‘Structural failure’ downs Vancouver terminal grain bin

Terminal owner Fibreco, bin maker AGI pledge to investigate

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The owner of a new West Coast grain and pulse crop export terminal pledges to investigate the collapse Friday of a new commercial-scale grain bin at its site.

Fibreco Export Inc., a wood fibre exporter majority-owned by forest products firm Tolko Industries, said in a release Saturday that “one of our new agricultural product silos experienced a structural failure during loading” at Port Metro Vancouver on Friday at about 2:15 p.m. PT.

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Fibreco has been building a grain export operation at its bulk handling facility on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, as part of a 20-year terminal services agreement reached in 2017 with Regina pulse processor AGT.

“We are pleased to confirm no one was injured and that we effectively deployed our emergency response protocol,” Fibreco said Saturday, thanking the District of North Vancouver (DNV) Fire Rescue Services for its “quick response to our request for assistance. Together we were able to promptly secure the area and evacuate the site.”

RCMP and DNV personnel set up a “collapse zone” around the site, DNV Fire Rescue Services said Friday on Twitter, also praising an “excellent job by the on-site team to account for all staff.”

Fibreco said Saturday it’s “working with various government organizations to investigate the cause and concurrently developing a plan to safely resume operations as soon as possible.”

Also planning to look into the cause of the collapse is grain handling and storage equipment manufacturer Ag Growth International (AGI), which confirmed Tuesday it had built the bin and 14 others at the site.

The Westeel bin that collapsed was “part of a new bin line that was developed and manufactured by the company over the past two years in response to market demand,” AGI said in a release Wednesday, describing the product as “a larger version” of its standard hopper bin line.

Winnipeg-based AGI emphasized the new bin line is “unique and distinct” from the rest of its product lines, including its other grain storage bin products, and “is not in place or being sold to any other customers.”

A similar product installed for a “substantially different application” at a different site for a different customer “suffered a failure” in May last year, AGI said, adding the cause in that case also remains “unknown at this time.”

In the wake of the May 2019 incident, AGI said Wednesday, it “undertook an extensive engineering re-evaluation of the product prior to inclusion in two additional applications.”

Specifically, along with the 15 bins at the Fibreco site, another 20 have been made and supplied to another customer “but have not yet been commissioned,” AGI said Wednesday, putting the total sales value of the 35 bins at $19.1 million.

Without naming Fibreco in its release Wednesday, AGI said the “customer at the facility where the incident occurred has asserted AGI’s responsibility for the collapse.”

However, AGI said, “the cause of and any responsibility for the incident have not yet been determined” and the “recovery, investigation and remediation may take a number of months to complete.”

“We have reacted immediately, moving to work with our customers to discover the cause of this incident,” AGI CEO Tim Close said Wednesday.

“Once recovery of the site has been completed the investigation will provide the facts for us to determine the required remediation and the impact on AGI.”

In a separate statement Tuesday, AGI also said it “will be investigating all bins in the product line” as part of its standard protocol.

Fibreco’s site plan, as laid out in 2017, called for a total of forty-eight 3,400-tonne capacity bins and eight 1,000-tonne capacity bins to be built at the site, for total storage of 171,200 tonnes, in place of where Fibreco previously kept two large woodchip piles. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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