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February 08, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 663

Argentina Crop Expected to Recover

Forecasters predict country will produce 53 MMT of soybeans as excess water in planting regions improve

Argentina Crop Expected to Recover

Argentina Crop Expected to Recover from Last Year’s Drought

Crop forecaster Buenos Aires Grain Exchange said Thursday that it expects Argentina to produce 53 MMT of soybeans as excess water in planting regions improve and all but 1% of the crop is in a bad condition. Analysts expect the USDA to slightly cut its expectation of the crop to 54.5-55.5 MMT. Last year their crop was only 38 MMT.

BAGE estimates that the crop will reach 45 MMT, which is higher than trade expectations of 43. Also, that surpasses last year’s drought constrained production of 32 MMT.

Egypt’s GASC Back for More Wheat

The world’s number 1 wheat importer was back in the market to buy more wheat. Thursday after the market closed they announced they were tendering for wheat.

The U.S. was surprisingly competitive. Although the official results have not been announced, the US offer had the lowest CIF value for Mar 21-31 shipment.

    US SRW FOB $235 + Freight $25.53 = $260.53

    France FOB $245.90 + Freight $15.65 = $261.55

    Romania FOB $250.84 + Freight $11.45 = $262.29

    Ukraine FOB $249.25 + Freight $13.35 = $262.60

 

South Korea Passes on Corn Deal

South Korean feed buyer KFA was seeking one cargo or 65,000 MT of corn overnight but pulled back when the offers came in higher than expected.  In mid January US corn went to KFA for $208/MT. The latest offers were reportedly $210/MT

Corn deals of late have slowed as most buyers wait on the sideline ahead of USDA’s data drop today.

In terms of pricing, US and Ukrainian values have been holding higher than buyers would like. Argentinian values have been falling of late helping them get deals done into Taiwan and Indonesia.

 

The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

February 07, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 1255

EIA Ethanol Data Shows Further Output Throttling

Sector logged its third consecutive week of production declines

EIA Ethanol Data Shows Further Output Throttling

EIA Ethanol Data Shows Further Output Throttling

This week’s EIA Ethanol data showed production has fallen below a million barrels a day for the first time since April 2018, taking corn consumption to 101 million bushels over the course of the week, as the sector logged its third consecutive week of production declines.

The bad news continues to be that ethanol inventories show no real sign of falling, suggesting that demand woes continue for the biofuel. Exports are uncompelling to cut into inventories. Indeed, this week U.S. trade negotiators are in Brazil lobbying for a removal of their 20% ethanol tariff. Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro is a purported admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump which could be a good sign. But, Bolsonaro also campaigned on Brazil retaking global leadership in ethanol production, which it lost to the United States some years ago. So it’s unclear how these negotiations will go.

Year-to-date ethanol production is off 1.2% from last year at this time. With USDA pegging corn used for ethanol virtually unchanged on the year (5,600 MB of corn forecasted for this year vs 5,605 MB last year), the continued erosion in ethanol production suggests those corn use numbers will likely need to be lowered by 50 MB.

What it means for the farmer? The demand side of the corn balance sheet continues to be lethargic. It’s hard to get a market excited this time of year without surprises that keep corn disappearing faster than expectations. So far, no such demand stimulus is visible.  

Export Sales Show Mixed Results

This morning’s weekly export sales report from USDA, lagged back to the holiday week of Dec 27, showed some strong business for soybeans and wheat, but corn and soymeal were well below trade estimates.

Swine Flu Continues to Spread

Japan found a new case of swine flu leading to the culling of 15,000 pigs. This is the first detection of the deadly virus since last September. Albeit a different strain from the deadly African swine fever China has been battling, it nonetheless tells of systemic issues in disease prevention.

In China, 1 million head have been slaughtered in the last 6 months due to the African Swine Fever. At the same time, internal soymeal prices have plummeted 22% while live hog prices have slumped 11%. That’s a clear sign that China’s appetite for soybeans is shrinking.

What it means for the farmer? China is of course the big player in hog production, but all of these disease issues are problematic for global feed and meal consumption. Chinese soy imports between August and December slumped by 12% vs the same time period in the previous year. This is not the same Chinese demand juggernaut that existed 6 months ago before the trade war salvo began.

EIA Ethanol Data Shows Further Output Throttling

This week’s EIA Ethanol data showed production has fallen below a million barrels a day for the first time since April 2018, taking corn consumption to 101 million bushels over the course of the week, as the sector logged its third consecutive week of production declines.

The bad news continues to be that ethanol inventories show no real sign of falling, suggesting that demand woes continue for the biofuel. Exports are uncompelling to cut into inventories. Indeed, this week U.S. trade negotiators are in Brazil lobbying for a removal of their 20% ethanol tariff. Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro is a purported admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump which could be a good sign. But, Bolsonaro also campaigned on Brazil retaking global leadership in ethanol production, which it lost to the United States some years ago. So it’s unclear how these negotiations will go.

Year-to-date ethanol production is off 1.2% from last year at this time. With USDA pegging corn used for ethanol virtually unchanged on the year (5,600 MB of corn forecasted for this year vs 5,605 MB last year), the continued erosion in ethanol production suggests those corn use numbers will likely need to be lowered by 50 MB.

What it means for the farmer? The demand side of the corn balance sheet continues to be lethargic. It’s hard to get a market excited this time of year without surprises that keep corn disappearing faster than expectations. So far, no such demand stimulus is visible.                                                                                                                                                                

Japan Buys 131,000 MT of Wheat in Regular Tender

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture bought a total of 131,165 MT of food-quality wheat from the United States, Canada and Australia in a regular tender that closed late on Thursday. Of the total purchase, 59,492 MT was sourced from the U.S. 

The previous tender by Japan had been for 102,057 MT of wheat back on Jan 24. That deal included 53,195 MT of U.S. wheat. 

What it means for the farmer? Japanese business is steady and consistent for the U.S. but even in this friendly tender, we lost ground to Canada and Australia. The Japanese bought 29K MT of more wheat between Jan 24 and Feb 7, but the U.S. garnered only 6 MT of those extra bushels.

 

The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

February 06, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 994

Soy Harvest Heating up in Brazil

Weather issues in Brazil are not widespread nor significant enough to put a major dent in production

Soy Harvest Heating up in Brazil

Soy Harvest Heating up in Brazil

Soybean harvest in Parana, Brazil’s 2nd largest soy producing state, reached 25% according to Deral, well ahead of last season.

Although the state suffered through a mini drought in December, early yield results show no material losses.

Only 6 percent of the state's soy fields are in bad condition, compared to none last year, Deral said. Another 24 percent are considered "average," compared to 14 percent in the previous cycle. The remaining fields are considered in good condition.

What it means for the farmer? The weather issues in Brazil are not widespread nor significant enough to put a major dent in production. Yes, Brazil’s crop will be off from record high estimates of 122 MMT. But unless we start to see enough issues that get the crop under 110 MMT it will be difficult for the market to take the threat as price enhancing. Keep in mind Argentina is having a good crop (although they are still early in the season) with expectations of a 53 to 55 MMT crop there vs 38 last year. 

Export Sales Announcements

Export sales of 586,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China. Of the total, 523,000 metric tons is for delivery during the 2018/2019 marketing year and 63,000 metric tons is for delivery during the 2019/2020 marketing year.

Export sales of 182,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Wheat Exports in Focus

Farm office FranceAgriMer on Wednesday increased its forecast for French soft wheat exports outside the European Union in 2018/19 to 8.85 MMT from 8.7 MMT last month.

Ukraine on the other hand is lagging a bit on YTD exports. The ag ministry there pegged YTD shipments at 11.5 MMT compared with 12.3 MMT in the same period last season.

In Russia, the ag ministry put out a statement this morning that they export the country’s torrid wheat exports to slow in the later half of the marketing year. High domestic prices are expected to curtail exportable supplies.

Last week Russia lost out on the Egypt’s GASC wheat tender due to elevated prices. The ministry also expects prices to start to come down as farmers sell inventories to pay for spring sowing.

What it means for the farmer? The story in August that led to the futures rally was Russia would eventually run out of exportable supplies, leaving a window for the U.S. in the Jan-June time period. But that opportunity is shrinking with plenty of other competitors stepping in to fill the void. USDA will likely need to lower it’s annual wheat export forecast on Friday from 1,000 MB to 950 to 975.

                                                                                                                                                                    

The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

February 06, 2019 | Coach’s Corner | | Views: 785

It’s All About the Buying Process

Connect better and sell more when you get out of your selling process and into your customer’s buying process

It's All About the Buying Process

Kevin sat in my workshop recently and talked about his recent experience calling on a dairy producer.

“I did everything right," he said. "I walked his cows with him, took forage samples, balanced his on-farm feed with a custom protein supplement that was cheaper than his current feeding program. I asked for the sale and got nothing. He wants to think about it! What else could I do?”

“Great question Kevin,” I said. “Let’s ask the rest of the class. What else can Kevin do?”

The class responded with the usual; a few jokes about cutting his price, offering a free trip to the Bahamas like the competition does, but mostly, it was solemn agreement. They felt Kevin had done everything right. He now had to keep persisting until the dairy producer had a problem with their current supplier and wanted to switch. As a sales trainer, I see this reaction a lot when leading groups through the intricacies of overcoming objections.

After allowing the class to respond, I asked Kevin to explain this dairyman’s buying process. Kevin then began explaining how the producer ordered feed. “I don’t mean that. I mean, what process does this customer go through in order to buy feed? How does he make decisions?”

Kevin replied, “I wish I knew. Then I could sell him what he wants!”

My next question was of course, “Did you ask?”

I love this question because it usually leads in one of two directions. The first is often a stunned look of, “wow that’s the obvious thing I should have asked." 

The second reaction to my question is a long litany of guesses such as, “he’s a price buyer or he’s been with his current supplier for years, etc.”

So, I go back to my original question, “Did you ask?” to which I finally get the real answer, “No, I didn’t specifically ask.”

Now we are getting somewhere. Now we know there is some extremely important information missing.

As salespeople, we spend so much time thinking about our selling process, that we forget we are part of our prospect’s buying process. We are one piece of a very big puzzle to the farmers and agribusiness buyers we call on. Find out early in the relationship how they make their decisions.

Most salespeople feel they are given an appointment to go out to a producer and present their products. That’s only part of what you might do. However, the most important role is becoming an integral part of your customer’s buying process.

As you venture out today into the country, heading to your next sales call, turn your talk radio off and ask yourself, “Do I really know how this person makes decisions on my product line?” If you don’t thoroughly know the answer, start your sales call there! Trust me that this will pay big dividends when you attempt to close the sale.

Good luck and enjoy the many benefits of being more effective in your selling!

For more Ag sales training topics and discussions, go to GregMartinelli.net.

February 05, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 814

Corn for Ethanol is Down

Decline in ethanol production has been felt by many as corn basis has softened in many areas

Corn for Ethanol is Down

USDA’s Grain Crushings Report Confirms Corn for Ethanol Is Down

Yesterday, February 4, the USDA released the monthly Grain Crushings products report for the month of November.  Due to the government shutdown the report was scheduled for release in January.     

The report was for November 2018 and showed that corn used in ethanol consumption was 504 MBU which was down 4% YoY and -1% from October.   

At 5.314 million, CWT sorghum for ethanol use was higher for the month and has continued to increase. The sorghum for ethanol use was +83% YoY.      

DDGS production at 1.93 million tones was -2% from October and -3% YoY.  Wet DDG production was 1.31 million tones was -2% from October and -4%YoY.      

What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? Given that the report was about ethanol production for November 2018 the data is stale and articulates what many farmers know.  The decline in ethanol production has been felt by many as corn basis has softened in many areas. Sorghum use in southwest Kansas and northern Texas is not a surprise as local corn basis has been supported by a below trend corn crop which has resulted in a draw on corn regional stocks.    

USDA Soybean Export Sales Announcement

Export sales of 2,603,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Export sales of 274,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Severe Winter Weather Forecast for Central Midwest Today

The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning for areas of E Iowa and parts of Illinois north of I-80.

A winter storm bringing freezing rain may cause ice accumulations of over ¼ inch over these parts of Iowa and Illinois, and even into NE Missouri.

The NWS has also issued a winter weather advisory for much of the state of Michigan as well, where snow and freezing rain are in the forecast and temperatures may dip as low as 5 degrees F.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

February 04, 2019 | Views on the News | | Views: 686

January Jobs Report Shows Continued Growth

Reviewing the impacts of the government shutdown on job growth

January Jobs Report Shows Continued Growth

If you are confused about the future path of the general economy, you are by no means alone. The jobs report for January indicated the economy added 304,000 new jobs with total employment at 150.6 million, up 1.9 percent from prior-year levels. It also revised the December numbers, dropping 90,000 slots from the originally reported 312,000 to 222,000.

Still, the average monthly job gains over the last three months of 2018 was 241,000, which, along with the more than 300,000 additional positions for the first month of 2019, is a respectable showing. Figure 1 highlights monthly change in nonfarm payroll employment based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey

The big question this survey prompts is how the government shutdown affected the data. Digging into that issue, we’ll start with the survey timeline: Jan. 6-12. The Bureau of Labor Statistics was funded under an earlier appropriations action and, as such, was not closed during the survey period.

Let us also remember that overall federal employment – excluding postal service employees – totals 2.193 million, so the 800,000-furloughed-employees figure put out by the press is a significant proportion, but several of those positions were considered “essential” and those employees were brought in regardless of the shutdown.

Impact of Shutdown

Further, recall that the labor survey is done in two parts: the establishment survey that goes to companies/employers and asks them how employment changed and a household survey that asks individuals how their status has been adjusted since the previous month. Understanding these differences, the federal government still considered employees as just that, even though they may have not been paid during that period. Consequently, the establishment survey – with the federal government as the employer in this case – was essentially unchanged (actually it showed an increase of 1,000 jobs) in January, even with the shutdown. Federal contract employees are a completely different story, but even so, it is difficult to suss out exactly how those numbers moved this past month.

The household survey gives a little better picture as to the real impact on federal employees at the time of the survey. Officially a federal employee would have been considered “unemployed on temporary layoff.” There were 104,000 in this category, around 80,000 larger than historical data would suggest. Several thousand federal workers were also classified as “employed but absent from work.” There were 239,000 people reporting this classification, as opposed to 77,000 in that category in December.

Taken together then, the data suggest there were roughly 242,000 (80,000 + 162,000) federal employees who were considered out of work during the survey period. Again, that is from the household survey. The establishment survey – which is used to calculate the job creation data – indicated the shutdown had no effect on employment.

One indicator of the effect on federal contract workers is the number of people at work part time for economic reasons. This figure increased by around 500,000 slots in January. As the explanatory note from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states: “Nearly all of this increase was in the private sector and may reflect the shutdown…”

Job Growth Across the Economy

With that out of the way, the strong employment report was driven by job gains across major categories. Leisure and hospitality combined for 74,000 new slots, with food service and drinking places (can’t say bars) adding 37,000 positions and amusements, gambling and recreation adding another 32,000. Construction was a surprising second, adding 52,000 jobs, with 19,000 and 15,000 in non-residential and residential, respectively. Infrastructure construction jobs also rose by 10,000.

Health care – a consistent source of 40,000+ new positions a month – came up with 42,000 new jobs, roughly half in the ambulatory health care services area (22,000) and hospitals (19,000).

Overall, retail trade gained 21,000 jobs, with sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores adding 17,000 slots. The traditional general merchandise stores, on the other hand, slipped by 12,000 positions. In total, retail trade has added only 26,000 jobs over the last year. Similarly, manufacturing and financial services were small positives at 20,000 and 13,000, respectively.

And probably most important of all, average hourly earnings increased again, albeit by only 3 cents an hour; but at $27.56 per hour, earnings in January 2019 were 3 percent higher than in January 2018.

Summary

The interpretation one might take from this report is that the economy is still doing okay. If companies feel optimistic enough to continue hiring at this rate, even in the face of all of the fog present in the marketplace, then someone believes. There are a number of other confusing signs which are often present when the economy is about to go through a phase change, but that is a subject for another column.

Contact:
Bob Young
President
Agricultural Prospects
bob@agriculturalprospects.com

February 04, 2019 | | Views: 1551

China’s COFCO Purchases Millions of Metric Tons of Soybeans

Part of the company’s efforts to implement a “consensus” on trade agreed

China's COFCO Purchases Millions of Metric Tons of Soybeans

In an effort to calm the trade war between the United States and China, COFCO Group has made a purchase of U.S. soybeans that will amount to “millions of tonnes” according to CNBC and the companies own website. The COFCO Groups stated motive in a notice released over the weekend is to help implement a "consensus" on trade between the U.S. and China. 

 

Ever since July, Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans have ceased due to a 25% tariff imposed as part of the ongoing trade war. A three-month "truce" was declared at the start of the year to give the countries time to negotiate. China recently offered to buy another five million metric tons, according to the White House. 

 

Analysts are already forecasting that Chinese purchases of soybeans are unlikely to return to previous levels once the trade war is over. The country is expected to tap South America for more of its supply.

February 04, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 661

Brazil and China Start Trade Talks

Expected to hold their first high-level political and economic talks since 2015

Brazil and China Start Trade Talks

Brazil and China Start Trade Talks

  • Brazil and China are expected to hold their first high-level political and economic talks since 2015 later this year and agriculture remains a priority item.  
  • The meeting should advance talks to permit more Brazilian meat-packers to export to China and to accelerate Chinese approvals of genetically modified (GMO) products.  Currently China is Brazil’s largest agricultural trade partner and the largest importer of Brazilian soy and beef.
  • In December Chinese sent a trade delegation to Brazil to inspect poultry, beef and pork packing plants with the objective of accrediting more export facilities.    
  • Part of the talks between the two countries will focus on the GMO approval process and making the administrative component more efficient.     
  • In preliminary talks, both sides have also agreed to increase the frequency of the bilateral talks and have tentatively planned to have at least 3 discussions during 2019.   
  • What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? The talks are not a surprise as China has very openly been looking to diversify its global agricultural supply chain.  With the two countries working to negotiate on the GMO component this is a clear signal that China is serious about identifying more competition to the U.S. soy, corn and livestock industries.  While the official talks have not started we will look for any details that would impact the U.S. farmer.                  

Export Sales Announcement

  • Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 612,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Chinese COFCO Buying U.S. Soybeans

  • The Chinese state agricultural conglomerate COFCO Group recently purchased a batch of soybeans amounting to "millions of tonnes" from the United States, it said in a notice on Saturday, February 2.  
  • Soybean production remains unchanged at 53 MMT. There are concerns of adverse conditions in the central growing region, however it is believed that any losses will be offset by strong yields in surrounding areas.  
  • What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? The estimated 45 MMT corn crop would be the largest corn production for Argentina in three years and +13 MMT YoY.  The increased volume could displace U.S. corn in the global export grids and arrives at a time when the U.S. corn program is facing its own internal headwinds.    

The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

January 31, 2019 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 1221

U.S. and Chinese Trade Talks Commence Again

Negotiations continue with only a month left to reach a deal before March 2 deadline to increase tariffs

U.S. and Chinese Trade Talks Commence Again

U.S./Chinese Trade Talks Commence Once Again

The United States and China opened a pivotal round of high-level talks on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. aimed at bridging deep differences over China's intellectual property and technology transfer practices and easing a months-long tariff war.  

This round of talks includes cabinet-level officials, led by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  

Negotiations are continuing with only a month left to reach a deal before a March 2 U.S. deadline to increase tariffs on Chinese goods.

The talks in Washington are expected to be tense, with little indication so far that Chinese officials are willing to address core U.S. demands to fully protect American intellectual property rights and end policies that Washington has said force U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese firms.

Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion of goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 2 if an agreement cannot be reached. He has also threatened new tariffs on the remainder of Chinese goods shipped to the United States. China has retaliated with tariffs of its own, but has suspended some and is allowing some purchases of U.S. soybeans during the talks.

What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? These negotiations will be tense as all eyes in the global agricultural community will be waiting for details. There have been no details about agriculture yet.  Expect the entire agricultural community to be “buzzing” with any details.

USDA Resumes Publishing Weekly Grains, Cotton and Livestock Export Data

Starting today, January 31, the USDA will start publishing weekly export data for all agricultural commodities after a month delay.  

The USDA said the report for the week ending December 27, 2018, will be published on Feb. 7 while a combined report for the weeks ending January 10- February 14 will be published on Feb. 22.

What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? While new data does not equal good data, the restarting of weekly export figures is a positive step to help determine the pace of demand. These export figures will be particularly important for the wheat and corn.  Wheat exports have chronically underperformed this year and corn sales were a bit light going into December. Unfortunately, the full effect of the month-long hiatus will not be known until mid-February due to the staggered releases.

Drought Conditions Spread in Australia   

Australia's west coast is facing hot, dry weather over the next three months, the country's bureau of meteorology said on Thursday, denting the outlook for wheat production in the world's fourth-largest exporter.

There is only a 20% chance that the state of Western Australia will receive average rainfall between Feb. 1 and April 30, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said in its latest three-month outlook.  It also forecast a 70% chance that the majority of Australia will experience above average temperatures over the same period.

Western Australia is the country's largest wheat growing region, producing up to half of the total harvest, and farmers will begin sowing crops in early April.

What Does This Mean for U.S. Farmers? Continued drought in Australia would be beneficial for U.S. wheat, cotton, cattle and perhaps oilseeds. While still a long ways out, the current hydrological configuration is not positive.  Any further reductions in the Australian export programs could be a benefit to low protein U.S. white and perhaps soft red wheat in the Asian Pacific region. White wheat has already benefited from a reduction in Australian production and exports.      

 

The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

January 31, 2019 | Tech Talk | | Views: 710

Optimize Belt Cleaner Tension to Maximize Performance & Life

Advice for cleaner, safer, more productive conveying

Optimize Belt Cleaner Tension to Maximize Performance & Life

Given the number of conveyor-related accidents that occur during routine maintenance and cleanup, every bulk material handler has a vested interest in technologies to help reduce hazards and prevent injuries.  Seemingly mundane tasks such as adjusting belt cleaners and removing spillage often require employees to work in close proximity to the moving conveyor, where even incidental contact can result in serious injury in a split second.  Further, spillage can contribute to the risk of fire by interfering with pulleys and idlers and by providing potential fuel.  Even worse, in confined spaces, airborne particles can create the right ingredients for an explosion. 

The buildup of fugitive material can occur with surprising speed.  As the table below illustrates, spillage in an amount equal to just one sugar packet (about 4 grams) per hour will result in an accumulation of about 700 grams (1.5 pounds) at the end of a week.  If the rate of escape is 4 grams per minute, the accumulation will be more than 45 kg (nearly 100 pounds) per week, or more than two tons per year.  If the spillage amounts to just one shovelful per hour (not an uncommon occurrence in some operations), personnel can expect to have to deal with more than 225 kg (nearly 500 pounds) of fugitive material every day. 

Belt Cleaning to Reduce Carryback

Although there are a number of belt cleaning technologies available to conveyor operators, most designs in use today are blade-type units of some kind, using a urethane or metal-tipped scraper to remove material from the belt’s surface.  These devices typically require an energy source -- such as a spring, a compressed air reservoir or a twisted elastomeric element -- to hold the cleaning edge against the belt.  Because the blade directly contacts the belt, it is subject to abrasive wear and must be regularly adjusted and periodically replaced to maintain effective cleaning performance.

 

Tensioning

The ability to maintain the proper force required to keep the blade edge against the belt is a key factor in the performance of any cleaning system.  Blade-to-belt pressure must be controlled to achieve optimal cleaning with a minimal rate of blade wear.  There is a popular misconception that the harder the cleaner is pressing against the belt, the better it will clean.  But research has shown that there is actually an optimum range of blade pressure, which will most effectively remove carryback material.  Increasing tension beyond this range raises blade-to-belt friction, thus shortening blade life increasing belt wear and increasing power consumption -- without improving cleaning performance.  

Operating a belt cleaner below the optimum pressure range also delivers less effective cleaning and can actually accelerate blade wear.  A belt cleaner lightly touching the belt may appear to be in working order from a distance, whereas in reality, excessive amounts of carryback are being forced between the blade and the belt at high velocity.  This passage of material between the belt and the blade creates channels of uneven wear on the face of the cleaner.  As material continues to pass between the blade and the belt, these channels increase in size, rapidly wearing the blade to a jagged edge. 

A common source of blade wear that often goes unnoticed -- even with a properly installed and adjusted cleaner -- is running the belt empty for long periods of time.  Small particles embedded in the empty belt’s surface can create an effect like sand paper, increasing the wear rate of both the blade and the belt.  Even though the cargo may be abrasive, it often has moisture in it that serves as a lubricant and coolant.

Another potential source of wear is when the cleaner blade is wider than the material flow, causing the outside portion of the cleaning blade to hold the center section of the blade away from the belt.  As a result, carryback can flow between the belt and the worn area of the blade, accelerating wear on this center section.  Eventually, the process creates a curved wear pattern sometimes referred to as a “smiley face” or “mooning.” 

As urethane cleaner blades wear, the surface area of the blade touching the belt increases.  This causes a reduction in blade-to-belt pressure and a corresponding decline in cleaner efficiency.  Therefore, most mechanically-tensioned systems require periodic adjustment (re-tensioning) to deliver the consistent pressure needed for effective carryback removal.

To overcome the problem of the blade angle changing as the blade wears, a radial-adjusted belt cleaner can be designed with a specially-engineered curved blade, known as “CARP” for Constant Angle Radial Pressure.  With this innovative design, the changes in contact angle and surface area are minimized as the blade wears, helping to maintain its effectiveness throughout the cleaner’s service life. 

Air Tensioning

New air-powered tensioning systems are automated for precise monitoring and tensioning throughout all stages of blade life, reducing the labor typically required to maintain optimum blade pressure and extending the service life of both the belt and the cleaner.  Equipped with sensors to confirm that the belt is loaded and running, the devices automatically back the blade away during stoppages or when the conveyor is running empty, minimizing unnecessary wear to both the belt and cleaner. 

The result is consistently correct blade tension, with reduced power demand on start-up, all managed without operator intervention.  For locations lacking convenient power access, one self-contained design uses the moving conveyor to generate its own electricity, which powers a small air compressor to maintain optimum blade pressure at all times. 

Maintenance

Even the best-designed and most efficient of mechanical belt cleaning systems require periodic maintenance and/or adjustment, or performance will deteriorate over time.  Proper tensioning of belt-cleaning systems minimizes wear on the belt and cleaner blades, helping to prevent damage and ensure efficient cleaning action. 

Belt cleaners must be engineered for durability and simple maintenance, and conveyors should be designed to enable easy service, including required clearances for access.  Service chores that are straightforward and “worker-friendly” are more likely to be performed on a consistent basis.

The use of factory-trained and certified specialty contractors can also help ensure that belt cleaner maintenance is done properly, and on an appropriate schedule.  Further, experienced service technicians often notice other developing system or component problems that can be avoided if they are addressed before a catastrophic failure occurs, helping conveyor operators avoid potential equipment damaging and expensive unplanned downtime. 

By setting the cleaning goal necessary for each individual operation and purchasing a system adequate for those conditions as laid out in CEMA standards, it’s possible to achieve carryback control and yet obtain long life from belt cleaners.  The bottom line is that properly-installed and adjusted belt cleaners help minimize carryback and spillage, reducing risk and overall operating costs. 

Information provided by Martin Engineering.

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