Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Industry Profile #2 - Bunge, Hamilton, ON

It’s been a while since I have done an industry profile, so here is the second installment in this article series for the blog.

Bunge

Bunge is one of the largest multi-national companies in the agri-business sector. One of its’ product lines is the manufacture and distribution of bio-oils derived from crushing various types of grains and seeds. To serve this market, the company has numerous processing plants in North America and abroad. One such plant is located in Hamilton, ON, and was acquired when Bunge purchased Can-Amera Foods in 2004.

Hamilton Plant

The Hamilton plant is what Bunge terms a crush facility – that is, it crushes grains or seeds to extract the oils from within. The plant is located in the industrial north end of Hamilton, at the foot of Wellington Street and on the edge of Hamilton harbor. Soybeans and canola seed can be brought in by both rail and boat, though the lake boats do not operate in the winter. The plant is served by the Southern Ontario Railway (SOR, a Genesee & Wyoming shortline) and often rates a switch job from the nearby Stuart Street yard to serve this plant alone. Occupying roughly three city blocks, the plant consists of a dump shed, various storage and processing tanks, a small three-track rail yard and a new tank car loading building constructed a few years ago on the opposite side of Burlington Street (connected by overhead pipeline to main plant). An interesting track arrangement consists of a diamond locate near the middle of the plant which allows the dump shed track to cross the spur serving the plant and its’ small yard (see photo below). A blue GE 45-ton centrecab is used to shuffle cars around the facility. The plant began canola oil production in 2007 and can crush 240,000 metric tons of seed per year. Much of the seed is sourced locally from Quebec and Ontario.

A Google satellite view of the Bunge plant in Hamilton, ON. The main plant is at upper left, with the newer bio-oil loading building located across Burlington street at lower center.


An annotated Google satellite view of the main complex showing the storage yard, grain unloading track and DDG loading track. At upper right is Vopak's terminal, which is used to bring jet fuel into the port via another slip out of view at right.


A Google satellite view of the oil loading building, constructed a few years ago. Note that the building can load not only rail cars but highway tank trailers as well. 

Operations

The plant is served on a daily or near-daily basis by an SOR job based out of the nearby yard. Loads of grain are spotted in the small yard and loads of distiller’s dried grains (DDG, sold as high-protein animal feed) are lifted from the plant. The dump shed track and DDG loading track are served from the west end of the yard. The tank car loading tracks located across the street are served from a parallel spur which also serves other industries in the industrial north end of the city. Another track running parallel to the boat slip is occasionally used to store grain cars until they can be unloaded.  Bunge seems to use railway-supplied equipment for bringing grain into the plant, but as railways do not supply equipment for DDG service or tank cars, Bunge maintains a fleet of both DDG cars (BNGX reporting marks) as well as 27,500 gallon tank cars (BRCX reporting marks). Additional tank cars are leased to bolster the company’s oil distribution capacity. Competitors ADM and Cargill likewise maintain their own railcar fleets.
CN 395614, a typical cylindrical hopper that can be used to bring grain into the facility (in this case empty, returning from the plant). This is one of the ex- CNWX Canadian Wheat Board hoppers that was sold to CN and converted to 286,000 lbs GRL. Aldershot, ON 3/30/2013. 


BRCX 1122, a Bunge-owned UTLX-built 27,500 gal tank car. Since this is an AAR 211 car it can operate at 286,000 lbs GRL; note that is is non-placarded (bio-oils are non-regulated). The car is seen at London, ON on 9/16/2013, en route to the Hamilton plant for another load.


PROX 76438, a 23,500-gal insulated tank car very similar to the Walthers model, which is appropriate for bio-oil loading. Aldershot, ON 5/31/2014.


This arrangement of the tracks can present an interesting switching problem, and if modeled, could provide quite a bit of work for an operator. In the yard, one track could be used for spotting inbound loads and empties, another for outbound cars, and the third for runaround moves. Once work is done at the main plant, the tank car loading building would also require the day’s loads be lifted and new empties spotted. Once switching is complete and the job is back at the yard, the consist would then be split between cars going to eastern destinations and those going to western destinations. If the plant were to be modeled such that it did not have its’ own switcher, there would be considerably more work to do positioning cars on the dump shed or DDG tracks.

Given that the complex is a combination of new and old buildings, structures, and tanks, this would be a great candidate for a kitbash – especially if you don’t mind running pipes all over the place! Structures from Pikestuff, Walthers, and others could be used for the buildings. A Walthers ethanol plant, with some modification, could make a convincing approximation of a bio-oil plant. Walthers also produces cars that could be loaded at the plant – their Trinity 6351 cubic-foot DDG hopper is appropriate as is their UTLX-prototype 23,500 gallon insulated tank car. If one were modeling an ADM, Cargill, or independent bio-oil producer, Atlas makes appropriate 27,500 gallon Trinity prototype insulated tank cars; modern hopper cars are produced by Intermountain, Exactrail, Tangent Scale models, as well as others.

If you’re looking for a relatively-large industry for your layout, one that can provide a considerable amount of switching, and you’re not afraid of a little kitbashing, maybe a bio-oil plant is worth considering.

Thanks for looking,

Cheers,

Peter.

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