The Alcoa plant in Point Comfort, about 125 miles from here, is a pretty massive operation: It can produce up to 2.3 million metric tons a year of alumina, which is the stuff from which aluminum is made.
Now it may be shutting down.
An Australian newspaper (an Australian company partners with Alcoa on its aluminum production) reported that it's likely falling aluminum prices and the general economic slump will force the company to shutter the plant:
In response to market conditions, there is every indication that AWAC will close in some of its higher cost production, most notably the Pt Comfort plant near Houston. This is a predictable and typical response to a market in critical oversupply. And, given Pt Comfort is probably already making a loss, one which has nil impact of Alumina's bottom line.
In response, company spokesman Kevin Lowery tells Hair Balls that nothing is planned. But it's not the world's fiercest denial.
"People can conjecture about things, but that doesn't mean they will come true," he says from company HQ in Pittsbugh.
Alcoa announced last month it was cutting production by 25 percent at Point Comfort.
Lowery says the key piece of equipment involved, a "digester," is expensive to operate. "We are looking at every digester across our whole system and we will make our adjustments accordingly, but we haven't come out with any further detail on that," he says.
The Alcoa plant is one of the biggest in the Point Comfort area, along with the Formosa plant.
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With rumors swirling about the BASF plant in Freeport also possibly closing, it could be tough times coming for the locals who depend on those plants.
(We've asked Lowery for figures on how many people are employed at Point Comfort; we'll update when he gets back to us.)
Update: About 650 people work there, he says.
-- Richard Connelly