Richardson cranking up canola crush, throughput at Lethbridge

Expansion plans finalized, underway at crush plant

Agri-food firm Richardson International plans to put up $120 million to dial up the processing capacity of its canola-crushing plant in southern Alberta by over 55 per cent.

Privately held, Winnipeg-based Richardson says the new upgrades at its Lethbridge plant are expected to boost its peak annual crush to over 700,000 tonnes of canola per year, from its current capacity of 450,000.

Richardson telegraphed these upgrades in the spring of 2013 when it pledged to “more than double” the plant’s capacity — which then ran around 1,200 tonnes per day — but it hadn’t finalized the scope, design or costs at the time.

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The $120-million budget announced earlier this month includes new processing equipment installed at the plant last year — part of its 2013 plan to “enhance efficiencies at the facility through upgraded technology and increased automation.”

The budget also covers the construction, now underway, of a “modern” high-throughput canola-receiving facility, offering “quick turnaround” for farmers and truckers delivering to the plant, the company said.

The new system is expected to be ready to accept deliveries in the fall of 2017, with capacity for 800 tonnes of canola per hour, which the company said will be a “significant increase” from the system’s peak intake today.

Those upgrades will be completed with “minimal to no disruptions, to ensure the Lethbridge facility continues to serve both farm customers and end-use buyers,” the company said.

“Increasing the speed of the receiving plant is a top priority for us to better serve our customers,” Darwin Sobkow, the company’s executive vice-president for agribusiness and processing operations, said in a release.

In all, the capital upgrades at Lethbridge will “create a state-of-the-art facility that is very efficient for its size, positioning us to compete with the most modern canola-crushing facilities in North America,” he said.

Expanding Lethbridge’s crush to over 2,000 tonnes per day, combined with upgrades brought online in 2014 at its Yorkton, Sask. crush plant, boost Richardson’s total crush capacity to over 1.7 million tonnes of canola per year, the company said.

The Yorkton plant’s upgrades, worth about $30 million, raised its crushing capacity to about 3,000 tonnes of canola per day.

In 2012, Richardson spent $15 million for separate upgrades to the Lethbridge site’s canola-packaging operation, expanding it by about 40 per cent. That work included adding 33,000 square feet of warehouse space and bulk canola oil storage, and new automation for its oil receiving and blending.

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