Ports & Terminals

Nucor Breaks Ground On Steel Plant Along Ohio River

Nucor Corporation broke ground on its 400-job, $1.7 billion steel plate manufacturing mill October 23 along the Ohio River in Brandenburg, Ky.

The plant is expected to employ an average of 960 temporary construction jobs, peaking at 1,500.

“Nucor Steel Brandenburg will be a difference-maker for its employees, their families and the economy of Meade County and the surrounding region,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Nucor already stands as a major employer in the commonwealth, and its continued growth helps build a brighter and better Kentucky for our families. I’m grateful to Nucor and anticipate many years of continued success and partnership between Nucor and Kentucky.”

The plant is located in the Buttermilk Falls Industrial Park along the river. The 1.5 million-square-foot operation will provide Nucor with 1.2 million tons of annual capacity for steel plate production.

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The U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) awarded a $2,363,800 Marine Highway Grant to Nucor Steel Brandenburg in June to support the construction of a marine terminal at the new plant consisting of two repurposed casino barges. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) sponsored the grant.

By moving cargo via barge on the Ohio River, the marine terminal is expected to employ  20 people with full-time jobs in material handling and stevedoring as well as related jobs for fleet boat operators and deckhands, MarAd said, adding that the grant would also help stimulate the U.S. shipbuilding industry on the inland waterways.

The grant will help offset a portion of the significant investment needed to construct the greenfield marine terminal at Brandenburg capable of receiving raw materials and shipping outbound steel products by barge.

Of the mill’s possible 1.2 million tons per year of steel plate products, approximately 240,000 tons of finished steel plates annually will be shipped by inland river barge to Nucor customers. An estimated 48,000 tons annually of finished steel products will be shipped to the ports of Cincinnati, Louisville, Paducah and Indiana-Clark Maritime Center, where the plates will be transferred to trucks and/or rail for delivery to final destinations.

The balance of 192,000 tons annually of finished steel plate products is expected to be shipped to Chicago, Ill., Pittsburgh, Pa., and various customers in Tennessee and Arkansas. The first leg of transports for these shipments will use the M-70 Marine Highway, OKI said.

In an executive summary, OKI described the project as building upon successes achieved and lessons learned at the Nucor Steel Gallatin facility in Ghent, Ky., where 430 to 500 truckloads of steel coil per year have successfully shifted from truck to barge using the M-70 marine highway.

The Brandenburg plant is expected to be fully operational in 2022, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“A core part of our company mission is to support the communities where we live and work,” said Leon Topalian, president and CEO of Nucor Corporation. “We have been doing business in the state for more than a decade and have found that the people of Kentucky share our company’s values of hard work, determination and teamwork. We thank Gov. Beshear, his administration and local officials in Meade County for their support of this project. We look forward to being a part of the Brandenburg community for decades to come.”

Logistically, Nucor Steel Brandenburg will take advantage of its location along the Ohio River, which will allow Nucor to supply the mill with direct-reduced iron and scrap steel by barge, the governor’s office said. From there, the company will be able to quickly and cost-effectively distribute plate products to customers regionally and nationwide. In using an electric-arc furnace, the mill will leverage Kentucky’s highly competitive industrial electricity rates. Last year, Kentucky averaged 5.39 cents per kWh for industrial electric, second lowest east of the Mississippi River.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Nucor is North America’s largest recycler and the nation’s largest steel and steel products producer. The company employs more than 26,000 people at more than 300 facilities, primarily located in North America.

In Kentucky, Nucor and its affiliates employ roughly 2,000 people at numerous facilities, including Nucor Steel Gallatin, Nucor Tubular Products Louisville, Harris Rebar and a 50 percent ownership stake in Steel Technologies. Nucor also owns the David J. Joseph Company and its multiple recycling facilities across the state, which collect and recycle scrap metal.

The company recently completed Phase I of a massive, $826 million expansion project at its Nucor Steel Gallatin mill in Ghent, Ky. That mill, which produces flat-rolled steel coils, is now in the middle of Phase II. In total, the Gallatin mill expansions are creating 145 full-time jobs.