A state-of-the-art terminal in northwestern Alberta to provide sand for unconventional drilling operations is set to open this November, Edmonton-based Di-Corp said Wednesday.

The fracturing (fracking) sand facility is to have an annual throughput capacity of 550,000 tons.

Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) would carry frack sand from Wisconsin to serve the 20-acre terminal north of Grand Prairie. The Di-Corp facility, designed to serve expected growth in frack sand demand in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, would have three tracks capable of holding 44 rail cars for unloading.

“Di-Corp is an important customer of ours, and we expect to help the company move more frack sand to energy markets,” said CN’s Doug MacDonald, vice president, Industrial Products. “The new transloading terminal will create additional offloading and storage capacity at destination and also give our origin frack sand producers in the U.S. Midwest, Manitoba and elsewhere greater supply chain efficiencies and new market opportunities.”

Di-Corp distributes specialty chemicals, parts and accessories that serve the energy, mining, and drilling industries across North America.

CN, which provides Canada’s largest railway system, is investing significantly in its frack sand franchise. In May the company began accelerating work on the US$33 million upgrade of a 74-mile section of the Whitehall Subdivision line in Wisconsin that runs between Wisconsin Rapids and Blair to increase car-loading capacity and train velocity for growing frack sand supply chains (see Shale Daily, May 30). Last year the transporter also spent US$35 million to restore a 40-mile rail line between Ladysmith and Poskin, WI, to serve the frack sand market.

CN has made several bets on the unconventional gas and oil industry. Two years ago CN collaborated with Westport Innovations and Gaz Metro Transportation Solutions to test replacing diesel in its locomotives with liquefied natural gas, and it since has retrofitted two locomotives to run on a mixture of 90% natural gas and 10% diesel; the gas is being supplied by Encana Corp. CN also is working with its partners on a longer-term project to explore a state-of-the-art natural gas railway engine and a standardized railway tender.

In addition, CN signed a memorandum of understanding last year with Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd. to build a crude oil car loading terminal in southwestern Manitoba, near the Saskatchewan border, to serve Bakken Shale producers (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22, 2012).