New Canadian National facility serves specialty grain farmers
Canadian National Railway earlier this month opened a new $4 million grain distribution center in Edmonton capable of handling up to 20,000 specialty grain containers per year, according to a company news release.
Specialty grains such as low saturated fat soybeans, malt, alfalfa pellets and lentils are in high demand in several Asian countries, but require special handling to prevent moisture damage and contamination with non-food grade products that are typically shipped via bulk rail cars and vessels. By segregating specialty grains from bulk grains and maintaining product purity shippers can command higher prices from customers.
The new facility will enable farmers in Western Canada to directly transfer their grain, grain products and oilseeds from their trucks to containers, instead of loading their high-value products into covered rail hopper cars destined for Vancouver where they are emptied and loaded onto containers. Farmers outside the Edmonton region will have the option of moving their products by railcar to Edmonton and transferring the grain at the new facility.
“This will make the prairie supply chain more competitive in world markets,” said Peter Marshall, CN senior vice-president, western region. “Eliminating an initial hopper car movement will lower many shippers’ costs. But even if the product comes into Edmonton by rail, farmers will benefit by stuffing the containers in Edmonton instead of Vancouver. There are better rail connections and less congestion here, in addition to eliminating the need to truck product through Vancouver.”
The new facility is located in northwest Edmonton, just north of the Yellowhead Highway, providing easy truck access and good connections to CN’s local handling and intermodal yards, the company said. It consists of a 20-car capacity siding, with an enclosed loading facility allowing the transfer of grain from either trucks or railcars. Shippers will be able to clean containers in the facility, and insert new liners before loading. An on-site container lift and two tilt tables, with integrated scales, will accommodate both 20- and 40-foot containers. The loading system will be computerized to achieve desired shipping weights, and a fully computerized inventory management system will allow CN and shippers to effectively manage the flow of containers in and out of the center.
Most of the containers expected to be handled at the facility each year will initially flow to the port of Vancouver for export overseas, CN said. Beginning in the fall of 2007, containers will also begin to move to the new container terminal now being built in Prince Rupert.