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Co-op goes big — and fast — with new fertilizer terminal

The new $42-million facility at Grassy Lake will have a loop track and lightning-quick loading

The tiny hamlet of Grassy Lake will soon be home to a very large fertilizer terminal.

The $41.8-million Federated Co-operatives facility will not only be big — with a storage capacity of more than 34,000 tonnes — but also fast. It will have a loop track that will be able to continuously unload a 110-car unit train and, at the other end, able to fill a Super B trailer in just six minutes.

“The Grassy Lake area was specifically chosen due to its proximity to various retail Co-ops in central and southern Alberta to make sure that we could quickly service their needs,” said Patrick Bergermann, the co-operative’s associate vice-president of ag and home.

The facility, about 30 kilometres east of Taber, will warehouse and blend fertilizer from domestic, U.S., and international markets for distribution throughout central and southern Alberta.

Few fertilizer terminals on the Prairies can do on-site blending and that equipment will also be high speed, said Bergermann. Farmers will be able to pick up product right at the plant if they wish, he added.

The decision to build the Grassy Lake facility wasn’t driven by Nutrien’s decision to mothball phosphate production at its plant near Redwater (northeast of Fort Saskatchewan), said Bergermann. However, it did reveal a hole in the marketplace that the co-op is seeking to fill.

“That announcement certainly reiterated the importance of having terminal assets that were on rail,” he said. “That’s why this terminal is designed as a 110-car loop track so we are able to efficiently transport product from the U.S. or international markets to make sure the needs of Alberta farmers are looked after.”

The facility is also a vote of confidence in western Canadian agriculture, added Bergermann.

“We are big believers in agriculture,” he said. “The (Consumers’ Co-operative Refinery) that was built in Regina (in 1935) was built by western Canadian farmers and they believed in the importance of the co-operative model.

“They also believed in the future importance of agriculture and that continues to be the case today.”

While construction will create 150 jobs, the facility will operate with just five full-time workers and two seasonal ones. It will open in 2020.

The Grassy Lake location will be the third (and most expensive) fertilizer terminal the co-operative has opened since 2017 — facilities in Hanley, Sask. and Brandon, Man. have storage capacities of 45,000 and 27,500 tonnes respectively.

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