decision to build a new plant.

“It will allow us to do other things in the facility,” Withrow said.

Business, Pages 25 on 12/06/2012