A look at G3’s proposed new Vancouver grain terminal

A spiral track would allow trains to arrive on site, ease congestion elsewhere, 
and unload intact before returning to the Prairies

G3’s proposed Vancouver grain terminal will be the most efficient in North America and maybe the world, Doug MacDonald told Prairie farm leaders touring the port Nov. 15.

CN’s vice-president of bulk commodities made the comment as the group’s boat cruised by the Lynnterm break bulk terminal on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, where G3 hopes to erect a state-of-the-art facility.

The farmers, members of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers, were in Vancouver to meet with CN Rail to discuss improvements to grain transportation.

The farmers also visited Cargill’s grain terminal and toured the port courtesy of CN and the Port of Vancouver.

The 60-acre site G3 has selected east of Cargill’s grain terminal is mostly empty now, but if a terminal is built it will have almost 200,000 tonnes of grain storage and a loop track able to accommodate three 134-car trains.

Farmers from the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers, saw where G3 hopes to build a new grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver. It’s expected to be one of the most efficient in North America.

Farmers from the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers, saw where G3 hopes to build a new grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver. It’s expected to be one of the most efficient in North America.
photo: Allan Dawson

The trains will only stop to let G3 staff take over from CN crews, Brett Malkoske, G3’s vice-president of business development and communications, said in a phone interview.

“What that allows — and the railways really like it of course — we can clear the congestion off the north shore (rail line),” Malkoske said. “We can bring in those trains and house them directly on site and keep it intact the entire time.”

G3’s terminal is designed to unload 134 cars in 10 hours. Assuming 90 tonnes per car that’s 1,206 tonnes per hour.

“Our whole model translates back to our new facilities in the country,” he said. “It’s about throughput. It’s about moving things faster, not having them sit longer.”

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G3’s four new country terminals at Glenlea and Bloom in Manitoba and Pasqua, and Colonsay in Saskatchewan, also have loop tracks and those trains move continuously at very low speed while loading grain.

“We’ve loaded the train as quickly as 11 hours, but we are probably averaging in the neighbourhood of say in 14 to 16 hours, which is still very fast,” Malkoske said.

Typically the railways want trains filled in 24 hours.

“Our goal is to turn the trains as fast as we can,” he said. “The more fluid we keep our system — and again it takes some co-ordination with the farmers and the railroads — the more grain we can handle, the more options we can provide for our customers in terms of markets for their products.”

G3 will have more space than some of its Vancouver competitors, but it’s still tight. A similarly designed terminal at Longview, Washington sits on 200 acres of land, he said.

“We are very, very proud of what our engineers have done (with the plans),” Malkoske said.

G3’s proposed Vancouver terminal received most of the necessary permits in May. But there are still many details to work out. Malkoske declined to say how much the terminal would cost, but left no doubt it will be expensive, describing it as a “mega project.”

“There’s just a heck of a lot of detail to take care of and a lot of moving parts that we need to very carefully manage here to make sure that the project, if we decide to go ahead, will be a successful one,” he said.

While G3 is excited about its proposed terminal, it’s still not a done deal.

“As you can probably appreciate with something of this magnitude, with this complexity, there are an awful lot of details with various stakeholders that need to be ironed out,” Malkoske said. “We are in the process of doing that. Until we are through that process there is really no way of saying whether or not we actually have a legitimate project here. We will work our way through the details. Assuming that we can get it to a positive conclusion we are quite confident at that point we could receive the go-ahead from our board.

“Hopefully in the not-too-distant future we can bring this across the finish line.”

And if the terminal is built will it be the most efficient in North America?

“We certainly believe what we have on paper, and should we proceed with the project, we would be very proud to put it up against any other facility that exists today on the west coast of Canada,” Malkoske said. “The types of efficiency that we are designing for are world class, there’s no doubt about it.”

G3’s board consists of its owners — Bunge Canada, SALIC Canada Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company and the Farmers’ Equity Trust.

Farmers who have delivered grain to G3 and its predecessor, the Canadian Wheat Board, since Aug. 1, 2013 earn equity by receiving units in the trust. The trust owns 499,900 Class B shares in G3.

G3 received 50.1 per cent of government-owned wheat board July 31, 2015 by agreeing to invest $250.5 million into the new company leaving the Farmers’ Equity Trust with 49.9 per cent.

However, since then G3 has received additional Class A shares, reducing the percentage owned by Farmers’ Equity Trust, the Farmers’ Equity Trust website says.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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