Keystone Cement expects to significantly boost production at its East Allen Township plant with a US$165m upgrade approved Monday by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The project entails building a new modern kiln and increasing the height of a smokestack to 300 feet from 213 feet. The improvements will allow the company to produce an additional 500,000t of cement each year, which represents a 62.5 per cent increase over existing output.
"This is more geared toward production and modernisation of the facility," said DEP spokesman Mark Carmon. "There’s not much of an environmental issue, but since this is such a sea change in production and operation, they needed to get approval with an air-quality permit."
Rocco Marino, Keystone’s manager of environmental compliance, said construction is expected to begin soon and end in summer 2008. "The improvements mean Keystone will remain a viable competitor," Marino said. "It’s estimated the two-year project will involve 1 million labor hours so obviously that will help and support local contractors and vendors."
Keystone has received US$7m in state loans and grants to help pay for the upgrade. Keystone estimates that cement production will increase from 800,000tpa to 1.3Mta when the new kiln is finished, the old kilns shut down and the existing smokestack extended.
The environmental agency’s approval comes about a month after a public meeting drew a dozen area residents, all of whom voiced support for the plant upgrades. After construction state regulators can make sure the new kiln and smokestack abide by environmental standards, Carmon said.