News Local/State

Cronus Makes Tuscola Plant Official

Cronus Chemicals CEO Erzin Atac discusses its new fertilizer plan in Tuscola

Cronus Chemicals CEO Erzin Atac addresses a crowd at the future site of the company's new fertilizer plant west of Tuscola, joined by Gov. Pat Quinn (Jeff Bossert/WILL)

State and local economic officials Wednesday announced the construction of the $1.4 billion Cronus Chemicals fertilizer plant west of Tuscola.

The facility is expected to start operations by mid-2017, creating up to 2,000 construction jobs and 175 permanent ones.

Brian Moody of Tuscola Economic Development expects the product to be sold within a 150 mile area, reducing fertilizer transportation costs.

"Some of it will go out by truck, some if it will go out by rail," he said.  "The biggest strong point of our site was that fact.  You have the farm community within 150 miles, you had the rail, you had trucks, you can get it out wherever you need.  They're assuming a good portion of their fertlizer will be used right here in Central Illinois."

The plant will make granular urea fertlizer, a non-hazardous and non-flammable organic compound, according to the company.

Construction project starts next spring.  Governor Pat Quinn was in Tuscola for the announcement, joined by Cronus CEO Erzin Atac.

"We have been thinking that building a nitrogen plant in the U.S. is a very good idea, since the so-called natural gas revolution," he said.  "I have been in the fertilizer business for more than 30 years myself."

Tuscola won out over 75 other sites in 9 states.  

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Bob Flider says incentives like a natural gas line and the CSX railroad were also key.

"Iowa had cited one of these facilities a little over a year ago," he said.  "It was in the news that Iowa had won this, although I would say from the standpoint of the economic benefit, this is going to be far greater for Illinois than that plan ever would have, all things considered." 

The agreement for the Cronus plant included $50-million in state incentives, including $35 million in tax exemptions.  A portion of the incentives were in legislation approved last spring.

Moody said work will start soon to line up office space for contractors.  The plant will be built on a 235-acre site at U.S. Highway 36, just west of Tuscola and near Interstate 57.

Cronus this year agreed on a contract with the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District to sell 6.3 million gallons a day of treated wastewater. 

It's a plan that concerns some area residents and environmental officials, who worry about the impact on streams that feed into the Salt Fork River, and threats to the aquatic communities.

"We worked to try to get science to tell us how much water really should stay in those streams to protect what we have, maybe even improve," said Kim Knowles, an attorney with the Prairie Rivers Network.  "Consulting experts, we couldn't find that information."  Knowles said her group also has concerns about climate change, drought, and increased percipitation.

Cronus, which is based in Chicago, will also hire 25 employees at its corporate headquarters.