FILLING THE NEED
With its rail transit up in recent years, DOW announces plans to construct a railyard on land leased from the Port of South Louisiana.
For Dow St. Charles, figuring out how to keep up with soaring input-output product volumes is, as one company official called it, “a great problem to have.” For the Port of South Louisiana, partnering with one of their valued stakeholders and helping to find mutually beneficial ways to facilitate regional economic growth are the kind of “great problems” it likes to solve.
So, together, they did.
In late October 2017, Dow and the Port of South Louisiana formally announced the inception of a project years in the making — a $9.5 million railyard to be built on Port property adjacent to Dow’s massive plant located in Hahnville. The project, which is currently in the engineering phase, is set to be constructed in 2018 and will be situated on land the Port will exclusively lease to Dow.
“I think for a while, regarding that land, there were discussions about how the Port and Dow could partner,” said Kyle Graham, Dow’s Site Logistics Leader. “From those initial discussions, we started to talk on a more concrete basis on how we could develop this property into a mutually beneficial asset. Over the last five years, we’ve had some incredible volume growth — all the investments we’ve made into our plant have returned a significant volume increase, including a 40 percent increase in rail (cargo). So, that’s a great problem to have, and so we needed a place to grow.”
“This railyard will give us the capacity to absorb some of that volume growth, but always puts us in position to handle future growth.”
Once fully operational next year, the new railyard will increase Dow’s railcar capacity by more than 25 percent. Roughly, the new railyard will be a storage area (no loading will take place) and house 250 railcars — about half of which will be empty and the other half holding plastic materials ready to be sent to customers via Union Pacific.
“Our relationship with Dow extends back for a long time,” Port of South Louisiana’s Paul Aucoin said. “So when Dow came to us, and this project was vital, well, we were glad to help — that’s what we’re here for. This is a win-win for both of us, because our mission at the Port is to create jobs, jobs, jobs.
And when a company needs more railyard, it’s because they’re putting out more volume. And when they’re putting out more volume, that means they’re hiring more people.”
“All of our stakeholders are important to us, and Dow has been a part of the Port since the 1960s and does so much for the community, so any opportunity to help out, we welcome.”
The Dow plant at Hahnville has been operational for more than 50 years, and continues to be an economic jewel of the River Parishes, employing approximately 1,000 full-time employees and 1,500 contractors at a competitive wage. Annually, the collective payroll at the Hahnville plant tops $100 million. Even with such a large workforce, Dow’s plant annually posts some of the lowest injury and hazard rates in the entire country, making it an OSHA Star Site for two decades consecutively. At the 2,000-acre petrochemical manufacturing site, workers product materials that end up in a variety of household, business and consumer items — including but not limited to plastics, insecticides, film, antifreeze, jet fuel, brake fluid, paints and adhesives, textiles, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, personal care items, toothpaste, shampoo, detergents, fabric softeners and animal feeds.
Currently, the Dow plant in St. Charles is capable of housing 900 railcars, meaning this expansion will push that figure into four figures. And though Dow already has a railyard on site, the engineering and construction of this new project will require some planning and forethought.
“This will be a fairly large footprint we’re putting down,” Graham said. “So one of the things we have to be aware of when we’re putting down that track is it has to be able to support the proper amount of weight — 250 railcars are pretty heavy. So from a civil engineering perspective, making sure the base is built properly is very important. The other thing, from both an engineering standpoint and an environmental standpoint, is drainage. So a lot of the engineering is going into ensuring our drainage footprint doesn’t change with the railyard — making sure it can get the same amount of water out then as it does today in its current condition.”
“Really, this is a great partnership (with the Port) because it gives us the capacity to keep growing in St. Charles Parish,” Graham said. “And when we’re successful and growing, that obviously benefits the Parish.”
By William Kalec