“We’re getting toward the western edge of the Corn Belt, and our ability to access markets going west is crucial to our success as an organization,” Cleveland says.
The co-op’s move to accommodating 110-car shuttles at each of its terminals will allow for future expansion and better incentives from the railroads. As landlocked destinations will be unable to expand, if [the railroads] choose to pursue and match up loaders and unloaders, these improvements will put the cooperative in a better position.
Sedan improves load-outs, adds storage
About an hour south of Aurora and Grand Island, Aurora Cooperative’s Sedan rail terminal rises from the cornfields. Since the first concrete silo was erected in 1976, the location has undergone four major expansions; however, this round of improvements was specifically designed to load larger and faster unit trains, and to increase the site’s storage capacity.
Prior to the expansion, loading specialty trains or changing between commodities slowed Sedan’s performance. While it currently is capable of loading 400,000 bushels of one commodity within the 15-hour window necessary to make the shuttle incentive, once the expansion is complete, it will be able to load multiple commodities in succession while making shuttle time.
“With the existing facility, this addition will allow us to load-out rail at 50,000 bushels/hour, and will give us the flexibility to load shuttle trains with multiple commodities back-to-back,” Jorgensen says.
Functionality will also improve. “When we’re [loading] rail, unloading bins or trucks — or a combo of these — the legs can be set on the conveyor to unload bins or trucks and go directly to the rail load out,” says Mitch Woeste, location manager, Aurora Cooperative-Sedan. The new concrete silos will fill at 30,000 bushels/hour from two 15,000-bushel/hour dump pits.
The cooperative is adding an additional 560,000 bushels of storage at the Sedan location, bringing its storage capacity to more than 3 million bushels.
In addition to meeting the 15-hour loading demands and added storage, Sedan also upgraded from its old dryer, 1,000 bushels/hour, to a new 7,000-bushel/hour Zimmerman dryer. A new Intersystems 10,000-bushel/hour leg pulls from two existing concrete bins to feed the dryer; and the dryer runs product to an another 10,000-bushel/hour leg to keep product moving in and out.
“Even though we’re speedy — when you have 12 million bushels coming at you — we’re going to find ourselves trying to keep up with the dryer,” Woeste says. Sedan brings in 200 to 250 trucks a day when harvest is at full peak.
The terminal operates nine concrete silos, six receiving pits and a 1.1 million bushel steel bin; and is staffed by eight full-time and three part-time employees. In a year, it handles 12 million bushels of grain: 85% yellow and white corn, 14% soybeans and 1% wheat.
Aurora West automates
Aurora Cooperative took a unique approach to meeting demand with its 3-year-old Aurora West facility — and for good reason. The Aurora West rail terminal has a unique supply agreement with Aventine Renewable Energy, Inc. and feeds two ethanol plants located on either side of the facility on a loop track. The site also loads shuttle trains for export.
“The amount of volume we handle makes Aurora West unique,” Panko notes. “We’re constantly providing quality, consistent product to the ethanol plants while managing our inventory.”
Aurora West will move around 200,000 bushels of grain/day; it will handle a million bushels of corn a week to the ethanol plant — plus loading shuttle trains with 400,000 bushels/week. Panko anticipates handling an “incredible amount of grain” that will make it “comparable to the major players” during the 2010 harvest.
To aid Panko and his team in this large undertaking, Aurora Cooperative invested in making it the company’s first completely automated elevator. The automation software, developed by Morrow Engineering, allows users to place grain in designated bins with the push of a button.