Because RCPE tracks are damaged, bentonite is trucked to Oahe Grain from Belle Fourche for load out to facilities on the East Coast.

Employees at the Oahe Grain elevator have recently been handling bentonite and dried distillers grain (DDG), products they don’t normally see.

“We’re just trying to work with everybody,” said Oahe Grain General Manager Tim Luken. “They came to us, and we offered to help them out. They’re very appreciative we can do that for them.”

Luken explains that on the RCPE short-line a “railroad bridge is out west of Fort Pierre and washouts between Fort Pierre and Rapid City” that makes delivery from Colony, WY’s Bentonite Performance Minerals to their east coast clients impossible.

“The railroad contacted us because we have the trackage that Oahe can make work to load out the bentonite cars,” said Luken. The bentonite is being hauled by pneumatic semi-trucks from western South Dakota to Onida to load the bentonite-which has the consistency of baby powder-onto the bentonite cars. “Four truckloads fill a car.”

“It’s going fine. We’re moving the cars by shuttle wagon as needed,” said Luken. Truckers from Colony, Wyoming are loading 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “They have loaded 8 cars, with another 4 to be loaded. A total of 16 cars will be loaded, and some have already shipped out.” Luken adds that there were bentonite cars sitting in Miller and Huron waiting to ship to Colony Wyoming on this side of Pierre, “Being the cars are on this side of Fort Pierre the cars could be shipped to Oahe Grain instead for loading.” The duration of loading bentonite cars are unknown due to the rail bridge repair.

The Industrial Minerals Association North America website relates that bentonite was discovered in 1890 near Fort Benton, MT. It is used in and for a number of products and industries including foundry casting; cat litter; as a pelletizing binding agent; in construction and civil engineering; for wastewater purification; as a borehole drilling sealant; as a clarification agent for beer, wine, mineral water, sugar and honey and to absorb impurities in oil; as an animal feed supplement and pelletizing aid; in cosmetics 

and pharmaceuticals; in laundry detergents and liquid hand cleaners; in paints, dyes, and polishes; in paper making; and as a catalyst in clay and fuel.

Oahe Grain is also working with Ringneck Energy-whose rail scale is currently not operational-to load out their DDGs.

“The DDG loading is going fine,” said Luken. “We have 30 cars to load while Ringneck rail scale is being repaired.”

“We’re just trying to help them out, also. Ringneck and Fagen came to us and gave us the cars. That’s what we’re doing this week.”

Things will return to normal at Oahe Grain next week when Luken says “I have to get my own product out of here.”

Oahe Grain will return to loading out DDGs if needed the following week, and then “Ringneck should be operational.”