Mosaic Facility Tour: Expanded Opportunities

Mosaic Facility Tour Belle Plaine Conveyor

While driving west from Regina, Sas­katchewan, along Pro­vincial Route 1 for 30 minutes or so, motorists will notice an impressive-looking facility looming off in the distance. This is the Mosaic Co.‘s Belle Plaine potash processing facility, which sits on approximately 200 acres of land surrounded by some of the world’s largest potash reserves. When it was first built in 1962, the facility represented the largest solution mining operation in the world, producing more than 800,000 short tons of potash per year.

But today’s Belle Plaine operation is much bigger than it was 48 years ago. Pulling into the facility, visitors will notice hundreds of steel girders being mounted, dozens of front-end loaders moving earth and more than 500 construction workers scurrying across the site. The plant is in the midst of a major expansion of its operations — an effort that sometimes confuses even seasoned Mosaic employees.

“This parking lot wasn’t here the last time I visited,” says Sarah Fedorchuk, internal communications specialist, looking for a visitors parking place. “Things here in Belle Plaine are moving pretty fast.”

In reality, the speed of Belle Plaine’s expansion is something of an optical illusion. According to Sam Farris, Belle Plaine expansion manager, potash mining developments at Mosaic tend to be planned out five to six years in advance as a general practice. “Right now, the Belle Plaine expansion is expected to involve three separate stages,” says Farris. “We received the first stage approval in October 2007.”

A Different World

Of course, the world of potash was in a much different place three years ago then it is today. At that time, the agricultural and global economies were booming. Grain prices were at record highs, thanks in part to the growth of corn-based ethanol, and growers were spending plenty of money on crop nutrients such as potash to keep their yields (and profits) high.

But as any agricultural follower knows, these good times all came to a screeching halt during late 2008. Grain prices fell and financially-stung growers virtually halted crop nutrient application work for the remainder of the year.

In 2009, says Norm Beug, senior vice president, potash operations for Mosaic, conditions weren’t much better for crop nutrient suppliers. “There was a major pull-back in crop nutrient use last year,” says Beug. “If I had to characterize how things are for crop nutrients in 2010, I would say we are in recovery, but not fully recovered just yet.” For example, as of March 2010, U.S. potash inventories were reportedly 21% below their five-year average.

Despite this fact — and persistent fears that the general economy could experience a double-digit recession by year’s end — Beug is confident that the future for crop nutrients is bright. “Food demand is still on an upward trend line,” he says. “The world’s population continues to grow, adding some 75 million people per year, and food consumption did not drop off — even during the height of the recession. So from our perspective, the fundamentals of this business are still the same as they were.”

As proof of this view, Beug says all an observer needs to do is look what’s currently happening with potash demand. “Grain prices are going up and this is typically the signal that growers need to make important input decisions,” he says. “Also, China hasn’t upped its potash purchases just yet, but I think that’s going to happen. By 2011, our industry should be back to its normal growth trend line.”

Expansion Plans

To service this expected demand, Mo­saic is in the process of adding capacity to its Belle Plaine operation. As Peter Jackson, general manager, operations at the facility, explains, potash solution mining is a production-intensive process. “In solution mining, you drill bore holes down approximately one mile and pump hot water into the hole to form a cavity,” says Jackson. “This creates a brine which is pumped out of the cavity through a second bore hole and processed in one of two ways to remove the potash from other materials.”

In the first method of extraction, the brine is sent through an evaporation and crystallization process to create the potash crystals from the mined solution. These then leave a crystallizer and are de-watered. They then go to a dryer and compactor before being sent for storage in a warehouse. In the second method, the brine is pumped into a cooling pond just outside the plant. Here, the materials are crystallized naturally and the potash crystals are recovered using a dredge.

For its first stage expansion, the Belle Plaine operation has added a second drilling rig to make bore holes and is constructing an expanded water injection system to produce the heated water at 1,000 psi the plant uses to inject into the mining cavities. There are also four new compactors and a conveyor system for product transportation being built.

“When we are done with this first stage of expansion, the Belle Plaine plant will have significantly more potash production capacity then it currently does,” says Farris. “We will be going from producing 2.55 million short tons today to 3.5 million short tons by 2017.”

The White Stuff

A key characteristic of Belle Plaine’s potash is its color. Unlike traditional potash which is red because of iron impurities, the plant’s production process completely separates the potash crystals from the iron present in the ore body. This results in potash that is white and contains 98% potassium chloride (compared with 95% for red potash).

In 2010, Mosaic began branding this white potash under the tradename Pegasus K62. “Because of its purity level, Pegasus K62 gives users an estimated two more units of potassium per ton than other potash types,” says Beug. “This represents a win-win for our customers because it allows them to do more with less.”

For Belle Plaine’s second stage of expansion, the plant hopes to add to the crystallization process of its operations. “This would help grow our production capacity substantially,” says Farris. “We would be moving from producing 3.5 million short tons of potash to approximately 5 million short tons by 2020.”

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More
FertilizerOSHA Hammers West Fertilizer With Over $100K In Fines For April Explosion
October 10, 2013
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is fining the parent company of the West Fertilizer plant, Adair Grain Inc., $118,300 for 24 violations. Read More
FertilizerTFI Appeals Chesapeake Bay TMDL Ruling
October 10, 2013
The Fertilizer Institute joined a coalition appealing a U.S. District Court ruling on the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nitrogen and phosphorus. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More