Location, location, location

by Derek Clouthier

With a new terminal located in Alberta’s industrial heartland set to increase rail capacity in a key hydrocarbon production region, Cando Rail Services is bringing a unique loop-track design and modern technology to the forefront.

The Cando Sturgeon Rail Terminal is aimed at boosting transportation efficiencies for a variety of products, such as oil, gas, and hydrocarbons.

The terminal is located west of CN Rail’s Beamer Spur, south of the Canada Kuwait Petrochemical Corp. – a $4.5 billion integrated propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene upgrading project currently under construction – and southwest of Pembina Pipeline’s Redwater Fractionation site.

“Having world-class rail infrastructure in close proximity to this key production Alberta’s industrial heartland will increase shipments with direct access to more readily available railcars,” Cando’s director of marketing and communications Julie Pomehichuk told Inside Logistics. “We know rail supply chains and how to optimize them so we can design, build, operate, and finance entire rail terminals and transload facilities as customized solutions to whatever problems a shipper might be having.”

Securing the location for the new terminal was paramount, a process that began in the fall of 2017 and included various steps such as zoning, obtaining necessary permits, adhering to land use bylaws, and stakeholder consultations all prior to breaking ground in December 2019.

“Finding suitable land with rail access was the biggest issue. There are so many locations that check all the boxes,” Pomehichuk said. “Having built other rail terminals in the past, we are very familiar with the zoning, permits, and regulatory requirements, so while those are time consuming, they aren’t a challenge.”

The first batch of railcars arrived at the Sturgeon Terminal on October 6, 2020. The completion of the first phase allows for the storage of up to 1,900 railcars at the site. There are no plans at this time for additional phases, though Cando does expect to expand the terminal at some point in the future.

With a 16,000-foot loop-track layout, CN said it expects to see an increase in efficiencies, not just for the company itself, but its customers’ supply chains, enabling them to adjust their fleets to match the demands of their supply chains and providing them with train staging and storage options.

“CN will work in partnership with all of our customers to move whichever cars or unit trains they may request to Cando’s new facility,” CN told Inside Logistics. “The loop track design maximizes the velocity and length of trains, including unit trains, that we can move into and out of the terminal.”

Services offered at the new location include railcar staging, storage and switching; long- or short-term unit-train storage for loaded or empty railcars, seven days a week; air testing; railcar repair and cleaning; transloading; material handling; stenciling; placard replacement; dangerous goods inspections; graffiti touchups; and, automatic equipment identification (AEI) tags.

Let’s get technical

Cando’s new digital supply chain platform, called Quasar, is also in use at the Sturgeon Terminal.

“Quasar is a cloud-enabled, digital platform designed to automate manual effort in tracking assets, as well as provide data and insights into how to optimize the supply chain from ‘order to cash,’” said Pomehichuk.

With the installation of two AEI readers at Sturgeon, the Quasar platform delivers inventory control and management, railcar inspection and regulatory documentation requirements, waybill for transfer, railcar dwell times, as well as additional reporting and analytics.

Data captured by the AEI readers is sent to Quasar where it can be used for various automated activities, such as performing digital switch lists, yard activities, and tracking railcars in real-time, among others.

“Quasar replaces the need for physically walking the tracks, using spreadsheets, and manually entering information,” said Pomehichuk. “For the shipper, this allows us to tell them exactly where a railcar is in real-time, whether it has been inspected, the dwell time for that railcar in the yard, and so on. We can look at a customer’s fleet of railcars, see how well they are moving and identify opportunities for improvements in terms of operational performance and efficiency.”

Improving the supply chain

Mark Plamondon, executive director of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, said Cando’s investment into the Sturgeon Terminal demonstrates the value proposition available to companies in the region.

“With more than 95 percent of the world’s manufactured products relying on chemistry and value-added manufacturing, Alberta’s industrial heartland region is part of a global value-add manufacturing sector that represents more than 70,000 products that Canadians use every day,” said Plamondon. “It’s personal for all of us and our region is committed to safety, innovation, diversification, and sustainability.”

CN added that the type of commitment Cando has made with its new Sturgeon Rail Terminal, along with what CN has invested this past year, helps boost supply chain efficiencies across Canada and in Alberta.

“This year, CN invested $2.9 billion in our network including $305 million in Alberta alone,” the railway stated. “We are proud of the partnership we have with Cando and with our customers as we continue to work together to support and drive the economic recovery in North America.”

Alanna Hnatiw, mayor of Sturgeon County, welcomed the opening of the new Cando terminal saying it would be a tremendous benefit to the county and will improve supply chain management in the Industrial Heartland.

“Access to cost-advantaged feedstock, world-class transportation and logistics infrastructure, and readily available labour are allowing the Heartland to capitalize on the current petrochemical investment cycle,” said Hnatiw.

Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon agreed that the opening of the Cando Sturgeon Rail Terminal will be beneficial to the region.

“This project will drive job creation and get more of our best-in-class oil and gas products to market while further cementing the Industrial Heartland’s status as the country’s most significant hydrocarbon-producing region,” said Nixon, “exemplifying our government’s commitment to balancing protection of our shared environment while boosting economic activity.”

The federal government provided an investment of up to $15 million through the National Trade Corridors Fund for the Cando Sturgeon Rail Terminal project, as well as for overall business growth in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

“The majority of the value-added products produced in the heartland, Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region, are shipped to national and global consumers by rail,” Pomehichuk said. “Cando’s investment will increase market access and allow industrial facilities in the heartland to concentrate on their core business, while partnering with Cando to access increased transportation and logistics solutions.”