Viterra calls crush plant a ‘very significant facility’

Viterra plans to build what it says would be the world’s largest integrated canola crush facility on land it recently optioned from the City of Regina.

Rumours of the plan had circulated for weeks and were confirmed April 26.

Kyle Jeworski, chief executive officer of Viterra North America, said engineering and other preliminary work are underway and construction should start in early 2022. The plant would be operational in late 2024.

It would require 2.5 million tonnes of canola seed annually. He did not disclose the anticipated cost of the project but a project worth $800 million was cited during city council discussion of the company’s land purchase.

Jeworski said the facility would be the world’s largest with respect to its ability to crush canola seed and also have full refining capability for vegetable oil.

“To put that in perspective, if this single facility was an export market for us it would be larger than the Japanese market, larger than the Mexican market,” he said. “On an average year it would be our second largest export destination out of Canada. It’s a very significant facility.”

Asked if Viterra had plans to produce renewable fuel, Jeworski said, “that is not a space in which we currently operate, so we will be supplying an essential ingredient to the renewable fuel market, on top of also supplying food uses.”

He declined to say if Viterra would supply the Co-op Refinery Complex located just south of where it will build.

Federated Co-operatives Ltd., which owns the refinery, was opposed to Viterra’s land purchase, saying it jeopardized FCL’s ability to construct a renewable diesel plant there. FCL on April 26 said it had no further comment on Viterra’s plans.

Jeworski said recent provincial investments like the Regina Bypass and access to road and rail support the decision to build.

Viterra’s announcement brings the province to its goal of crushing 75 percent of canola produced in Saskatchewan. Government officials welcomed the news, saying it means jobs and economic activity.

“Increasing canola crush capacity in Saskatchewan will benefit both our canola producers and the innovative companies like Viterra who recognize our industry for the high-quality and reliability that we are known for around the world,” said agriculture minister David Marit.

The Viterra announcement comes on the heels of Cargill announcing a $350-million, one-million-tonne canola crush plant for the Regina area and Richardson announcing earlier this year that it would double its Yorkton plant.

“If you look at the canola crushing capacity in Canada it’s essentially been running at full capacity for some time, so we identified it as an area to explore,” Jeworski said.

Demand for canola as a healthy food option is driving some of that, but he said the federal government’s recent announcement of a clean fuels standard will drive growth in that sector, especially in domestic markets.

The combination of an industry at capacity and demand growth leads to the need for additional capacity, he said.

Jeworski doesn’t anticipate supply issues. He said looking at Canada, and Saskatchewan in particular, the canola story is probably underappreciated.

“We’ve more than doubled the acres since 2000. We continue to have some of the most sophisticated farmers in the world that are adopting very good leading agronomic practices. Varietal development continues to be robust. All those combinations bode very well for continued increasing canola production in Western Canada and in Saskatchewan.”

Tight canola rotations are a clubroot concern on the Prairies. Jeworski said some additional acreage is expected, as is further research into producing a larger, healthier canola crop.

“We also have full confidence in the farmers’ ability to best manage their farming operations in terms of rotational decisions and varietal decisions,” he said.

The construction phase is expected to create about 1,000 jobs, while about 100 full-time jobs are expected to be created at the plant.

Viterra owns two other Canadian canola crush facilities, in Manitoba and Quebec. Its other North American facility is in Washington.

The company also crushes canola, rapeseed, sunflower and soybeans in various other countries.

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