Case Studies

Nexans’ High Voltage Cable Manufacturing Plant

A First for South Carolina and the U.S.
  • Written by: Molly Shaw
  • Produced by: Nexans' High Voltage Cable Manufacturing Plant
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

When Nexans, a France-based worldwide expert in the high-voltage cable industry, began formulating plans for its first North American plant, the company was drawn to South Carolina for two reasons: the state’s quality workforce and the Cooper River flowing through the coastal city of Charleston. The location and logistics made the ideal site for a high-voltage cable manufacturing plant, bringing 200 jobs, an exciting industry and a groundbreaking construction project to Charleston.

“The establishment of our first high-voltage cable manufacturing plant in North America is a key strategic development for Nexans,” explains Fréderic Michelland, senior corporate executive vice president for Nexans. “It will enable us to capitalize on the ever-growing demand for high-quality, high-voltage cables designed and manufactured to meet the needs of major power transmission infrastructure projects planned in North America in the coming years.”

The plant is not only significant for Nexans, but also for the South Carolina economy. “It’s exciting to see another international company choose to locate new operations in our state,” says Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina. “We celebrate the company’s $85 million investment and the creation of 200 new jobs. More and more companies around the world are realizing this is the place to do business.”

Experience Wins the Bid

With all the hype and excitement surrounding Nexans’ choice, the next step was to find a contractor capable of the unique project, and Yeargin Potter Shackelford Construction (YPS) was the company to step up to the plate when Nexans went to bid.

“We’ve done two other projects throughout this region with other voltage companies, one Italian and one Swiss,” shares Chris McGarr, senior project manager for YPS. “I think our experience is what helped get us in the door with Nexans. We also had subcontractors who worked with us in the past and already understood the process.”

With the initial $85 million investment from Nexans, the first phase of the new plant set in the Bushy Park Industrial Complex in Charleston commenced in May 2012. “In construction alone, this was easily a $43 million project,” adds Chris. “It was no small feat.”

YPS began initiating the various aspects of the complex project, including the 409-foot-tall slip formed concrete process tower. “The concrete tower and the testing building are both essential to Nexans’ manufacturing operations,” says Chris. “Each piece is a critical component in overall production.”

Working through Challenges

With the cooperation of trusted subcontractors, YPS broke ground on the 320,000-square-foot plant. “The slip tower form concrete process involved the pouring of over 8,500 cubic yards of concrete, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” reveals Chris. “We started the concrete pouring on Jan. 7 and finished Jan. 27. We needed backup concrete pumps and generators, in case the first line of equipment failed. We also needed a concrete company with multiple plants in close proximity as a precaution.”

“The 13-floor structure looks like a huge silo, but it’s actually part of the manufacturing process,” continues Chris. “To support the tower we used 180 concrete precast piles drilled 50 feet deep into the ground.”

Chris admits the plant’s location made for extra precautions in the design and support of the structure. “We’re 200 yards from the Copper River, which is necessary for Nexans’ shipping capabilities, but it made it difficult for our supports with the high water table,” he explains. “Parker Marine did a great job manufacturing the piles and using a dam to hold the dirt back while we dug a 30-foot-deep hole for the supports.”

Chris is quick to note that the team’s skills were tested. “Not many people realize it, but we’re also on an earthquake fault line in South Carolina,” adds Chris. “We needed to account for the chance of seismic activity and the fact that Charleston is coastal and subject to hurricane force winds. Both of these factors made the job particularly challenging for our engineers.”

The next pressing structure for YPS was Nexans’ testing facility. “This is where they actually ensure the cable meets high-voltage criteria,” explains Chris. “We installed several substations to provide enough power for Nexans to test 50-ton spools of cable. The 800-foot-long manufacturing building was more standard with shipping and receiving bays, but nothing about this job was standard.”

Despite the demanding structures and a period of less than favorable rainy months, YPS is on schedule to complete the plant by December 2013, and Nexans is expected to be fully operational by early 2014.

“Charleston was the ideal location on the East Coast,” says Steve Hall, executive vice president of Nexans North and South America. “The city provides easy access to a 110 million population and ready access to navigable waters. Additionally, the Bushy Park Industrial Complex provides the perfect large site.”

The successful development of Nexans’ high-voltage cable manufacturing plant marks a period of exciting economic growth in South Carolina and another successful industrial project under Yeargin Potter Shackelford Construction’s belt.

Published on: November 21, 2013

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