German company buys Burnside alumina refinery

Ormet had owned Burnside facility

Almatis, a German company, has purchased a Burnside alumina refinery out of bankruptcy.

Details of Almatis’ purchase of the refinery, which had been owned by Ormet Corp., were not disclosed. But in November, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge in Delaware approved Almatis’ $39 million bid to buy the plant. The plant manufactures the primary raw material used in aluminum production.

“Almatis is committed to make additional investments in the refinery to ensure its success as a dedicated specialty producer,” said Taco Gerbranda, Almatis’ chief executive officer.

“This is a major investment for the future of Almatis that will enable us to better manage and secure our long-term feedstock supply, and strengthen our ability to provide our customers with premium specialty alumina products.”

The Burnside refinery has an annual capacity of 500,000 metric tons per year. The plant has the capability to produce high-quality feedstocks, although it was established as a smelter-grade alumina producer.

Ormet filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. The company blamed its filing on a drop in the price of aluminum and rising power rates in Ohio, where it has an aluminum smelter that received alumina from Burnside.

Ormet had 213 people working at the Burnside refinery, according to an October filing in bankruptcy court. The plant was being kept in a “hot idle,” a state where it would be easy to return to production, during bankruptcy proceedings.

Ormet reopened the shuttered Burnside alumina plant in late 2011 after the plant had been closed for five years. The facility had closed because of falling demand, high natural gas prices and market forces. Then rising alumina prices and low natural gas costs made it worthwhile to reopen the Burnside plant. Ormet made a $21 million investment in the plant.

The Louisiana economic development department offered an incentive package that included a performance-based loan of $1.5 million and a 5 percent refundable tax credit for plant retention and modernization, worth about $1 million.

Mike Eades, president and CEO of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., said the news of the purchase of the Burnside refinery is “a nice Christmas present.”

“We’re happy to see the situation work out and that the plant will stay open,” Eades said. “A solid company has bought them.”

Advocate staff reporter David Mitchell contributed to this report.