It’s hard to miss the construction of a new grain elevator. The sheer size of the structure almost instantly changes the skyline in a rural area. Neighbours, farmers and motorists watch with curiosity from a distance as the structure takes shape.
If you go back almost a century, the construction of a new elevator was a more common event, as the number of grain elevators in Western Canada peaked at over 5,700 in the 1930s. Since then, particularly since the 1990s, there’s been a shift toward much larger, more efficient concrete and steel grain terminals. The number of elevators in use in Western Canada has fallen to just a few hundred.
Over the last two or three years — partly related to the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk — there has been some renewed investment in building grain handling facilities. With the CWB itself looking to become a private grain company, it’s in the middle of constructing at least four new elevators in Western Canada (possibly more). Other companies, including Viterra, Cargill, Richardson, and P&H, are also in the process of building new facilities or expanding existing elevators.
The video and photos below offer a closer look at how a concrete grain elevator is built, specifically CWB’s 34 thousand tonne facility just south of Winnipeg at Glenlea. RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner visits with Rori Bouchard, the senior project manager with FWS Group, the company contracted to build CWB’s new elevator network:
The CWB’s new elevator at Glenlea (near St. Adolphe) will feature 34 thousand tonnes of storage, a 134-car loop track and car loading at over 1,600 tonnes per hour. At the time of this photo, the structure was approximately 100 feet tall. As explained in the video above, the slip pour involved filling and raising a 4′ high concrete form until the structure stood 130’6″ high.
A 65-member crew works continuously while pouring the concrete for the elevator. Workers don’t leave the platform during their 12 hour shift, so all necessities are craned to the top of the elevator (including cleaned, gender-specific washrooms each shift.) The yellow “lunch box” sitting in the crane staging area delivers food and tools.
Concrete is pumped into hoppers on the working platform, and then manually transported by “buggy.” When full, a buggy carries approximately 1,200 lbs of cement.
Each load of concrete is tested to ensure it meets certain characteristics, including temperature close to 20C. Consistent temperature ensures uniform drying times required for the slip pour process.
The “story pole” extends to base of the structure, and indicates height, as well as when workers should insert or leave gaps in the concrete for windows, grain handling equipment, and walkways.
Hose containing a blue fluid is strung throughout the working platform to indicate whether the structure is level (a black line behind each vertical hose = level).
A hydraulic pump is used to extend the jacks to raise the 4′ slip concrete form. The second pump is a back-up.
Viterra has started construction of a new elevator near the CWB’s Glenlea facility. The Viterra elevator will be located adjacent to the company’s canola crush plant at Ste. Agathe (on right side on the horizon.)
Following the concrete work, the elevator’s concrete storage capacity will be supplemented by Westeel grain bins (as pictured at CWB’s Bloom facility).
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