A rail loop that Richland may build at Horn Rapids Industrial Park is one of the attributes prompting a canola seed crushing company to look at building its second plant in Richland.
Carbon Cycle Crush of Spokane is considering leasing the Port of Benton's transload facility for a canola seed crushing plant.
Tim King, Carbon Cycle Crush president, said the Tri-Cities is one of six areas his company intends to open a crushing plant.
The company recently opened a plant in Oroville, just south of the Canadian border and 40 miles north of Omak. That plant is expected to be in full production by the end of September.
The company likely would hire about 15 people to operate the plant, King said. And the hope is to have local growers provide about half of the canola seed.
Some farmers grow it for the benefits it has for the soil and the next crops, but not as a crop itself, he said.
While it looks promising, there is much to do before the port and company would be ready to sign a deal, said John Haakenson, the port's director of airports and operations.
The property is vacant and includes a 7,000-square-foot facility with a rail spur, he said. It has the ability to transfer between truck and rail as well as truck to truck.
The building would suit the companies needs, but a storage silo might need to be built, King said.
Carbon Cycle Crush is a relatively young business doing new work that could benefit the area, Haakenson said.
King said he's trying to use existing facilities for the plant.
If the city does install a loop, he said that would encourage him to locate in the vicinity because the loop track would help them bring in full trains of grain out of Canada, King said. It would be easier to loop the trains around rather than back cars up onto the rail spur.
Most of the canola seed Carbon Cycle Crush processes comes from Canadian growers, King said.
Richland City Council considered the 1.5-mile rail loop project about a year ago, said Gary Ballew, Richland's economic development manager. The $2.5 million project is in the city's capital facility plan for 2012, but it still requires council approval.
The city likely would use a rail-car fee to pay back the cost of the project, Ballew said.
Ballew said he believes the city has enough potential users to take the project to city council for a final decision by early 2012.
King said Carbon Crush Cycle likely will decide in the next four months if it will locate a plant at the Port of Benton property.
Several companies are interested in the loop, including Central Washington Corn Processors, which is in the city's industrial park, Ballew said. That company previously approached the city about the project.
King said he worked for Department of Agriculture for about 25 years and has been promoting growing canola seed since the 1970s.
But farmers who grew canola seed as a crop had to haul it to Canada to sell it because that was where crushing plants were located, he said.
In Canada, plants partially crush the seed and use chemical extraction to get the oil out, which leaves a chemical residue called hexane, King said. That's a process he doesn't like, which is one reason he opened facilities that use a mechanical process to get oil from canola seed.
He said he purchased the mechanical equipment for the Oroville facility about six years ago when a Canadian plant was being rebuilt.
The equipment is flexible, so the plant can also crush other types of seeds, including camelina, which can grow in arid areas, King said.
Canola seeds are 45 percent oil. King said the mechanical process, which includes a giant press, leaves about 10 percent of the oil in the meal, or leftover material.
The meal can be used as feed for livestock, cattle and poultry, he said. It has Omega 3 and 6 acids, which benefit the animals and the humans who consume the meat, milk and eggs.
The oil can be mixed in low-quality feeds and used for fuel and lubricants, King said.