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
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
Latest News
FertilizerH.J. Baker Hires New Crop Protection Marketing Manager
January 27, 2015
As Marketing Manager for the Crop Performance division, Usman Khalid will work out of H.J. Baker’s global headquarters in Westport, CT, and will drive new initiatives for the division. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
Exclusive state-of-the art Stueve Construction designed “Vista View” Elevated Control Room.
Eric Sfiligoj2015 Agricultural Market Read: Mixed
January 26, 2015
The agricultural market could look radically different this year, profit-wise, depending upon which segment you do business in. Read More
Edward Chell Biosafe
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Names Ed Chell California Territory Man…
January 26, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the recent addition of Ed Chell as California Territory Manager for the agrichemical division, supporting the crop protection, water treatment and food safety business segments. Read More
InsecticidesBayer CropScience Introduces Sivanto Insecticide
January 26, 2015
Sivanto precisely targets key damaging pests at multiple insect life stages to prevent damage to plants and help minimize the spread of diseases from insect carriers. Read More
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
Crop InputsNovozymes Sales Figures Up For 2014
January 20, 2015
Novozymes announces its sales growth in 2014 was in line with expectations as sales grew by 7% compared with 2013. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Ali…
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
Eric SfiligojGMO Or DNA? LOL Or WTF?
January 19, 2015
A new survey finds the American public seems generally confused when it comes to any three-letter descriptor for their food. Read More
FertilizerAGROTAIN Wins No-Till Product Of The Year Again
January 19, 2015
This marks the 10th straight year AGROTAIN nitrogen stabilizer has been named the top product in this category; no other product has matched this honor Read More