By DEBRA PRESSEY, The News-Gazette (Champaign)
TUSCOLA, Illinois (AP) – It has been more than seven years since it was announced that Cronus Chemicals would develop a $ 1.4 billion fertilizer plant west of Tuscola.
The exact question that this project is going to be built on is one question, Brian Moody, Tuscola’s chamber and economic development director, said he was always asked the question – frequently, reports The News-Gazette.
And that’s a question he can’t answer, Moody said, although Tuscola continues to have a relationship with the company and supports development.
“I guess I would tell you that economic development is a long way,” he said.
And a longer road, again, amid a pandemic that has resulted, along with a public health crisis, in labor and supply shortages and higher construction costs.
âCOVID has obviously put, I guess you could say, a delay on the project,â Moody said.
On the one hand, it is no longer a $ 1.4 billion project. Tuscola’s latest update on the cost of the project was that it would cost $ 1.762 billion, he said.
Plans to build the new nitrogen fertilizer plant west of Tuscola were announced in October 2014, when Pat Quinn was governor of Illinois.
The project was announced with $ 52 million in economic incentives to help persuade Cronus investors who are studying 76 different sites in nine states to ultimately decide on the Tuscola site.
Cronus Fertilizers, the name of the proposed plant and a project of Cronus Chemicals, announced in 2018 that it had signed a contract with Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions for the engineering, procurement and construction of the Tuscola plant.
Cronus announced in December 2020 that significant changes have been made to its partnership with Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions “that will enhance the success of Cronus’ proposed fertilizer plant in Tuscola, Illinois.”
Cronus said in that announcement a year ago that the Tuscola facility would produce up to 2,300 metric tonnes of ammonia per day, “giving regional farmers access to locally produced ammonia and eliminating much of it. the need for imported products â.
With Tuscola, the Sanitary District of Urbana and Champaign is also awaiting the development of this plant.
The health district periodically extended its contract for the supply of wastewater, necessary for the manufacture of fertilizers, for the future Cronus plant in Tuscola.
In a note to the health district board in July, executive director Rick Manner said Cronus had yet to secure funding for the project, and recommended that the district “formally notify us that we have not yet secured funding for the project. do not intend to finish before July 1, 2022 “.
“This would confirm the availability of the UCSD water supply for Cronos as they attempt to finalize their funding for the project,” Manner said in the note.
Cronos needs about 6 million gallons of water per day, and the health district estimated it would bring in about $ 1 million per year from the arrangement, Manner said.
Cronos officials could not be reached by The News-Gazette.
Moody said he was in contact with company officials via email this week and was told that Cronus continues to move the Tuscola project forward and plans to be able to provide an update in about a week. month.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Kim Biggs said the agency received a new permit application for the Tuscola plant in March 2020 and was still pending.
Moody said his likely incentive agreements should be reviewed for the Tuscola plant, but Cronus continues to have an option on plant ownership and labor agreements with the unions in place.
And for Cronos, the economic opportunity for the plant “has clearly been there,” he said.
As for the town of Tuscola, Moody said formalities had been taken but no money had been spent.
âNow it’s a question, as it always has been, whether Cronos can align all the stars to make his project come true,â Moody said. “So far that has not happened.”
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