Vallourec Star has completed a new $650 million steel tube plant alongside its current mill west of Youngstown. The 1-million-square-foot building is Youngstown’s biggest capital investment in a half-century. Vallourec Star is North America’s leading producer of seamless pipe predominantly used in the oil and gas industry.
The redevelopment of a brownfield site for the expansion project is a critical economic development initiative that has created hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs for the Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio.
The expansion is helping to drive the emergence of the oil and gas industry in the Rust Belt region of the country, as various companies look to tap into the Marcellus and Utica shales in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Industry analysts estimate that almost $10 billion a year will be invested in the region over the next 10 years just to drill and complete wells. And in midstream development — processing and transportation of gas and natural gas liquids — there is projected to be over $110 billion of investment over the coming 20 years, almost all of it in the Marcellus, with some in the Utica shale.
The site, located in Youngstown’s Brier Hill neighborhood, contained rich deposits of pig iron ore and was strip-mined for its mineral resources that in the 1880s fed the nearby blast furnaces. When the ore was finally exhausted, the area was used for nearly a century as a dumpsite for slag and other steel mill byproducts.
Occupied until the mid-1980s by Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company steel mills and rail yards, today the area is comprised of materials and industrial fill storage yards, railroad facilities and an active slag mining operation.
The redevelopment has created an expanded plant with a new steel rolling pipe mill in a dedicated building on the 170-acre site. The new mill will eventually reach an annual rolling capacity of 500,000 tons of seamless tubes.
An intermodal transportation center is integral to the project. Redevelopment of this site required substantial improvements to onsite infrastructure and access to the site from adjacent transportation facilities. In addition, improved connectivity to existing rail corridors and upgrades to onsite rail yards was needed. To assist with the federally required environmental planning and the needed infrastructure improvements, project stakeholders, led by the city of Youngstown, teamed with environmental and transportation experts at ms consultants, who have been providing multiple services for this project.
First, to facilitate the site improvements, federally required environmental documents had to be prepared. These Categorical Exclusions are comprised of reviews of field investigations and a determination that there were no impacts to streams, rivers or other surface waters. In addition, a review of a wetland survey and the development of the wetland map were completed.
Numerous transportation infrastructure improvements have also been studied and designed. The plant required the construction of facilities to provide rail and roadway access for employees and material transport – which meant that site access grading, drainage infrastructure, slag deposit sampling, and survey had to be completed.
Improved rail connectivity to existing rail corridors and upgrades to onsite rail yards was done in several ways – the addition of one track to provide Norfolk Southern, CSXT, and Ohio Central System rail access to the site; the addition of a new 7,800-foot storage track spur along the south perimeter of the site; a marshalling yard northeast of the site to compensate for loss of track space with the relocation of the site entrance; the realignment of existing tracks serving Liberty Metals to the west, Trinity Industries and the Vallourec Star Truck Plant to provide access to these sites from all three rail carriers in the area; and the reconfiguration of existing onsite rail facilities to reduce the number of tracks to be crossed by the vehicle grade crossings from U.S. 422.
With the cooperation of all stakeholders involved, ms consultants was able to provide timely and accurate environmental site assessments, a requirement to move forward with redevelopment.