Nucor, Convent

Major U.S. steel producer seeks location for mega site

Founded in 1940, Nucor produces more U.S. steel than any other company and maintains a commitment to high-quality, profitable steel products. To capitalize on its lead and advance its competitive advantage, Nucor planned a multi-phased iron and steel project and began evaluation potential sites in 2006.

Nucor’s plans included a direct reduced iron (DRI) facility, which uses direct reduction technology to convert natural gas and iron ore pellets into high-quality DRI — the raw material used by Nucor’s steel mills. The planned DRI facility would have an annual output of 2.5 million tons of iron. 

“Nucor would build one of the most modern iron-making facilities in the world…employing the latest technologies to reduce emissions. This facility would create hundreds of good jobs for American workers and demonstrate the effectiveness of new technology to protect the environment,” said Dan DiMicco, CEO (2000-2012). “At the same time, this project would help Nucor achieve our long-term goal of increasing control over our raw materials supply.”

As the company officials searched for a site and an environmentally-sound way to boost its raw material supply, Nucor officials required that the location feature a strong business environment with competitive costs and the infrastructural support to maintain the company’s market edge. Company officials also anticipated a long permitting process to get the project started and looked for support to expedite this process as much as possible. Additionally, the company needed commitments from state officials to provide assistance in identifying a capable workforce.

LED develops solutions for Nucor

When Nucor officials began evaluating U.S. and international sites, they identified several promising locations, including one in St. James Parish near the town of Convent. The site in St. James was ideally located on the Mississippi River with access to ports.

To secure the location in St. James, Nucor executives reached out to LED officials, who immediately began compiling customized solutions to address the company’s needs. After meeting with DiMicco and other Nucor executives, LED officials traveled to South Carolina to tour a Nucor facility to gain a thorough understanding of the company’s processes and requirements.

After visiting the plant and meeting with company leadership to understand the scope of the project, LED officials met with officials from Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality to address the company’s permitting needs in an effective manner. Louisiana has developed an expedited environmental permit processing program that enables the state to issue permits in a more expeditious manner than just about any other state in the country.

With a better understanding of what was required of a Nucor workforce, Louisiana offered Nucor the services of LED FastStart® — ranked the No. 1 workforce recruitment and training program in the nation. FastStart would assist in identifying the right talent and preparing them for the modern equipment planned for the facility.

Louisiana offered Nucor a $30 million performance-based grant and a $30 million bond supported by lease payments from the company for the DRI facility. The company’s plans for a new facility left much room for expansion, and when those plans are realized, the bonds will convert into a performance-based grant for the next phase.

LED’s partners at the local level also supported Nucor’s investment. Through local government, Nucor received an extended tax exemption of 20 years, making an annual payment in lieu of taxes to support the local school system, parish government and sheriff’s office. Nucor will also utilize the state’s Quality Jobs program.

Nucor solidifies deal for major development in St. James Parish

In September 2010, Nucor agreed to the provisions in its deal with Louisiana and announced the selection of St. James Parish for its project. In March 2011, state and local leaders joined Nucor executives to break ground on the DRI facility.

The direct reduced iron facility represented a capital investment of $750 million and was developed to result in 150 direct new jobs.

In March 2014, company and state leaders met to formally dedicate Nucor’s DRI facility. The company filled the 150 positions affiliated with this phase of production, and more than 500 construction jobs were created during the construction of the DRI facility. By mid-2016, the company had exceeded its previous hiring target of 150 and had a team of more than 170 employees. 

By the time the DRI plant was dedicated, it had achieved the highest performance of any standalone DRI plant in the world. The Convent plant receives imported ferrous oxide from Brazil, Canada and Norway, conveying the iron ore from a Mississippi River terminal to the direct reduced iron plant. There, the material reacts with natural gas at extremely high heat, the oxygen is removed from the ore, and refined iron pellets are conveyed back to river barges that ship the product to Nucor’s steel mills across the Southeast U.S. The iron produced at the facility combines with recycled scrap at Nucor’s steel mills to make high-quality steel products, such as sheet, plate and special bar-quality steel.

Louisiana stepped in to support Nucor with its hiring needs, and LED FastStart created a custom web portal to coordinate the latest activities with the company, including posting current available jobs and distributing the dates and locations of Job Information Sessions.

The FastStart team developed a customized Interactive Training Module (ITM) to train new employees on the Material Handling Process Flow of the Nucor Steel Louisiana facility. Additionally, FastStart developed training procedures for Project Overview instructors, safety methods, basic maintenance, core skills and job specific training.