United Grain Corp. Uses One Elevator in Three Locations

United Grain Corp. Uses One Elevator in Three Locations


United Grain Corp.
Vancouver, WA

Founded: 1969
Storage capacity: 17 million bushels at nine locations
Annual volume: 160 million bushels
Annual sales: $1.3 billion
Number of employees: 56
Crops handled: Hard red spring, hard red winter, white, and durum wheat; corn; soybeans
Services: Grain handling and merchandising
Key personnel:
• Brian Wixom, manager-Culbertson
• Travis Northington, assistant manager
• Monte Faque, manager-Conrad
• Anthony Benefiet, assistant manager
• Leif Anderson, manager-Bucyrus
• Travis Finck, assistant manager
Supplier List
Bearing sensors ........Rolfes@Boone
Bucket elevators ..Union Iron Works
Bulk weigh controls ...........Cultura Technologies
Bulk weigh scale ......... Intersystems
Contractor/millwright.....Younglove Construction LLC
Control system ..WEM Automation
Conveyors (belt)...............Hi Roller Conveyors
Conveyors (drag) ........Schlagel Inc.
Dust collection system ...... Imperial Systems Inc.
Elevator buckets ............Tapco Inc.
Engineering..Larson Engineering Inc.
Level indicators..... BinMaster Level Controls
Liner ...........................Lewis-Goetz
Manlift .....Schumacher Elevator Co.
Motion sensors ....4B Components Ltd.
Roof system ...............Diathon Roof Coating
Truck probe ................ Intersystems
Truck scale...................Cardinal Scale Mfg. Co.

United Grain Corp. opened three new 1-million-bushel rail terminals across the Northern Plains in 2013, two in Montana and one in North Dakota. That would be unusual in itself for any U.S. grain company.

What makes it especially unusual in this case is that the three grain elevators – in Conrad, MT; Culbertson, MT; and Bucyrus, ND – are identical. “It’s not rocket science,” says Anthony Flagg, director of business development at United’s  Vancouver, WA headquarters. “We needed to be able to store two or three different kinds of wheat and load trains in under 10 hours. Once we had the initial design on one elevator, it was easier and less expensive to take a cookiecutter approach with the other two.”

Together, the three elevators cost approximately $54 million to build, according to Flagg. The only difference between the three, all of which have 120-car loop tracks for loading trains on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, is that the loop track at Culbertson also has a pair of ladder tracks to allow the mining firm Fairmount Minerals to load fracking sand for shipment to the nearby Bakken oil fields.

Overall, the location of the three new elevators was ideal for boosting grain originations in the countryside. Larger grain originations were needed to take advantage of the recent major expansion of United’s export terminal on the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA (reported in the January/February 2013 issue of Grain Journal).

According to Brian Wixom, regional grain manager for Montana and North Dakota and location manager at Culbertson, the Conrad location is in the heart of Montana’s Golden Triangle region, the state’s richest area for the production of winter wheat. The locations at Culbertson and Bucyrus have access to ample supplies of spring wheat and durum.

United hired Younglove Construction LLC, Sioux City, IA, as general contractor and millwright. Flagg comments that Younglove’s bid was competitive, the firm has plenty of design-build experience, and it had been the contractor on the recent successful expansion at Vancouver.

Construction began at Conrad in March 2012, the first project to start, and all three elevators were operational in time for the 2013 wheat harvest.

Concrete Storage
Each of the three slipform concrete elevators hold approximately 1 million bushels each. They consist of an “eightpack” of concrete tanks standing 35 feet in diameter and 165 feet tall holding 115,000 bushels each. Three interstice bins each hold 30,000 bushels.

The big tanks are equipped with 45-degree above-ground steel hoppers, eliminating the need for sweep augers or bin entry, and BinMaster PROCCAP capacitance probes and diaphragm switches as level indicators. However, none of the tanks have aeration or grain temperature monitoring. Wixom notes that the design is geared toward loading trains as quickly as possible and sending the grain on to the Pacific Northwest.

Grain Handling
All grain handling functions are under the control of a WEM automation system. Incoming trucks are weighed on a Cardinal 110-foot pitless scale used for both inbound and outbound traffic. An adjacent Intersytems truck probe takes samples during weighing. The WEM system manages the scales using an RF tag reader.

Trucks proceed to a single enclosed 1,000-bushel mechanical receiving pit, which feeds a 25,000-bph Union Iron leg outfitted with two rows of Tapco 16x8 buckets mounted on a 34-inch belt. The leg empties directly onto a single 25,000-bph Schlagel drag conveyor running out to 11 gates.

Tanks empty onto a 50,000-bph aboveground Hi Roller enclosed belt conveyor. The runs to a 50,000-bph Union Iron jump leg outfitted with three rows of Tapco 20x8 buckets on a 64-inch belt.

The loadout leg feeds a 50,000-bph Intersystems bulk weigh scale under the control of oneWeigh software from Cultura Technologies. The system includes an RF tag reader for railcars that provides data on individual railcar capacities.

Wixom notes that, on average, the three facilities can load a 110-car train in nine hours. “It’s worked out very well,” he says.