US salt industries experience a productive winter

By Antonio Torrisi
Published: Friday, 24 January 2014

Firms increase output of deicing road salt; Compass sales grew 31% compared to winter 2012

US salt producers are running at high operating rates to guarantee deicing road salt supply to cities which have been hit by the harsh winter.

Greg Norris, plant manager for US salt producer, American Rock Salt, told WXXI that “it’s going to become a very productive and very busy winter for us here at the salt mine.”

Norris said that the company, which is the largest producing underground salt mine in the country, is producing between 14,000 and 20,000 tpd of rock salt.

He added that American Rock Salt has built 20 salt piles across the northeastern US to keep the supply closer to customers.

US salt producer, Compass Minerals, also saw a growth in sales of 31% during the same period. The company sold 4.1m tonnes salt by the last three months of 2013, compared with sales of 2.3m tonnes for the same period of 2012.

“The frequent and widespread snowfall throughout our service territories has supported higher sales of packaged consumer and professional deicing salt as well,” Fran Malecha, Compass Minerals’ CEO, said.

Eleven representative cities within the primary North American highway, which are supplied by Compass, reported a total of 81 snow events in Q4 2013, compared with only 36 events in the same period of 2012, and a 10-year average of 44.8 events.

According to Roskill, K+S Group, which owns the second largest salt producer in the US, Morton Salt, sold 52% more deicing salt during the first nine months of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012.

Salt supply is also guaranteed by a significant stockpile, which has been accumulated by many US companies over the last two years.

Cities halved salt reserves

Several cities in the US have seen shortages in road salt supplies as a consequence of the snowy winter, but they have successfully ordered new deliveries.

According to local US news source, Springfield-News Leader, the City of Springfield, Missouri, started the winter season with a total of 6,000 tonnes salt, but was hit by a winter with rigid temperatures and snow.

“Currently, we are well under 1,000 tonnes, which is typically one-fourth of what we’d want to keep in store for snow removal,” said Ron Bailey, the city’s superintendent of streets.

Michael Middleton, district maintenance for the Missouri Department of Transportation, explained that light snowfall requires very little salt, but storms with freezing rain and ice require the use of large amounts.

The city of Milwaukee, in Southeast Wisconsin, US, has almost halved its road salt supply during this year’s rigid winter.

However, Sandy Rusch Walton, communication manager from the Department of Public Work, said to local news provider Fox6now that the city will be able to deal with rock salt supply for the remaining winter months.

In Pennsylvania, David Finch, public works director at the borough of Chambersburg, said to Public Opinion local news: “So far we estimate we’ve used about 383 tonnes of salt. We only have storage for about 250 tonnes in total.”

“We have ordered new material two times in December, and again here in January,” he added.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said to Public Opinion that remaining salt stock of 61,440 tonnes will be sufficient to handle several storms in the District 8 of the state.

Rhode Island’s spending in salt reached $28m

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has revealed that the state has spent $28.3m in road salt since 2009, for a total amount of 413,000 tonnes salt.

The RIDOT told WPRI that, although a more efficient use of salt has reduced purchases of salt in 2013 by about 14% compared with 2009, salt becomes less efficient at temperatures below 15ûF.

“In these cases, we have to increase the salt application rate or frequency, in addition to ploughing, to improve the roadway conditions,” it added.

According to WPRI, the cost of road salt in Rhode Island has dropped from $81/tonne in 2009 to $56/tonne in 2013, with a 41% reduction of the total costs. However, the price increased by $2/tonne compared with 2012.

New year opens with a tragic accident at salt firm

Finally, a workman tragically died at the International Salt’s storage facility in Pennsylvania on 2 January 2014.

According to Philadelphia Daily News, the man was buried alive by a 30-metre tall stockpile of rock salt, which collapsed during moving operations.

International Salt is a US salt producer with salt mines in Chile Tarapaca’s salt flat and with affiliated operations including Saline Diamante Branco and Empremar SA.

Brine water for deicing roads

Oil and gas companies are also positive about this year’s harsh winter.

Brine water, a by-product of oil and gas extraction operations, can help to deice roads, according to Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.

In 2003, Ohio-based oil company, Duck Creek Energy, created AquaSalina, a brine water product consisting of processed seawater, which has been used by several snow removal contractors and municipalities in Ohio.

Kris Kamps, former director of Public Service and Properties for North Royalton, Ohio, told The Daily & Sunday Jeffersonian, that he used AcquaSalina for a number of years, as it is efficient for deicing at low temperatures and environmentally friendly.