Epicentr Agro built a grain elevator in Wapniarka with a capacity of 200 thousand. tons of simultaneous storage with energy-saving equipment
Epicentr Agro’s performance development continues. The company has recently opened a number of facilities, while increasing its storage capacity to 1.5 million tons. We visited a completely new warehouse complex in Vapniarka, the construction of which was completed last year.
A few years ago, there was an old farm on the exit from Vapniarka towards Kryzopol. After purchasing this farm, Epicentr Agro decided to build a huge facility for 200 000 tons of simultaneous storage. The construction was carried out in two stages: the first one covered the construction and assembly of all technological devices and silos with a total capacity of 120 thousand. tons, the second allowed to increase the storage capacity by another 80 thousand. tone. It is worth noting that the main supplier of the equipment for the first stage was the German company Petkus, in the second stage Epicentr Agro chose the equipment of the Polish manufacturer FEERUM. French Law dryers have been successfully tested on this facility.
Design, construction and selection of equipment
A company was selected as the designer that would be able not only to develop high-quality design documentation, but also to agree on it quickly. We managed to find such a contractor, thanks to which it was possible to reduce “paper” matters to a minimum, and due to the choice of a local company – also to reduce the costs of production processes. When it comes to equipment manufacturers, representatives of Epicentr Agro met with all foreign manufacturers at the Agritechnica fair in Hanover, and at the same time held talks with Ukrainian companies. It was decided to give priority to foreign producers to reduce the influence of local workers. Foreign companies use automation very much in their production process, while Ukrainian companies are still focused on the work of human hands. In the first stage, transport equipment and silos were ordered from Petkus. French Law dryers were tested – before that, Epicentr Agro had no experience with them and no one could say for sure how the dryers would perform in terms of drying quality and energy efficiency. However, they proved to be very economical in terms of gas consumption, which is why they were still ordered for other Epicentr Agro facilities.
At the beginning of construction, there were problems with groundwater, which delayed the construction of the foundations by 4 months. Good weather in the autumn and winter period allowed for the construction to be carried out actively until January. Due to the high groundwater level on the site, all structures below ground level have been sealed. The first years of operation showed that everything was done well: the underground rooms remain dry in all weather and seasons. A powerful drainage system is also created on the site – in rainy periods, unnecessary water is removed from the site of the complex through the drainage system and filters.
The first phase of construction of 120 000 tonnes was completed on time, before harvesting the early grain cultures. The total construction time was one year – taking into account design and commissioning.
Significant investments in gas had to be made – the connection to the pipeline could be made 10 km from the site at the expense of Epicentr Agro. Another infrastructure project involved the construction of 2 km of railway lines. Everything had to be done to ensure that grain could be quickly delivered from the facility to the port. The grain tour should last no more than one day.
Construction of the second phase began immediately after the completion of the first phase. The purpose of this construction solution was to start the receiving devices faster. After that, there was enough time to prepare additional silos. They were built and put into operation before the 2020 harvest.
It is estimated that during the first year of full operation, the facility should perform one loading and unloading turnover. Subsequently, a gradual increase in throughput is planned to accelerate the return on investment. Considering the current prices of lifting services and energy, at least 13-14 loading and unloading cycles of the warehouse base should be performed to return the invested funds in construction and equipment. (explanation: one cycle is understood as accepting, cleaning, drying, storing and issuing the full capacity of the warehouse base).
According to Svietlana Nikitiuk, head of Epicentr Agro’s elevators and agro-holding headquarters, last year almost all farmers did not receive a satisfactory harvest due to weather conditions, and Epicentr Agro was no exception. This year’s weather conditions allow for much better results, which in turn will increase the volumes of transshipments. The elevator in Wapniarka is completely ready for this: all processes are developed, the equipment is checked, the staff has received the necessary qualifications and experience.
“If a company experienced a significant shortage of storage capacity a year or two ago, it can now offer partners a full range of elevator services and even advise on how and when it is most profitable to sell grain. At the same time, negotiations are underway with various international companies to make their offer available in each of our facilities. Currently, a downward trend in the prices of elevator services is observed. We try to keep prices at an average level, as we strive for long-term cooperation with farmers. Periodically, the cost of services is verified, free admission is offered, and changes to drying and storage are planned this year. More detailed information will be presented closer to the beginning of the early harvest season ” – said Svietlana Nikitiuk.
Commissioning without delay
The elevator is designed not only for maize and sunflower. Works with all mass crops: wheat, barley, rapeseed, soybeans. Only niche crops are not accepted as there are no small silos to store them. On site it is possible to weigh trucks simultaneously on two scales. The third scale is designed for weighing empty cars. Immediately upon arrival, the American InterSystems automated samplers collect samples that are sent on site to a certified laboratory. The laboratory is equipped with the necessary equipment to determine all qualitative and quantitative indicators of various types of crops.
After passing the preliminary inspection, the grain is sent for unloading. At the same time, there are 3 receiving lines equipped with tippers with rear and side unloading. The collection capacity is 200 tons per hour, and the elevator is able to collect and dry 4,500 tons of maize during the day.
The introduction of the grain flow automation system in the entire elevator is nearing the end. This is necessary to eliminate any human delay and reduce the workload on staff. The delivery trucks will then spend no more than 7 minutes on the site.
Elżbieta Czarnocka, head of the design department at FEERUM S.A.
“The facility in Wapniarka was put into use in March 2020. We designed, manufactured and delivered, according to the schedule, silos with a total capacity of nearly 103 000 m3 of grain and transport equipment with a capacity of 200 t / h. The biggest challenge in designing the devices and technology of the Wapniarka facility was to adapt to the existing infrastructure. In accordance with the wishes of our client – Epicentr Agro, we have adapted to the unusual foundation where the paths of two sub-silo redlers intersect. We also showed great flexibility when designing the supports, so that the technological routes used allow for efficient and quick operation of the entire facility. Due to the solutions implemented during the construction of the previous silos, most of the forces in the facility had to be transferred to our supporting elements. Instead of creating an additional support along the entire height of the tank, we have adapted one of our silos to withstand double loads from galleries and transports. In this way, we avoided building a separate, huge and expensive structure. And the structure of the gallery itself, despite the fact that it is located at a height of 31 meters, provides service technicians with comfortable and safe access to the drive and tensioning station of the bucket elevator and other transporting devices.”
Transport and cleaning
During the construction of the first stage of the elevator, the transport equipment (bucket elevators and chain conveyors) was provided by Petkus. In the second stage, FEERUM belt conveyors were selected. It was a challenge to combine different types of transport systems from different manufacturers, but it was successfully done.
According to Dmytro Humennyi, director of the Wapniarka elevator, the operation of different types of conveyors varies significantly. “There is a noticeable difference in grain damage, but no less important is the power requirement for this type of conveyor. Belt conveyors cause little damage to the grain and require much less power to operate. They have 5.5 kW electric motors installed, while chain conveyors require tens of kilowatts.”
Due to the large number of transhipments, Marot drum separators were installed. There are 4 machines in total: two Marot A4010 pre-cleaning machines and two Marot EAC 2004 secondary cleaning machines. All machines can be used during collection to ensure maximum efficiency. All separators are equipped with suction columns, so that no dust is emitted during cleaning.
As mentioned above, the two dryers of the French manufacturer LAW consist of three columns. Each column has a capacity of 60 tons per hour with a humidity of 20 to 14%. The first season of operation proved their high energy efficiency. The gas consumption was 6.4 m3 to remove 6% of the moisture from a ton of corn. This means that 1.07 m3 of gas is consumed per ton. Dryers are equipped with a heat recovery system, as well as rotary filters that purify the air from contaminants. Additionally, the air channels are closed when the grain is unloaded to prevent dust from escaping to the outside. Overall, the dryers are technically advanced and can run at peak performance without long downtimes. Cleaning and maintenance is done once a week and can be easily done in one shift.
Depending on the volume and moisture of the grain, each dryer column can be used separately as well as two or three columns together as one dryer. This means that for small quantities of products only one drying column can be used, thus saving fuel and equipment.
Storage and transport
Grain is reloaded from receiving baskets into 6 temporary storage tanks, 690 tons each. These tanks were supplied by Petkus during the construction of the first stage. 20 silos with a capacity of 10,000 m3 each are used for long-term storage. tons, produced by Petkus (12 silos) and FEERUM (8 silos). Petkus silos are equipped with 4 ventilation fans and ventilation openings on the roof. Cable thermometry consists of 17 suspensions in each silo, on each of which 6 to 8 sensors are installed. The silos of the Polish producer FEERUM are equipped with two air fans and one extractor. Of course, there is also cable thermometry, which allows you to monitor the condition of the grain at any time. Both manufacturers’ silos are equipped with screw scrapers with a capacity of 80 t/h.
The wagons are loaded at two points simultaneously. Each is equipped with 5-section forwarding silos with a capacity of 100 tons. The total loading capacity is 54 wagons per day. Both railway lines involved in the transport are equipped with winches that can move the wagons in both directions. The facility is also equipped with its own TGM-4A locomotive, which is used to move wagons within the enterprise, as well as between the facility and the station. In total, 6 railway lines were built on the premises of the drying and storage complex, which combine into one route. Road transport takes place from one point, equipped with three forwarding silos with a capacity of 50 tons.
Servicing the facility
After the end of the season, service work is carried out, which is divided into 2 stages. The first is to check all movable and stationary equipment that wears out quickly and may need to be replaced. After all technical problems have been resolved, all grain storage tanks and transport equipment are fumigated to prevent the remains of last year’s diseases and pests from becoming a threat to the next harvest. Service works in the drying and storage complexes begin in March and end in June, before the start of the season.
Epicentr Agro’s elevator department is actively developing. This applies to new facilities that were acquired during the acquisition of Svarog. It should be noted that these elevators were better suited to work with large numbers of crops. After the takeover of Epicentr Agro, the cultivation structure changed significantly: niche crops were excluded, the main cereals, maize and sunflower remained. When in the first year of farming in the lands of Svarog, 200 000 tons of harvest were expected from maize alone, it became clear that there was not enough space to store it. The total capacity of the Svarog elevator network was only 120 000 tons.
What’s happening now? In Antoniny, the old elevator was dismantled and a contract was signed with FEERUM for the construction of a new facility with a capacity of 120 000 tons of simultaneous storage. For the maize harvest, it will be possible to collect a massive 6 000 tonnes per day, or even 7 000 tonnes for the remaining cereals. The dryers have already been installed, other devices are being installed.
The facility in Polonne was also dismantled. A new complex will also be built there, currently talks are underway about the volume – 100 or 60 thousand. tone. Initially, 100 000 were planned, but the decision to build additional reservoirs in the neighboring complexes – Antoniny, Shepetivka and Chotyrbok, such a large capacity is no longer required. On the other hand, the undoubted advantages of the facility in Polonne are good electrified railway infrastructure and good quality infrastructure. Another important factor is land reform. Most of the major market players are in no rush to invest heavily in infrastructure, as around 10% of landowners will be willing to sell their land as soon as the land market opens. There will be a significant redistribution of land assets, which may affect the development strategy of agricultural enterprises.
Contracts for the construction of new Shepetivka and Chotyrbok elevators have already been signed. The facility in Shepetivka will have a capacity of 120 000 tonnes of simultaneous storage, transport equipment with a capacity of 250 tonnes per hour and drying rooms with the possibility of drying up to 8 000 tonnes per day. In Chotyrbok, a half-smaller facility is planned – 60 000 tons, with a receipt of 4 000 tons per day. The works are underway, and the commissioning of the facilities is planned for the 2021 season.
Concentration of efforts
Svietlana Nikitiuk said that every year agronomists consult the sales department to prioritize the crop structure. Market trends are the main factors influencing this process. For example, for three years in a row, sunflower with a high oleic acid content was mainly sown, as it was in great demand by the food industry. However, the pandemic and its related restrictions heavily impacted restaurant and fast food operations, and demand for high oleic sunflower seeds declined. Therefore, this year it was decided to reduce the share of high oleic sunflower to 50%. Currently, the cultivation structure is as follows: corn 75 000 ha, sunflower 53 000 ha, wheat 16 500 ha, rape 8 000 ha.
The company continues to expand its land bank, but has no plans to expand its geographic presence yet. First of all, expansion into the territory of Khmelnytsky Oblast, as well as Vinnytsia and Kiev Oblasts is being considered.
“One of the areas of optimization is increasing the share of own seeds, as this cost item is very high on the farm scale. By communicating with the farms, we see that, having considerable land assets, they themselves grow about 90% of their (own) corn and soybeans. We are also striving for such numbers, so our seeds department is being modernized and gradually increases the efficiency ” – said Svietlana Nikitiuk.
Title of the original: Готовий зберігати
Text published in Ukrainian in the May edition of The Ukrainian Farmer download