Citizens offers early retirement to speed coke plant sale

Citizens Gas & Coke Utility has made early retirement offers to 41 of the 350 workers at its Indianapolis Coke plant at 2950 Prospect Street. Various levels of buyouts have been extended to employees at least 50 years old; they have 45 days to accept.

An unnamed company is interested in buying the plant, said spokesman Dan Considine, and buyouts help minimize uncertainties for employees. Considine didn’t immediately know how much money Citizens hopes to save through the buyouts.

Citizens, which supplies natural gas to Marion County, is trying to sell the eastside plant because it no longer is considered central to its business strategy.

Indianapolis Coke provided coke-oven gas to light streets and eventually heat homes until natural gas pipelines began criss-crossing the country in the 1950s, rendering the plant obsolete.

It still supplies gas to the steam generation plant on Kentucky Avenue near Victory Field downtown. During cold weather, the Perry K Steam Plant supplies steam to heat 200 downtown buildings; in warm weather, the steam turns water chillers that cool the buildings.

Citizens wants the buyer of Indianapolis Coke to continue supplying gas to the steam plant, Considine said.

Indianapolis Coke primarily supplies coke—a nearly pure hydrocarbon—to steel mills and foundries. Steel and foundry operators prefer it to other fuels because it burns evenly and at extremely high temperatures.

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