Honoring its investment in St. Charles Parish and its people, local officials along with more than 300 employees of OxyChem celebrated the company’s 50th anniversary.
Parish President Larry Cochran said an estimated 90 percent of company employees are residents of the River Parishes at an April 7 ceremony at the Taft site. Cochran also recognized OxyChem’s contributions to local organizations including company representatives serving on boards such as United Way of St. Charles, and assistance in disasters such as hurricanes.
Cochran recognized the company’s safety record that includes being an OSHA Star VPP site and also receiving the Vinyl Institute’s Safety Performance Award that honors plants with no recordable incidents based on federal OSHA incidence rates.
To highlight appreciation for OxyChem contributions, Cochran, along with Council President Wendy Benedetto and Council Vice President Julia Fisher-Perrier, presented a proclamation recognizing OxyChem.
Local Plant Manager Louis Palmer added the plant does represent the lives of the many people who have kept it running.
“This is our livelihood, the Plant,” Palmer said. “You do work a lot nights, weekends and holidays if you work at a plant.”
Dallas, Texas-based OxyChem has four locations in Louisiana: Taft, Luling, Convent and Geismar. The plants produce chlorine, caustic soda, potassium hydroxide chlorinated organics and ethylene dichloride, which are used in mostly pharmaceuticals, water disinfectants, agriculture, plastics, batteries, soaps and detergents.
OxyChem’s first plant at Taft was built in August 1964 with a startup in 1966. By 1974, the second plant 2 was added to produce chlorine. In 2002, Cogen (the cogeneration power plant) started producing electricity and steam, which entered the company in the electricity business. Cogen, which is fired by natural gas, is capable of producing about 800 megawatts of electricity or enough power to run 460,000 homes in Louisiana a year.
Today, the plant has more than 300 employees that include technicians, salaried employees and contractors.
As part of the celebration, two company retirees commented on their longtime service at the plant.
Calling himself the company’s oldest retiree, Raymond Toups recounted the company’s early beginnings to Hooker Chemical Co. in the parish.
Retired employee George Haas said he started his job on March 28, 1966 with OxyChem making $2.48 an hour, “but you could work all the overtime you wanted.” In 1994, Haas said he joined corporate operations as a general affairs representative until he retired in March 2007 as director of governmental affairs after 41 years with the company.