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A Midwest energy hub

By Staff | Sep 22, 2010

Components of a wind turbine — towers, blades and hubs — arrive by rail at the area operated by the Transportation Technology Services at the Manly Terminal, where they wait to be loaded onto trucks and transported to a wind energy project.

MANLY – Located just north of this south central Worth County community is the Manly Terminal, which serves one specific purpose. It’s a hub where rail and truck meet for the purpose of moving goods and commodities between the two.

On any given day there will be 400 to 450 rail cars on hand and 50 to 60 semi trucks arriving, according to facility manager Lanny Klett.

The company held an invitation-only ag tour on Sept. 1, sponsored by the agribusiness committee of the Mason City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ground for the Manly Terminal was broken in fall 2006. Originally it was planned to be a location where ethanol could be hauled in by truck and loaded on rail cars. It had the advantage of being within 300 miles of half of all the ethanol produced in the United States, Klett said.

The first loads of ethanol started in 2007. Seven rail cars at a time are loaded with ethanol pumping at a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute. The loading facility is designed so that 14 railcars – seven each on two sets of tracks – can be in place during loading.

One of the several cranes used by Transportation Technology Services to unload wind turbine components from rail cars and later onto semis.

A loaded semi of 8,000 gallons is emptied in 18 minutes. The ethanol is stored in a large tank where it waits to be loaded on rail cars.

Each day a sample is taken from the tank and its content is analyzed for that day’s shipments. Random samples are taken from the arriving semi trucks for analysis.

Specialty ethanol is shipped to Canada by rail at a rate of 200 cars per month. Specialty ethanol is manufactured for Canadian specifications with a lower water content and additional denaturing. It can not be co-mingled with ethanol for the United States so it is transferred directly from semi trailer to rail car.

Since the first loads of ethanol, other commodities are now transferred to and from the Manly Terminal.

These commodities include sodium hydroxide, known as caustic soda; sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, methanol and corn oil, both food and feed grade.

These rail cars contain sulfuric acid that has been shipped to the Manly Terminal for loading into tanker trucks for later delivery. The man in red is wearing an acid-proof suit as part of the facility’s safety requirements.

The terminal does not own any of the products it transfers, Klett said. Its function is only as a transfer agent.

An area of growth that was not part of the original plan is the area devoted to the arrival and storage of wind turbine components.

Turbines, blades, hubs and tower sections arrive by rail and are then loaded onto semis destined for wind turbine projects throughout the region.

Klett said the terminal provides employment for approximately 50 people with 11 employed by Manly Terminal, 18 by the company handling the wind turbine equipment, two workers with Iowa Northern Railway, plus semi drivers who deliver to the Manly Terminal.

The terminal is owned equally by three businesses – Iowa Northern Railroad provides rail service; LB Transport, a trucking company based in Buffalo Center; and Kenan Advantage Group, a company in the ethanol distribution business.

The Manly Terminal as viewed from the air in 2008.

The Iowa Northern Railroad runs from Manly to Cedar Rapids. Through its connections at Waterloo and Cedar Rapids it can transport products with major rail carriers providing rail access throughout the United States.

Contact Clayton Rye at “mailto:crye@wctatel.net”>crye@wctatel.net.

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