Simplot Phosphates Creates Jobs in Rock Springs, WY
A motivated, educated and dependable workforce is the driving force behind Simplot Phosphates' continued expansion in Sweetwater County.
The fertilizer manufacturer plans to increase production with a $170 million expansion that will create more jobs and help strengthen the community's rock-solid economy. Rock Springs has been an ideal location for Simplot Phosphates’ agricultural fertilizer plant. The facility, five miles southeast of the city on Highway 430, is close to both Interstate 80 and the Union Pacific Railroad’s main line, enabling efficient distribution of the plant’s liquid and dry product fertilizers. Equally important, raw materials are readily available locally and in neighboring states.
“We utilize three main raw materials,” says plant manager Eric Schillie, who has been with J.R. Simplot Company for 21 years, including seven-plus years at the Rock Springs plant. The plant employs approximately 230 individuals and features a storage building that can hold 80,000 tons of dry fertilizer -- large enough for a 280-lane bowling alley or 38 basketball courts.
“Phosphate rock, from our mine in Vernal, Utah is pumped north in a buried, 96-mile pipeline,” Schillie says. “We also use molten sulfur [a byproduct of oil and natural gas production], which we get from the oil and gas fields in the region. And we purchase ammonia [made from natural gas], which we use in the manufacture of our dry product.”
$170 Million Expansion
Demand for the plant’s fertilizers has been consistently strong and growing, which explains why Simplot has pursued a $170 million expansion project.
“It mostly involves increasing the on-stream time of our equipment by adding some redundancy,” Schillie says. “We have two filter tables right now, we are going to add a third. We have four evaporators, we are adding a fifth. We have one reactor, and we are adding a second. Whereas before we would have to cut back on production when it came time to wash equipment or do maintenance work, with these extra pieces we should never have to reduce production.”
Local Economic Benefits
Schillie says the expansion, scheduled to be completed in summer 2014, will bring the plant’s phosphate production to 440,000 tons per year, helping the company maintain market share in all the places where its fertilizers are shipped – primarily Midwestern states like Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. The project also will benefit Rock Springs and Sweetwater County directly, creating 10-15 new jobs and generating additional municipal tax revenue.
It’s all part of an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship between the plant and the people of the local community, whom Schillie lauds for their work ethic.
“With the coal mines and the power plant and the oil patch, it’s an industrial community,” he says. “The work ethic that has developed over time makes a big difference.”
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