Breaking ground

by Emily Wilson
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successful design and construction companies know their customers’ needs, understand their goals and create specific solutions. In this, they have an interesting outlook on the grain industry. To discover emerging trends for projects in the feed milling, grain handling and grain processing industries, World Grain surveyed leading design and construction companies.

In the feed industry, experts predict changes driven by the requirement for clean feed production, which requires traceability and accountability throughout the food chain.

The demand for renewable fuels has resulted in a growing acceptance of biofuels, such as ethanol, in turn creating numerous new facility projects. (Look for more in-depth coverage of this interesting topic in WG’s January 2003 edition.)

Far-ranging facility efficiency — encompassing plant design, manpower needs, overall operation and utility needs — is increasingly important for grain handling and flour milling companies. In the North American grain industry, this has resulted in a boom of new high-speed grain handling facilities.

Vertically-integrated feedmills

Van Aarsen, specializing in feedmill design, construction and technology, has noticed a number of trends that will influence new feedmill projects in the coming decade.

The U.S. and China are, and will remain, the two largest feed producing nations, but the Middle East and Northern Africa are showing a significant increase in industrial feed output, said Leon Smeets, Director of Sales and Marketing, Van Aarsen. Future feed production growth will concentrate in the Americas and Asia, particularly in China, Brazil and Mexico. With more and more integrated operations worldwide, there will be less geographic concentration of feed production, he explained.

"There is a trend towards more specialized plants and specialized production lines within plants," Smeets said, "especially in Western Europe, North America and other mature markets. Feed formulations will be increasingly harmonized with the life-cycle of the animal, the feeding strategy and the feeding systems to make animal production more efficient."

The most important trend Smeets foresees will be attempts to certify the animal production chain, and specifically to produce high-quality, safe animal feed. Smeets predicts there will be more plants requiring certification by tracking and tracing in the production process according to GMP and HACCP regulations. It could also entail that feedmills must have a license to produce feed and to sell to retailers, he said.

Growth in the poultry, pig and aqua meat sectors will have a significant impact on new feedmill demand, Smeets said.

Van Aarsen will soon begin work on a project that illustrates a growing trend of feedmills becoming more integrated in the meat production food chain. A’Saffa Poultry Farms, Oman, has contracted Van Aarsen to build a 15 tph feedmill to be integrated with A’Saffa’s poultry farm, which will produce 11,000 tonnes of poultry meat annually.

Another example also exists in Oman. Sohar, a poultry producer, recently contracted Van Aarsen to construct a fully automated feedmill with a capacity of 65,000 tonnes per year. Quality is very important to Sohar, and exceptional care is taken to ensure no animal by-products enter the feed. Sohar is a relatively young company with a vision to be the region’s first choice for high quality poultry products. The vertically integrated project covers the whole economic chain, starting with feed and ending with distribution and marketing. When completed, Sohar’s complex will include a feed mill, a breeder program,a hatchery program and a processing plant that is fully automated. The feed mill is designed for the production of several different kinds of feed in various formulas, all produced automatically with Van Aarsen’s new automation software package, MillM@nager, together with the incorporated pellet line automation, PressM@nager. Feed will be produced for broiler, breeders, layers and sheep.

Bioenergy boom

Capital improvements for the milling and grain handling industries have slowed somewhat this year, said Larry Groce, Bratney Companies’ vice president of business development. However, design and construction companies are seeing growth in other areas.

"We see some continuing opportunities in the grain and feed sectors but not at the levels seen several years ago," Groce said. "New sectors, such as bioenergy (ethanol), have grown rapidly in the past couple of years and we expect them to continue to grow over the next several years."

"This will be driven in the U.S. by effective energy legislation, if passed, to encourage producers to help make the U.S. more self sufficient with increased production of domestically produced renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel," he explained.Bratney Companies is currently finalizing construction of an ethanol facility near Plainview, Nebraska, U.S. In March, Bratney was awarded the contract from Fagen, Inc., the plant’s general contractor, to design and build the grain and dried distillers grain (DDG) storage and handling systems for Husker Ag.

The plant produces 20 million gallons of ethanol per year, and has 200,000 bushels (5,080 tonnes) of raw maize storage. Maize is the "feedstock" that provides the starch for conversion into ethanol and its two main byproducts, DDG and carbon dioxide.

By August, nearly 2,000 cubic yards of concrete had been designed and incorporated into the project and the DDG storage/grain receiving/DDG loadout building, the grain tanks, legs and towers, conveyors, and other equipment had been incorporated into the project.

The project is on track to be completed on time by the end of 2002, and Bratney hopes to be working on more ethanol plants in the future, said Mark Vermeer, engineering/construction vice president.

Bratney Companies was also chosen as one of three primary contractors to partner with the Kalama Export Company, a large grain terminal on the Columbia River in Kalama, Washington, U.S., to design and construct a high-capacity grain cleaning and 1,500,000-bushel (40,000 tonnes) storage facility.

Bratney’s portion of the project included designing, supplying and installing all of the structural requirements for the grain cleaning building and all of the mechanical requirements. The grain cleaning addition features two Cimbria Delta Mega Grain Cleaners and a Heid indent cylinder machine that will allow KEC to clean grain at more than 500 tonnes per hour to the strict specifications for export grain.

The facility also features completely enclosed conveyors with capacities up to 40,000 bushels (about 1,100 tonnes) per hour and new dust collection system.

Demanding higher efficiency

Van Sickle, Allen & Associates, Inc. have also noticed significant growth in the bioenergy and ethanol markets, particularly in North America.

"The ethanol industry is keeping enthusiasm up for most people," said Richard Van Sickle, chairman of the company. As for grain industry projects, a larger percentage of projects are being funded partially by large grain companies directly or through joint venture organizations, said Van Sickle.

But stretching into every industry, whether it be milling, grain handling, oilseed processing or ethanol, customers are requiring higher efficiencies, lower manpower costs, and more efficient or less expensive power to be incorporated in the plant design and layout, as well as in flow diagrams. To achieve higher efficiencies, he explained, it requires better process equipment and more automation.

In addition, there is continued emphasis on safety and security, especially in food manufacturing plants, he said.

One recurring challenge for every design and construction project is getting the proper studies done on a timely basis coordinated with construction and planning, Van Sickle said. This is critical to securing required returns on investment. Design companies should be working in conjunction with their customers to help identify and perform the many necessary studies in the planning stage of a new facility, including capital studies/ reports and feasibilty studies.

Van Sickle Allen has worked with several grain industry companies. Recently completed is a ship boom replacement project for Cenex Harvest States Cooperative in Myrtle Grove, Louisiana, U.S. Each 160-foot long retractable boom carries HiRoller conveying equipment used to load 1,000-foot-long Cape Class and 736-foot-long Panamax vessels.

Van Sickle, Allen was commissioned by Vigen Construction for a shuttle train shipping facility for Farmers Elevator Co. at Alvarado, Minnesota, U.S., that features a new barley cleaning section and new storage for 300,000 bushels (6,532 tonnes).

For its new shuttle train unloading facility, Grain Suppliers Co., LLC, Friona, Texas, U.S. commissioned Van Sickle, Allen to prepare design-build performance criteria bid documents and solicit contractor bids.

High-speed handling and smart partnerships

Todd & Sargent’s Clint Steele, Vice President of Marketing, said that an increase in shuttle train grain facility construction is the dominant trend. "Because North American railways are offering such large incentives for timely loading or unloading of 110-car trains, the demand has strongly risen," Steele said.

Todd & Sargent is currently doing design-build construction for the high-speed grain unloading facility and loop track for Grain Suppliers — a company formed between Harvest States and Commodity Specialties. This facility can unload 110 railcars in 15 hours. The grain is trans-loaded onto trucks for delivery to local feed lots.

Another high-speed shuttle train loading facility Todd & Sargent worked on is Southern Wisconsin Grain LLC, which is a joint venture between Con Agra and the Union Coop Association of Evanville, Wisconsin.

"This illustrates a trend we are seeing when two firms merge to take advantage of the one company’s grain origination capabilities and the other firm’s grain marketing muscle, to form a LLC partnership that can compete globally."

One of Todd & Sargent’s biggest projects is the future Cenex Harvest States soybean processing facility at Fairmont, Minnesota, U.S. Todd & Sargent, in charge of design and construction, said the facility should be operational by October 1, 2003.

Construction is almost complete on the 10,000-cwt (450-tonne) flour mill for Milner Milling in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. It will have 760,000 bushels (20,680 tonnes) of grain storage, a 4,800-square-foot office building and a 21,000-square-foot warehouse. Buhler Inc. is supplying the milling equipment and control systems.

Design-build project concept

Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., has contracted Ibberson USA to expand its Idaho Falls, Idaho, U.S., malting plant. The expansion project will nearly double the plant capacity and is scheduled for spring 2004 completion. Expansion includes malted barley storage, a barley cleaning line, steeping/germination towers and a kiln structure.

The project is being completed in a "design-build" delivery method to reduce the overall project schedule. Typically, an owner hires an engineer to design a facility and circulate plans to contractors for bidding. Alternatively, the design-build method, which has grown in popularity over the past five years, places responsibility for design and construction on one company. Favorable benefits include faster project completion times, cost-savings, single-source responsibility, and project expertise carried throughout design and construction.