Global Resource Corp., a West Berlin developer of technology to extract petroleum from nontraditional sources, hopes to build a $70 million tire-recycling plant at the former USX Corp. site in Fairless Hills.
The plant will take about a year to construct once the permit process is completed, and will be able to process 36,000 pounds of tires per hour, according to Hawk Hogan, the company's head engineer. He added that it will employ about 250 people. The company disclosed its plans in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Pittsburgh-based USX, which has been winding down operations at Fairless Hills since the 1980s, hasn't signed off on the plan yet. USX still employs about 100 workers there.
". . . the only holdup is for them to give us the lease," Hogan said. "It's an uphill battle with them over there."
Hogan said Gov. Rendell recently called USX. A Rendell spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
USX spokesman John Armstrong declined to comment on Hogan's claims, saying: "We don't conduct business in the media."
Global Resource chief executive officer Frank Pringle discussed the company's plans with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty in October, said Michael Smith, an agency spokesman. McGinty reiterated her support for alternative-energy projects, but told the company that it would need to get the required permits.
Disposing of scrap tires remains a contentious environmental issue. The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates that there were 188 million tires sitting in stockpiles at the end of last year. Pennsylvania is one of seven states that account for 85 percent of the remaining stockpiles.
If the deal happens, Global Resource will join a slew of companies at the site. Last month, A.E. Polysilicon Corp., a solar-energy company, said it planned to set up its headquarters and a manufacturing site that could employ 500. Spain's Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica S.A. announced plans last year to build electricity-generating windmills at the site, which is now called the Keystone Industrial Port Complex.
Kinder-Morgan Inc., a Houston-based pipeline operator, runs a seaport terminal at the site along the Delaware River, which includes 70 miles of railroad track along with a developed utility infrastructure.
"It's an ideal site," Hogan said.
The company wants to lease a three- to four-acre site at the Bucks County property along with a 135,000-square-foot building. Once the plant is running, it will break down each tire into 7.5 pounds of carbon black, which can be used in computer printer toner cartridges; 2 pounds of steel; 1.2 gallons of diesel; and 50 cubic feet of natural gas, according to the company.
Global Resource said it doesn't expect to have any problems getting the company's process approved because it doesn't cause air pollution. The process uses microwave technology in a vacuum environment to break the tires down into their base materials, Hogan said.
"There is no smokestack required," he said.
Once the plant is running, Global Resource plans to license the technology to other companies.
Michael Blumenthal, the senior technical director of the Rubber Manufacturers Association, said he was skeptical about the company's claims.
"As far as we're concerned, it's not new. It's not revolutionary," said Blumenthal, whose organization represents U.S.-based tire manufacturers. "We have very serious doubts about whether this type of technology can be economically viable."
Shares of Global Resource were priced at 92 cents Friday on the OTC Bulletin Board. Their 52-week high was $5. The company lost $4.2 million in 2006.