• Bill Raines

Lehigh's Construction Project Continues with Completion Expected Around February

MITCHELL - SEPTEMBER 10, 2022 - During the 2022 Williams Covered Bridge Dinner Tracy Crowther, Plant Manager Lehigh Company gave the attendees an update on the construction project in Mitchell. The plant is expected to be operational by February. The company is hoping to have an Open House around May or June 2023 for the public.


Tracy Crowther gives an update on the Lehigh Plant Construction Project underway in Mitchell


The Lehigh Plant received a Department of Energy grant to help with the carbon capture testing at the facility. The Department of Energy awarded $3.8 Million towards the testing and Lehigh will put in $1.1 Million.


The plant is owned by Heidelberg out of Germany.


This is an effort to be environmentally friendly working to reduce the carbon footprint within the community. This study is expected to start sometime next year and last for about 18 months.


The project continues to move right along, despite supply chain issues and working to overcome those obstacles. Lead time on receiving some of the materials for the project have been challenging.


However, most of the materials is now on location as the construction moves forward.




The two silos will hold 32,000 tons of cement or 16,000 tons each


The tower is completely topped out now. The top floor of the tower sits at 380 feet or equals about a 38-story building. The tower has changed the landscape in the Lawrence County area being seen from Indiana State Road 37 from Bedford, and one of the silos perfectly aligns with Main Street in Mitchell.


According to Crowther the tower itself is about to become lighted. The first few floors are already now lit, and in the next three weeks 2/3 of the tower will have lighting. The whole tower is expected to be lit in the next month or so.


With the lighting in place the tower will even be more visible to the area especially of a night. The operation at the plant is 24 hours, seven days a week and is necessary for employees to safely work at the plant.


Other Interesting Facts about the new Plant:


" I worked in manufacturing before I got involved in cement. At that time, it was not uncommon for us to have a large motor in the previous industry. A common motor was approximately 200 horsepower. It is unreal the size and number of motors needed to produce, move, the air for the plant our size. The largest motor in the Mitchell facility is 6,800 horsepower and 13,000 volts of electricity," Crowther added.


By the time the plant is fully operational in the next few years, the Lehigh Plant will be the second largest cement plant in the United States. The largest being in the State of Missouri which is a little bigger than the Mitchell Plant.


The Clicker Dome that is constructed at the facility which stored intermediate material that comes out of the kiln. It is the largest dome in the western hemisphere and holds 140,000 metric tons of material. The dome is about 200 feet in diameter, and about 108 feet tall.


There are about 3 million lbs. of rebar in the dome, with no structure inside the Clicker Dome. The dome itself supported from the outside and is shocked treated from the inside just like what a pool would be. The bottom is about three wide, and ten inches thick. The Clicker Dome will be filled all the way to the top. The design will allow the material to wrap against the walls, the 140,000 tons will be about 20 days of manufacturing of the plant.


The Lehigh Plant project has provided an economic boost to Lawrence County and in the years to come


What is going to happen to the previous plant that is there now? The entire kiln will be shut down and no longer used. The questions by some, what if the market started going well again, will you start it back up again. There will not be an environmental permit to operate the kiln again.


The existing kiln was operational since the 1960s and has pretty much lived out its lifespan. When steel prices get high enough the steel will be cut up and sold as scrap.



Some of the finish mills will be used for specialty products. The large metal building 300 X 80 feet on the northside of the property, that will support the bag cement operation of the plant. As the Mitchell facility gets a running the Speed, Indiana Plant will close.


The two silos will hold about 32,000 tons of cement, or about 16,000 tons each. Trucks will drive right underneath the silos, load directly into the trucks. In addition, the railroad tracks are being upgraded. When the production and market forces get up to speed which may take a couple of years; the goal is to produce 2.6 million tons of cement, or slightly more out of the Mitchell facility.



By that time, approximately one million tons will be shipped out by rail. This will mean the facility will ship out about 10,000 rail cars a year, in the summertime this will equate too about 1,000 rail cars a month.



MITCHELL INDIANA NICE LOCATION FOR THE PLANT


When you choose a place to put a cement plant, they are strategically placed right where you need them. In addition, you need a nice limestone reserve to support the plant. Lawrence County is a prime spot for its limestone resources.


The late 1800's Lehigh purchased property right on top limestone reserves which sat between Indianapolis and Louisville two growing markets.


In Indiana, the state continues to grow economically and the neighboring states around it makes the Mitchell location prime for business growth. The investments that continue to be made in these states which includes the billion-dollar battery plant, semi-conductor plant, with increase to warehouses. The infrastructure improvements to roads and bridges will require the cement produced from the Mitchell facility and help with the growth of the plant.



The Mitchell Plant currently employs 100 employees at this time and is expected to hire 90 more about the time the plant is opened. During the construction project there are more than 950 construction employees working on the project. This has been a nice economic opportunity for Lawrence County.


" I just want to thank the Mitchell City officials, and Lawrence County officials for being very accommodating to the needs of the project this size," said Crowthers.


Crowthers allowed a brief Question and Answer session from those who attended the event.


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