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Calgary infrastructure company acquires Taylor pulp mill

Distribution hub set to transform northeastern B.C. site and open in 2025
Buffalo Rail of Calgary plans to transform Canfor’s former pulp mill in Taylor, B.C., into a logistics hub for northern B.C.

Canfor Pulp Products Inc.’s decision to shut down its pulp mill in Taylor, B.C., has set the stage for diversification of the region’s economy.

The 35-year-old mill, together with approximately 350 acres of land zoned for heavy industrial use, sold March 15 to Calgary-based company Buffalo Rail and Infrastructure Corp. for $7 million.

“The scale of this property and the visibility to development are what make it very interesting for us,” Buffalo Rail president and CEO Jarrett Zielinski said. “It was a distribution hub, but it was only a distribution hub for pulp products.”

Canfor closed the mill in 2023, along with a pulp line in Prince George and its Chetwynd sawmill, citing a lack of fibre.

Now, the property will be redeveloped to handle unit trains hauling frac sand from Wisconsin to the natural gas fields of northeastern B.C.

Frac sand is injected into rock formations as part of the hydraulic fracking process. The grains prop open the fractures created in the rock, and the uniform size allows an even outflow of natural gas.

“Right now in the region there does not exist a rail terminal that can accept a unit train of any sort; we will be able to do that,” Zielinski said.

Unit trains travel from origin to destination without being split up. The large number of cars in each unit – often 90 or more – require large yards where they can be efficiently unloaded and returned to service.

“[We’ll] be able to receive a unit train and unload it within 24 hours,” Zielinski said. “The scale of infrastructure up that way just doesn’t exist. Our competitors are on 20 acres with no room to expand.”

Buffalo Rail plans to invest over $50 million dollars in Taylor, with the first phase operational by mid 2025. The assets will be placed in a holding company while its sibling company Torq Energy Logistics Ltd. will manage the facility.

Torq operates eight other rail terminals in Western Canada, primarily in Saskatchewan. However, it also has a facility in Buick, north of Fort St. John, with 8,000 feet in track and a capacity of 150+ cars with substantial land for expansion.

Buffalo Rail has had discussions with two fracking companies to date. It’s also courting companies in the agriculture sector and others as potential clients for the planned Taylor facility.

“It is innovative and heartening to see an industrial site invested in and repurposed at a time where by and large we’re struggling to invest capital to northern B.C.,” said Joel McKay, CEO with the economic development Northern Development Initiative Trust in Prince George, which supports economic development in northern B.C. “[We’re] glad to see someone looking at that site and not just seeing a restart of pulp and paper operations.”