Sask. producers show interest in rail logistics, grain terminal

Farmers in southeastern Saskatchewan are pushing forward with plans to build a new shipping and logistics hub capable of handling grain, crude oil and just about anything else that needs to transported by rail.

Mark Bratrud says Comtrax Logistics Solutions is gaining momentum following a successful share placement involving local investors.

Bratrud, president and founding director of Comtrax, said the recently completed share offering was aimed at raising around $500,000 but was “oversubscribed, indicating strong financial support for the project.”

Capital raised through the offering will be used to complete the company’s business plan and cover early development costs associated with the project, including engineering and design work to be work completed by Aecom.

“The initial private placement (share offering) was intended to raise money for finalizing the plans and to get us to the next stage … (including) another larger fund raise that would allow us to acquire the land for the project and start the build,” Bratrud said.

“The initial offering involved primarily grain producers … who had expressed an interest in participating … but we do have some oil industry (representation) as well.”

Bratrud described the proposed facility as an industrial park with the ability to load and unload products that arrive by truck or rail.

The proposed facility would be located about five kilometres east of Weyburn, offering access to a Canadian Pacific Railway line that offers access to the West Coast, Eastern Canada and the United States.

If it goes ahead, the facility will include a loop rail track, a grain terminal and other facilities to accommodate different shipping groups.

The project’s physical footprint could cover 600 to 800 acres, Bratrud said.

Comtrax has options to buy a parcel of land that has good highway access and is located in close proximity to the CP line.

For agricultural producers, a farmer-directed terminal would give growers more control over shipping, handling and blending functions, he said.

The terminal would handle grains, oilseeds and pulse crops and be capable of loading full unit trains in industry-competitive load times.

Bratrud said the design would likely offer more flexibility in terms of storage and grain separation capabilities.

Ideally, the facility would offer a variety of value-added services including grain drying, sorting and cleaning.

“We want to develop a producer driven organization that is committed to delivering solutions and adding value to agricultural commodities,” he said.

The private share placement is the latest hurdle to be crossed by Comtrax organizers.

The company also received word from CP that it is interested in providing rail service to the proposed logistics hub. Comtrax will now enter negotiations with the railway to discuss design components and service provisions.

The idea of building a rail logistics hub emerged after Bratrud and others in the area began looking for ways to add value to the agricultural commodities they were producing.

When the group began to explore opportunities in rail logistics, it became clear that other industries and shipping groups could also be serviced by a multi-purpose, fee-for-service rail hub.

A series of town hall meetings held last winter revealed significant support for the project and interest from other potential users.

“Basically, the concept that we came up with is a rail logistics hub with the capability to load and unload crude, as well as the ability to load grain and oilseeds and other agricultural commodities in-cluding fertilizer as well as other products,” Bratrud said.

“We are in the middle of a lot of oilfield activity here and we’re also a major crop-producing area so both of these industries are needing access to markets.”

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