Rick Lazarou, chairman and chief executive officer of Lazar Anode Technologies LLC, says his Lazar Continuous Carbon Baking Furnace technology will revolutionize the alluminum industry.
The company, registered in Switzerland and currently based in Owensboro, broke ground yesterday for a 45,000-square-foot furnace near Hawesville.
"This is the culmination of many years of working with this company," said Jim Fallin, the executive director of the Hancock County Industrial Foundation. "They could have located in many parts of the world, but chose this region because of the alluminum and the business environment."
Lazarou compares the company's process to a pizza oven. "The best analogy is to a pizza-making machine," Lazarou said. "You put pizza into a long oven, and the pizzas all come out looking and tasting the same time after time. It's much faster and more efficient with the same temperature throughout."
The process now used by aluminum companies, Lazarou said, "heats it in a large pit, cools it down and takes it out. The pit is as big as a football field. It takes a lot of energy to heat, and it wastes a lot of energy." His process, Lazarou said, uses no natural gas and is more efficient. "Our temperature is a constant 2,100 degrees," he said. "With a pit, temperatures vary from the top to the bottom." Wastes, Lazarou said, "aren't expelled into the environment, they're injected into the furnace, which is like an incinerator. We destroy any carcinogens in the process. And we make a higher quality product." His patented process, he said, "is better for the environment and an extremely cost-efficient way of creating aluminum."
"We're hoping this will act as a catalyst for other green-friendly industries to locate in the area," said Madison Silvert, vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. "This is a good example of high technology and green technology working together." The Owensboro area, he said, is strategically located because of all the aluminum companies in the area.
Lazarou, a native of Melbourne, Australia, worked for Rio Tinto, one of the largest international mining groups, before forming his own company in 2006. "I traveled a lot with them," he said. "That experience enabled me to put this together." Century Aluminum is an equity partner in the company, with a financial stake in its future, he said. That's why Lazar Anode Technologies is in Owensboro and Hawesville now.
The company, Lazarou said, has both financial and technology partners in the United States, Southeast Asia and Germany. "We will have a lot of visitors from other countries coming to Owensboro and Hawesville in the next few months," he said. The company has four employees today but expects to grow as the project develops, Lazarou said. He said he expects to have 15 employees by February.
Lazar Anode Technologies is already talking about diversifying into the petrochemical industry, he said.
The company has been approved for state incentives through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority and local incentives through the Hancock County Fiscal Court. They have also applied for funding through the state innovation and commercialization program as a client of the Emerging Ventures Center for Innovation in Owensboro.