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

Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Completion
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening (w/Q&A)
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Growers looking at soybeans
Crop InputsOhio Releases New Nutrient Management Tools
June 1, 2017
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has introduced two new nutrient management tools. The Ohio Applicator Forecast is a new Read More
Max Systems Products
Crop InputsMax Systems Products Supercharge Plant Performance
June 1, 2017
Used individually, NanoZyme 2.0 and Nano Brown Sugar from Max Systems LLC, provide plants with balanced minerals and nutrients that Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Redbanded-stinkbug-on-soybean-Photo-credit-Thomas-County-Ag
Crop InputsExperts: Mild Winter, Early Planting Will Increase Soybean Insect Threat
June 12, 2017
Higher than average temperatures this past winter affected much of the nation, especially the South and Midwest. The National Centers Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Plants
Eric SfiligojLaunching New Seed Traits: Wait on China . . . Or Else!
June 26, 2017
In life, no one likes the waiting game. In agriculture, however, playing the waiting game is very important – especially Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Speaks on Dicamba Issues in Arkansas
June 26, 2017
Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, issued the following statement following the Arkansas State Plant Board’s proposal to ban dicamba, Read More
Corn Field
Seed/BiotechCorn Insect Bt Technologies Offer Cost-effective, Proac…
June 26, 2017
When farm economics are challenging, farmers look for ways to bolster profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think Read More
Crop InputsArkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba — Now W…
June 23, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsBASF: ‘Closely Monitoring’ Dicamba Situatio…
June 22, 2017
BASF, whose Engenia herbicide is the target of more than 200 drift complaints in Arkansas, emailed the following statement to Read More
ManagementConsolidation Update
June 22, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss progress on manufacturer consolidation, and another big move for Midwest cooperative Central Valley Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
Crop InputsThreat of Dicamba Ban Looms in Arkansas
June 22, 2017
The Arkansas State Plant Board has rejected a proposed ban on the use of dicamba herbicide, but a procedural error Read More
Potash Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium-PotashCorp to become Nutrien upon Merger Complet…
June 21, 2017
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. and Agrium Inc. have announced today that once the anticipated merger transaction closes, the new Read More
Crop InputsMidwestern BioAg Hosts TerraNu Fertilizer Plant Opening…
June 20, 2017
Last Friday, Midwestern BioAg was joined by over 80 local farmers, media and staff to celebrate the grand opening of Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names New President
June 19, 2017
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC announced this morning the appointment of Mary Tolke to the position of President/CEO, effective July 1. Read More
ManagementPlotting Corn, AGCO/Asmark’s Applicator Training Center…
June 15, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent visits to Columbus, OH, and Bloomington, IL, along with an Read More
Seed/BiotechDow AgroSciences Announces Launch of Enlist Corn for 20…
June 14, 2017
Enlist corn will be commercially available in the U.S. for the 2018 growing season. Dow AgroSciences announced the launch today Read More
ASMARK AGCO Applicator Training Center
EmployeesAsmark, AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applica…
June 13, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute have opened a new Applicator Training Center, created in a collaboration between the two Read More
Power to Do More Contest Winners
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Three Winners in Power to Do…
June 13, 2017
Thousands of votes have been cast and three farmers have been awarded the power to do more with a $10,000 Read More
Frogeye leaf spot
FungicidesStrobilurin-resistant Frogeye Leaf Spot Threat Looms wi…
June 13, 2017
Heavy spring rainfall throughout the South and Midwest delayed planting and created the perfect environment for diseases like frogeye leaf Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
CHS St. Paul, MN fertilizer terminal
LegislationICGA Praises President Trump’s Remarks on Waterwa…
June 12, 2017
Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan, a farmer from Utica, issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s comments Read More
Wheat Growers
UncategorizedWheat Growers Names Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice Presiden…
June 12, 2017
Wheat Growers has hired Tracy Linbo as Senior Vice President of Agronomy. Linbo joins Wheat Growers after having served 10 Read More