After three years and $300 million in new equipment and refurbishment, Impala Terminals completed its first overseas load of petroleum coke over the July 4 weekend at Burnside in Ascension Parish.

Impala Terminals, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Trafigura Group, acquired the 1,238-acre site three years ago from Ormet.

The new terminal features 660,000 tons of contiguous storage space, a loading capacity of 8,800 tons per hour and an unloading capacity of 5,500 tons per hour, said Allen Walker, terminal manager.

“This announcement marks a significant milestone for Impala Terminals Burnside,” Walker said Monday. “While we began accepting in-bound shipments of coal, bauxite and other bulk commodities earlier this year, the terminal is now truly open for business.”

Impala’s first export customer was Transenergy Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mexico-based Cemex, one of the world’s largest producers of cement. Cemex is headquartered near Monterrey, in the city of San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Walker said Impala loaded 33,000 tons of petroleum coke into an oceangoing vessel, the M/V UBC Saiki. The approximately 560-foot-long vessel then sailed Sunday for international markets.

Petroleum coke is a refined and solidified form of oil. Supplies of petroleum coke that have high sulphur content often are used as boiler fuel by cement industries in Mexico, South America, China and India. Low-sulphur petroleum coke often is used in the production of aluminum, steel and titanium.

Impala Terminals Burnside has 80 full-time employees and plans to hire 37 more.

In a written statement, company officials also said they are improving existing infrastructure with new rail unloading features.

“Beginning in 2015, the (Burnside) facility will be the only terminal on the (lower Mississippi River) with both rail-to-vessel and barge-to-vessel capabilities,” Impala officials wrote Monday.

Trafigura, Impala’s corporate parent, last month reported a net profit of $470 million (in U.S. dollars) for the six-month period ended March 31. That was a 24 percent increase over the same period last year.