Richardson International doubling capacity of Yorkton canola crushing plant

·6 min read

Winnipeg, Yorkton, Regina –Canola is riding a wave these days, and on March 22, Winnipeg-based Richardson International Limited is announcing a significant investment in their canola crush plant in Yorkton. In addition to doubling its processing capacity to 2.2 million metric tonnes, the project will optimize operational efficiencies and modernize the facility to meet an ever-growing global demand for canola oil and canola meal products.

The facility is one of two canola crushing plants that were built on the northwest corner of Yorkton a little over a decade ago, with the neighbouring plant operated by Louis Dreyfus Company. Together, they have made Yorkton an important hub for Canola processing, and this new announcement will expand upon that.

In a release, Richardson said that when completed, the Yorkton facility will include a high-speed shipping system with three 9,500-foot loop tracks, complementing infrastructure currently in place. It will be situated roughly to the northeast of the existing facility.

Loop tracks have become commonplace throughout the United States as the most efficient manner to load unit trains, and they are becoming the norm in Canada, as well. Richardson Pioneer, itself, announced on March 15 that it would the building a loop track for a new 36,600 metric tonne elevator at Swan River, Man. Its new high-throughput elevator near Grande Prairie, Alta., will also have a loop track, as well as one built at another new elevator High Level, Alta., in recent years.

The Yorkton facility will be served by both major railways, Canadian Pacific and CN, and will be dedicated to moving canola crush products “at some of the most efficient levels seen in North America.”

Additional facility upgrades and improvements will effectively double processing capacity in excess of 2.2 million metric tonnes of seed. The site will also have three high-speed receiving lanes, providing producers and trucking partners a fast and effective means for seed delivery.

The development includes the purchase of 240-acres of city-owned industrial land adjacent to the existing site. The existing plant falls within the Rural Municipality of Orkney.

“We opened the original Yorkton plant in 2010 and at that time, it was by far the largest capital investment Richardson had ever undertaken,” Richardson International president and CEO Curt Vossen said. “Saskatchewan and Manitoba producers have responded effectively, providing growth in canola production over the years - this has given us the confidence to move forward with expansion once again. We have appreciated the encouragement and cooperation of the rural municipality of Orkney, the city of Yorkton, and the province of Saskatchewan.”

As a significant supplier to the global canola market, Richardson said it has been focused on improved operational efficiencies, modernization, and automation. With $120 million recently invested in their Lethbridge, Alberta crush plant, this latest investment in Yorkton will provide additional opportunities to producers to market their oilseed crop, it said.

When asked how much of an investment the Yorkton expansion would be, Richardson spokesperson Kelcey Vossen said they were not able to share that at the moment.

“The global outlook for Canadian canola oil is promising, and this latest investment emphasizes our ongoing commitment to best-in-class facilities,” said Darrell Sobkow, Richardson senior vice-president, Processing, Food, and Ingredients. “Yorkton lies right in the heart of canola country and we are focused on providing our producer customers with increasingly efficient means for meeting the needs of a growing global consumptive market.”

Scratching dirt

Richardson said construction will begin immediately with no disruption to current operations and is expected to be completed in early 2024. During the construction phase, there will be significant opportunities for employment within the area and upon completion, the company expects to add full-time positions to the plant. “This state-of-the-art facility represents a good news story for all industry participants – for our producer customers and end-use buyers across North America and abroad,” said Keith Belitski, director of operations, Yorkton. “A construction project of this magnitude will be significant, economically, to the province of Saskatchewan, the city of Yorkton, and surrounding areas.”

Kelcey Vossen said that the construction crew would be “in the dozens,” as would future additional employment, once completed. That number would likely be disclosed later, she said.

“This is a significant investment in our province that will create local jobs, support economic recovery and help our province continue to grow,” Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said in a government news release. “As the world recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic, there remains a growing need for the food products Saskatchewan produces, such as canola oil and canola meal, and we appreciate this investment and expansion at Richardson's Yorkton canola crush plant, which will help meet that demand. Our government is committed to maintaining a competitive business environment to attract these types of investments, which will benefit all Saskatchewan residents, and we look forward to working with Richardson on this important project.”

The prospect of additional value-added processing fits within government growth plans. “Saskatchewan is a leader in agricultural production and we welcome this investment to increase canola crush capacity in the province,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said. “We know the world wants the high-quality products Saskatchewan produces, with canola oil and canola meal our top value-added exports in 2020. This expansion of processing capacity will help Saskatchewan meet the goals outlined in our Growth Plan, which includes a target to crush 75 per cent of the canola our province produces here in Saskatchewan.”

String of canola announcements

The announcement is the third in recent weeks of companies intending on building substantial canola processing facilities in Saskatchewan. However, unlike True North Renewable Fuels’ announcement that is beginning fundraising for a “renewable diesel and canola crushing” project at Regina, or Covenant Energy’s planned “renewable diesel facility” at Estevan, construction on Richard’s Yorkton expansion is expected to begin immediately.

The Regina and Estevan facilities are expected to take advantage of the federal government’s planned Clean Fuel Standard, which will require liquid fuels, like diesel to reduce their hydrocarbon components. When asked if the Yorkton expansion had fuel production as its intent, Kelcey Vossen said increased canola production by Western Canadian produces and increased global demand for food product was driving this. She said. “The Clean Fuel Standard came up a fair bit, however, we are in the food business and this expansion project is to meet an increase in global food demand, not biodiesel. Our grower customers have been effective in providing growth in canola production over the years which has given us confidence to undergo another expansion. Richardson had a past expansion, back in 2012, where we increased capacity by 25 per cent.”

Richardson International is part of James Richardson & Sons, Limited, a prominent Winnipeg-based conglomerate whose companies include Richardson, Richardson Pioneer, Richardson Oilseed and Richardson Milling in the agricultural sector. Their oil company, Tundra Oil & Gas Limited, is the dominant oil producer in Manitoba, and their pipeline company, Kingston Midstream, is the principal pipeline gathering system for southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba. Its financial services include RF Capital Group, Richardson Wealth and Wynward Insurance Group. In real estate, their head office is the Richard Centre Limited, at the corner of Portage and Main in centre of Winnipeg. Finally, in transportation, the company operates Bison Transport.

Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury