Timeline set for long-delayed fertilizer plant in Douglas County

Timeline set for long-delayed fertilizer plant in Douglas County

TUSCOLA — Pencil in a new grand opening for the frequently delayed Cronus fertilizer plant — four-plus years behind the original schedule.

While no official groundbreaking date has been set, Cronus spokesman Peter Gray said construction on the Douglas County plant would likely begin in the second half of 2018 and last 37 months, putting the opening in the second half of 2021.

Today, the company will announce it has agreed to terms with a new contractor for the project, now estimated to cost $1.6 billion after earlier estimates were in the $1.4-$1.5 billion range.

Out: Tecnimont and KBR Inc., whose dual signing in March 2016 prompted Cronus spokesman Dave Lundy to say: "It means the project is on track, and we're looking to break ground in 2016."

In: Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, a German multinational conglomerate, which Cronus says will serve as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for a project that Douglas County officials remain cautiously optimistic about.

"With this agreement in place, project development will now accelerate," Cronus Chemicals CEO Erzin Atac wrote in an email to The News-Gazette ahead of today's formal announcement. "Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, a Fortune Global 500 company, is the leading builder of fertilizer projects and will be involved in every aspect of constructing this state-of-the-art facility."

Oct. 27 will mark the third anniversary of Cronus' announcement that it had selected Tuscola — over 75 sites in nine states — as the site for its plant. The company was swayed in part by a package of economic incentives worth $52 million that had been assembled by state and local agencies. Ground was originally set to be broken in spring 2015.

But the project has stalled since, with Tuscola Economic Development Executive Director Brian Moody noting in June that "part of the delay has been about getting the contractors lined up. No statement has been made by Cronus about the contractor."

City officials hope today's news could give the project the boost they've been waiting for.

Plans still call for the project to provide 2,000 construction jobs and 200 long-term jobs at a plant located on 240 acres of farmland two miles west of Tuscola along U.S. 36. But Cronus made changes to the project as a result of changes to the market, Gray said.

Those mostly relate to the design of the plant, which will have the capacity to produce 2,300 metric tons of anhydrous ammonia per day and up to 2,000 metric tons of granular urea, a nitrogen fertilizer, per day.

"The plant's strategic location will benefit Illinois and area farmers by producing fertilizer locally that can be delivered via pipeline or truck, replacing the need for imported products," Gray said.

In addition, the agreement with Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions includes an undisclosed fixed, lump-sum price that Gray said will give Cronus more "financial certainty as it continues driving the project forward."

In conjunction with the announcement about the new contractor, Cronus also will announce an extension of its option agreement with the Urbana and Champaign Sanitary District to transport treated wastewater from Champaign to Cronus' plant for 25 years.

The sanitary district plans to construct a $2 million pump station that could send 6.3 million gallons of treated wastewater a day down a pipeline to Tuscola.

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