Ethyl Petroleum announces May closing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Ethyl Petroleum Additives will close its Natchez plant by the end of May.

The plant’s 40 employees were notified of the plans on Tuesday, less than a week after a Ethyl spokesperson said company-wide layoffs would not affect the Natchez plant.

&uot;The reason for the disconnect is that we had not finalized the plan until later in the week,&uot; said Liz Ludwig, corporate spokesperson. &uot;And when we did, it was of the utmost importance to speak to employees first.&uot;

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Steve Elliot, plant manager, said Tuesday the decision to close the Natchez facility was a difficult one.

&uot;We did not want to shut the plant down,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s fairly well thought of within Ethyl … and we’ve always had a good relationship with the community … This is a good place to be.&uot;

A demand for the Natchez products, combined with a company-wide cost of operations reduction, prompted the decision to close.

&uot;We tried very hard to find something that would match up; we just couldn’t do it,&uot; Elliot said.

The Natchez facility produces detergents and other components used in motor oils. &uot;The industry is creating the next generation of motor oils, and one of the additives we make is not in the next generation,&uot; Elliot said.

Ethyl, which employees approximately 1,400 people worldwide, has responded to the slowing market conditions with a serious of layoffs and shutdowns. Manufacturing facilities in Natchez,&160;Houston and Rio de Janeiro will be affected, as well as research and development facilities in Richmond, Va., and Bracknell, England, and the corporate headquarters in Richmond will be affected.

About 15 percent of the company’s work force will be reduced.

&uot;We won’t have a final number until the middle of next week, because in all those locations affected early retirement packages are being offered,&uot; Ludwig said. &uot;The deadline for that is April 15.&uot;

At the Natchez facility, the 17 salaried employees will be offered severance or early retirement packages. The 23 union employees will be provided severance in accordance with their contracts, Ludwig said.

Ketchings said he was surprised by the announcement Tuesday that the plant would close.

&uot;I actually was (caught off guard),&uot; he said. &uot;But if you don’t have the market for your product, that will dictate what you do.&uot;

Ketchings said he did encourage Elliot to provide information about the physical plant to the EDA and the Mississippi Development Authority, which keeps a log buildings and facilities available throughout the state. Ethyl owns approximately 55 acres of industrial land, along with tanks, buildings and other equipment, on L.E. Berry Road near the Adams County Port facilities.

Ethyl purchased the Natchez facility in 1982, as part of its purchase of Amoco&160;Petroleum.&160;Previously, the plant was operated by Calumet.