By Eileen Bailey
HAMILTON – An Oklahoma chemical company announced a $90 million investment in its Hamilton facilities that would increase production of titanium dioxide pigment and sodium chlorate.
The expansion announced Wednesday at Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. in Hamilton would also add about 100 new jobs to a company that already employs more than 450 people in the area.
George Hennigan, president and chief executive officer for Kerr-McGee in Oklahoma City, said the expansion is “a vote of confidence for Mississippi.”
“We are convinced at Kerr-McGee that there is no better place to invest than in Hamilton,” Hennigan said.
The expansion will include the purchase of new equipment to be phased in over the next 17 months that will help boost titanium dioxide pigment production by 25 percent.
Titanium dioxide pigment is a fine, white powder most commonly used in paints and plastics. Kerr-McGee began production of this product in 1965 in Hamilton and produced 128,115 tons in 1995. This part of the expansion is expected to be complete in May 1997.
Over the next two years, expansions and upgrades at the pigment plant will include an additional chlorinator, the relocation and upgrade of a total of three sand separators, installation of a fourth 50-pound bagging system, and upgrading of an existing chlorinator.
Hennigan said the company also will increase sodium chlorate production by 15,000 tons per year. An expansion will begin later this year that will increase the plant’s sodium chlorate production capacity to 138,000 tons per year.
Sodium chlorate is used by the paper industry in pulp bleaching. Kerr-McGee began producing sodium chlorate at Hamilton in 1958 with two cells. It now produces 123,000 tons through five cell lines.
Kerr-McGee’s other facilities in Hamilton include the Manganese Plant, which opened operation in 1962, and the Manganese-Aluminum Briquette Plant, which opened in 1973.
Gov. Kirk Fordice was on hand for the announcement and a short meeting with Kerr-McGee officials afterward.
“We’re proud to have Kerr-McGee as a member of Mississippi’s chemical industry, and these expansions reflect the confidence the company has in Mississippi and its work force,” Fordice said. “Through this new investment in the Hamilton facility, Kerr-McGee will provide more outstanding, well-paying jobs for Mississippians in this area.”
Both Fordice and Hennigan said the plant strives hard to not only be a top producer of chemicals but aware of environmental concerns.
Hennigan said in 1994 both the electrolytic and pigment operations have been recognized by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration as Star work sites, OSHA’s highest level of recognition for voluntary safety and health programs. Only 200 plants in the United States qualified for the honor, he said. “We are proud to have it here at Hamilton,” he said.