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Bennu Glass furnace fire-up imminent

Cameron Glass plant, which failed when its giant electric melter, billed as the largest in the world, leaked massive gobs of molten glass that nearly crippled the plant in January 2009, is coming back to life after being acquired by Bennu Glass.

Bennu Glass, the ancient Egyptian name for the legend of the Phoenix that rose from ashes, is enabling the failed Cameron Glass plant to come back to life. The plant’s giant electric melter, billed as the largest in the world, leaked massive gobs of molten glass that nearly crippled the plant in January 2009. Using a melter so large and experimental backfired: it could not generate enough heat to manufacture coloured glass, a staple for the wine bottle industry.
“It was a huge blow when the Camerons couldn’t make a go of it,” said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, which recruited the company.
At the time, many observers feared the plant was doomed forever. Bennu, which is owned by investment firm Medley Capital, bought the plant at bankruptcy auction for USD 64.8 million.
Bennu’s CEO, Jerry Lemieux, had been a consultant at the plant and has worked in the glass industry for more than three decades. Bennu employees and community leaders have credited Lemieux with rescuing the plant.
“To see it come back with the same number of employees and same amount of family wage jobs, means a lot to this community. It means we’re back in this speciality business,” Sprague said. Bennu has hired 27 full-time employees and expects to employ about 90 at full operation. According to company officials, the company plans to make sellable bottles by 1 August.
The company hired Indiana-based National Machinery and Conveyor Inc. to tear out the old, failed melter and install a USD 13 million furnace, which will burn liquid oxygen to generate the 4,200°F heat needed to melt glass. Bennu also built three tanks to store 33,000 gallons of liquid oxygen.
The contractor has hired 30 union workers, while about 15 to 20 have been hired from Cowlitz County union halls.

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