At least 16 new concrete elevators could be popping up in Alberta and Saskatchewan over the next few years, according to grain industry executives.
G3 Canada, Paterson Global Foods and GrainsConnect Canada all have plans to build new state-of-the-art facilities in the western Prairies.
Alberta alone could see close to 10 new facilities, provided that grain handling companies carry through on plans to develop new networks or expand existing ones.
“We’ve been pretty clear that our focus (going forward) is on Sask-atchewan and Alberta,” said Karl Gerrand, chief executive officer of G3 Canada.
“We feel we’ve got a pretty good eastern footprint at this point and a pretty good footprint in Manitoba for what we need.”
G3 also plans to build a new export terminal at the Port of Vancouver. Gerrand said it will be the keystone of G3’s efforts to become a major player that can compete with existing companies and ship significant volumes of prairie grain through the West Coast.
Construction is expected to cost more than $500 million.
The facility will include a loop track rail system for efficient unloading and industry-leading turnaround times.
Gerrand said the company is planning to build 10 more concrete facilities on the western Prairies, bringing the number of inland facilities in G3’s inland prairie network to 22 or more.
Paterson Global Foods is also expanding its Alberta footprint.
The company has announced plans to construct facilities at Days-land, southeast of Camrose, and another at Bowden, Ata., south of Red Deer. Both elevators will include loop track rail systems capable of loading 135-car unit trains.
In 2012, Paterson also opened a facility at Gleichen, Alta., east of Calgary.
The company has 13 primary elevators in Manitoba, 13 in Sask-atchewan and two in Alberta.
Shane Paterson, Paterson’s corporate development officer, said more prairie grain than ever is flowing in a westerly direction.
Efficient delivery locations in Alberta will contribute to faster turnaround time for grain trains, a key consideration for railway companies that are focused on moving more product with fewer cars.
“Since the Canadian Wheat Board (was eliminated), the market has been telling grain handlers that pretty well any bushels that are coming off west of Winnipeg should go through Vancouver,” Paterson said.
GrainsConnect Canada, a joint venture involving Australia’s GrainCorp and Japan’s Zen-Noh Grain, is also planning to build four elevators on the Prairies.
One of those will be at Niobe, Alta., north of Innisfail.
GrainsConnect president Warren Stow has indicated that the company will announce a second Alberta location this spring.
Unlike G3’s new facilities, which will include storage capacity of 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes, Paterson’s Alberta facilities will have total storage of 55,000 tonnes.
Paterson said the grain transportation crisis of 2013-14 demonstrated that commercial storage capacity is critically important.
“We had a bumper crop that year, and Canada as a whole was basically unable to get its grain to market,” Paterson said.
“The one thing that … farmers and grain handlers learned (is) … that storage is king.”
Gerrand said his company takes a different view, placing less emphasis on storage and more on throughput. He said G3s model will use loop tracks at inland delivery point and at port.
“The value of a loop track in the country is really only able to extract its full value if it has the same loop track capability at the west coast port.”