Hercules Cement Co. plans to spend $750,000 to reconstruct a rail spur that will allow the Stockertown company to keep its kilns running as close to year-round as possible. "When we have snowy weather like we did last year, we fill up with product and we shut down," said Joe Pospisil, Hercules’ vice president of manufacturing. "By having a rail line we can ship cement out to our sister plants and keep running."
Hercules discontinued its permanent rail-loading system some time ago, Pospisil said. He did not know what year it was, but he said it occurred when truck deliveries began to supersede trains as the chosen shipping method. A 100-ton rail car equals four trucks, Pospisil said. But, he said the company will still use trucks to transport product. So the new system, which is under construction and will tie into the Norfolk-Southern line used to deliver the plant’s fuel, will not cause the company to lay off drivers.
Pospisil said because trucks could not get in or out to pick up the finished cement in snowy weather, the plant has shut down its kilns for up to five weeks in the winter. He said the rail system should allow the company to cut into that downtime by opening another mode of transportation when roads are dangerous. The rail car can accept 300 tons per hour of finished cement and will operate a maximum of 7,488 hours a year or 312 days a year, according to the plans, which are on file at the state Department of Environmental Protection office in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Hercules’ plans, which include a state-of-the-art air-filtration system to cut down on dust emissions, are expected to be approved by the state, said DEP spokesman Mark Carmon. Carmon said Hercules’ plans are following the latest methods for dust collection by using baghouse, which in essence is a massive cloth vacuum cleaner bag. According to the company’s application, the potential dust emissions that are released during the loading of a rail car is 308.6 pounds an hour or 1,155.3 tons per year. The company’s planned baghouse will lower those numbers to 31 pounds an hour or 1.16 tons per year.
The numbers are derived from a complex engineering equation that takes into account factors such as a plant’s operating hours, Carmon said. He said the particulate emissions is not a large enough number for people to be concerned about. "It sounds like a lot, but when you take it across a whole calender year it’s a very, very minuscule number," Carmon said.
Hercules, which Standard & Poor’s Corp. says employed 175 and generated $30 million in revenue last year, is owned by Buzzi-Unicem USA, the American wing of the Italian firm that owns four cement plants across the country.