SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority on Thursday celebrated the opening of a facility at the Newberry Yard that significantly increases the speed and efficiency in which frack sand can be transported from the rail yard to gas drilling sites.
"In terms of the transportation of frack sand from railroad cars to trucks, this is ground zero," said county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski of the authority's new terminal at 2916 Reach Road.
The terminal, which is part of the Lycoming Valley Railroad system, is on slightly more than 6.5 acres bought by the authority in 2010 from the James Woods Co.
Guests invited to Thursday’s dedication of the newly constructed Reach Road terminal exit the silos holding sand.
The facility includes three rail sidings capable of holding 10 rail cars each and three silos, each with a capacity to hold 1,000 tons of frack sand.
Drive-through bays allow tractor-trailer trucks to drive under the silos and be loaded in about two minutes, according to Todd Hunter, marketing director for the North Shore Railroad, the company contracted by the authority to provide rail service on the authority's five short-line railroads, including the Lycoming Valley Railroad.
That is about five times faster than the conventional conveyor belt system, Hunter said.
Frack sand is brought by rail to the facility from the Midwest, Hunter said. The sand is emptied into hoppers underneath the siding tracks and moved by conveyor to the silos.
The project was a joint venture between the authority and global sand production company Unimin.
Ken Jamroz, transportation director for Unimin, said the company is leasing the facility from the authority and has hired Rocky Mountain Transload as terminal operator.
A terminal manager and crew of eight operate the facility, Jamroz said.
Primary customers will be gas industry companies such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger, Jamroz said.
The project was financed with a $1.7 million loan from Jersey Shore State Bank, $350,000 in authority funds, $490,000 in federal grant funding and $880,000 from the state Department of Transportation, according to Jeff Stover,
authority executive director.
The debt incurred by the authority will be paid through a long-term lease with Unimin, which also has invested about $4 million in the project, he said.
Don E. Bower Inc. in Berwick performed the site work and Rhinehart Railroad Construction Inc., of Fallston, Md., did the track work, Stover said.
The project was completed quickly, according to Gary Shields, president of North Shore Railroad.
Jamroz contacted Hunter in July 2010 to inquire about the possibility of locating a sand terminal in the area. From that point, it took 1 1/2 years to get the terminal built and in operation, he said.
Construction began last July and was completed on Dec. 19, according to Stover.
Speaking during the ceremony were Michael Musto, vice president of Jersey Shore State Bank; Frank Elder, product manager of Norfolk Southern Railroad; Arnie Kriner, representing state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township; state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport; and Michael Glazer, representing U.S. Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard.
Kriner said the opening of the facility is "making history" because it is part of a renewed focus on railroads, which were instrumental in building the nation.
Glazer, who worked in Williamsport in the mid-1990s when many building in the area were vacant, said the increase in economic activity in the region is easy to recognize.
"Driving here, it was amazing to see more and more businesses coming to the area," he said.