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Posts Tagged ‘Vortex Tools’

Half his garage was ammo; the other half was tequila. That was the first thing I noticed when I pulled up to Richard’s house in Austin.

We were slated to ride to Lubbock, Texas to present at a local event, and he was driving. What I did not know at the time was that, because he had no use of his legs, Richard drove his Chevy Suburban entirely with his hands. This would be fine, except that he also talked on his phones (yes, plural), smoked repeatedly, and… wait, how many hands do you have again? Then he’d take a corner fast and guns would come sliding out from beneath the seats to greet your feet (it’s Texas, people).

This was our VP Operations of Vortex Tools: Richard C. Haas.

As a kid, Richard was diagnosed with polio, wore leg braces, and was then wheelchair-bound almost his entire life. The son of an oil man, he followed his father’s footsteps, but his approach required more grit and determination: Oil & gas rigs do not have disabled access. This meant that Richard would leave his wheelchair off to the side and slide around using his upper body strength. A rig can be a brutal environment when you’re standing on your feet and Richard would drag his body along to get the job done.

If there was an award, he received it (he was voted Aggie of the Year at Texas A&M twice). If there was a featured role—instructor, speaker, Club President, Chairman of the Board—he got it. He received two patents and wrote several articles and White Papers. After negotiating oil & gas deals around the world (in the U.S., Mexico, and the Gambia), Richard settled back in near Austin, Texas. In 2001, he helped found Border to Border Exploration. Under his drilling guidance, BBX turned a $2.4 million investment into a billion-dollar asset value—making them one of the top independents in the U.S.

In 2011, he joined Vortex Tools to explore innovative uses of our optimization tools. In drilling, he’d complete a well in less time and for less money than other companies in the area. As an operator, he’d get more production from his wells, and that was the kind of innovation we wanted in our company. Since Richard entered the industry when oil was a mere $20 a barrel and gas a bare 10 cents an MCF, he was always looking to, as he said, “get the last squeal out of the pig.”

As a company, we believe that, despite what you may think of the oil & gas industry, it’s the key resource we have right now, so we should make it as optimal and as clean as possible. Richard’s approach fit right into that viewpoint.

He also drank repeatedly brewed iced tea that had the consistency of motor oil. First time he offered me some, my boss shook his head. I took it anyway, drank down a couple of inches, and shook wide awake until 2 AM.

And in June, Richard suffered a stroke. Three months later, he passed.

He’s survived by his wife, six adult children, several grandkids, and many friends who can tell you more about his home life, but I’ll speak to our coworker: In an industry where everyone thinks they know everything, people listened to him. In an industry where there’s so much success, he was revered.

In short: The man was a notch above.

Here’s to our friend and coworker, Ricardo.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Last week I noted that much of the oil & gas industry is waiting to see what President Trump will do. While consensus was that he would likely scale back regulations, the question was how fast and how consistent he’ll be. Today—essentially the second work day of the Trump administration—gave the initial answer, as President Trump signed executive actions to advance Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. While this does not provide the permits required to build these pipelines, it essentially paves their way for approval.

Keystone Pipeline Route

Keystone Pipeline Route

If you aren’t familiar with the Keystone pipeline system, it allows for the transportation of oil & gas production between Alberta, Canada to several refineries and distribution centers in the U.S. (including Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas). Despite protests over the XL phase of the Keystone system, many people don’t know is that the first three phases of this pipeline are already in place (phase one since 2010). The proposed XL phase of the system—which essentially duplicates the first three phases with shorter routes, while adding in oil & gas production from Montana/North Dakota—became a battleground over climate change and the value of fossil fuels in today’s world. Given the way politics works, it also became a dividing issue between democrats and republicans. Former President Obama rejected the Keystone XL phase in 2015 while President Trump, when campaigning in 2016, insisted he would approve it.

While many in the oil & gas industry view Keystone XL as key to growing U.S. prominence in the market while reducing dependency on foreign oil, the big complaint over the Keystone XL pipeline was in the environmental danger of routing over the Sandhills in Nebraska:

Boiling sands are areas where sandy soil is so thin that groundwater can bubble up through it to the surface. In Nebraska, they are found in the Sand Hills, an ecologically sensitive region of grass-covered dunes underlain by a giant freshwater aquifer, called the Ogallala, that sustains agricultural production down the centre of America.

In addition to the unforeseen environmental consequences, others argue that the route threatens the water supply of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The Dakota Access pipeline—an 1,172-mile-long, underground pipeline beginning in the rich Bakken oilfields of North Dakota and ending near Patoka, Illinois—has also seen protests and push-back. Although mostly completed, the current route does not have approval. Given today’s executive orders, both the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline are closer to approval than they’ve been in years.

President Trump insisted on that both projects are “subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated by us.” While it is uncertain what this means regarding environmental impact, President Trump has already given some insight about what this means for U.S. jobs, believing that U.S. pipeline should be constructed in the U.S., thereby “putting a lot of steel workers back to work.” He also believes Keystone XL will add 28,000 construction jobs. There is expected push-back from democrats and environmentalists, but without current political maneuverability, those roadblocks may be a thing of the past.

EDIT: Revised White House stance on U.S. steel: http://www.ogj.com/articles/2017/03/white-house-keystone-xl-will-not-use-us-produced-steel.html

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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donald-trump1So I’ve been quiet for a wee while. Call it 10 months of quiet?

Part of it is that little has changed in the industries I work in:

Oil & Gas   

Every commodity has its ups and downs, but oil & gas has swirled around its latest downturn since June 2014. It’s the same old story: Ask a dozen talking heads why this happened and you’ll get a dozen different answers (bonus points if the speaker gives contradictory views of OPEC in the same hypothesis). Despite that, there are reasons to be hopeful, including rig counts increasing most weeks. While some of that is because exploration had stalled for long enough that eventually you can’t go anywhere but up, more rigs equals more new drilling, and new production—whether it should be or not—is the accepted indicator of oil & gas health in the U.S.

Despite these hopeful signs, as of early 2017, the industry is still largely on hold. Normally this happens in January each year because companies are still waiting for approved annual budgets to proceed with anything. In lean times, annual budgets can sometimes be held back until February or March. However, this year, everyone is waiting to see what President Trump will do. Whether individuals may have a favorable or negative view of Donald Trump, the oil & gas companies overall believe his policies will be favorable to the industry. How many regulations will be scaled back and how consistent he’ll be has yet to be seen, but in every meeting, every phone call, and every email, the same hold line comes up: “Let’s see what President Trump will do.”

Water

I’ll make this one short: People still don’t care about water.

There’s a belief that we will care about water someday soon, but it’s the same belief accompanied with the same inaction year after year. Even environmentalists don’t care that much about water. It still takes a backseat to solar power and wind power.

I met with a guy this week who talked about his company’s testing water standards 15-20 years ago. At the end of their filtration, they’d have some of the water off to the side, and place a catfish in there. If you killed that bottom feeder, then you knew you messed up. While standards have gotten more objective than seeing if you can keep from killing a bacteria loving vacuum-fish, they aren’t universal. Every industry needs regulation; the goal is to have good regulation—promoting safety for people and the environment while allowing businesses to pursue success—but it’s easy to get the pendulum swinging in the wrong direction.

Since I mentioned wind power and solar energy:

  • There are still (inaccurate) stories about too many birds getting diced by wind power turbines. What I don’t hear is that the wind power design you’re most likely to see are some of the least efficient. Making lighter blades, using lighter material—none of this changes the limitations of the design. Most of the better designs—that appear more static, but are better at generating energy off each vibration—don’t make it to market, but that’s any industry: the best design rarely gets the market share (or even a viable business).
  • Solar still has issues with sourcing the right metals. This metal needs to be A) affordable; and B) have consistent high conductivity. The issue is that it’s still hard to find both. If the metal is affordable, it’s often not in the U.S., but making sure you get what you paid for is harder when you’re thousands of miles away. Then, if the metal is of the right quality, it’s harder to get affordably and consistently. Thus any innovation of the solar power industry is still limited by basic sourcing issues.

Okay, so things are kind of stuck, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that anger does little to build anything meaningful. As Sam Rayburn said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.” Whatever the future of water and oil & gas hold, I want to be a part of building it well.

Let’s get pushing.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools looks at the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal. 

It’s a new week, which means it’s time for another story featuring environmental failure.

Admittedly, that’s the reality of most news. If it doesn’t fall under tragedy, villainy, or novelty, it doesn’t get much play, so in the environmental world, you often get stuck reviewing stories of the impending global warming apocalypse, eco-villains circumventing environmental regulations, or novelty technologies that are more entertaining that sustainable (I’m looking at you, anything that begins with “Give me your trash…”).

This week, it was door #2—eco-villains circumventing environmental regulations—with Volkswagen admitting to skirting EPA car emissions. If you haven’t been following the story, here’s what you need to know:

  • More cars on the road leads to increased carbon emissions. We’ve sought to taper this down via technology (improving the fuel source and vehicular design) and regulation (EPA emissions standards). Plenty of people have disputed the approach of both. Some say we should have left gasoline behind long ago; others argue that the efficiency of unleaded gasoline isn’t worth the slim environmental benefits it brings.
  • Here’s what you can’t do: You can’t design your car to get around regulations. That’s what Volkswagen did in their 2009-2015 model diesel engine cars (and those sold under the Audi brand) in the United States. Basically the car software detects when it’s being tested for NOx emissions then enables controls to automatically pass the test. Easy A, right?
  • So now, while your sweet ride’s engine performed better with improved gas mileage, pollution limits are believed to be 40 times above the legal limit. If you were to put that in drinking terms, this is equivalent to the kind of drunk that has you waking up in a different state without pants or memory of the last 12 hours. Except in this case, it’s not a body or a car taking the damage, it’s a planet. The current count on these modified vehicles recalled is 11,000.
  • In the wake of the scandal, Volkswagen stock prices and consumer ratings have plummeted. Although he states he was unaware of the software modifications, Volkswagen’s Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn stepped down on September 23rd. They’re now looking at legal consequences and losses which are expected to equate to billions.
  • Volkswagen has since hired the same law firm (Kirkland & Ellis) that defended BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While I imagine that doesn’t inspire trust in the Volkswagen consumer, BP still turned a profit the year of that oil spill. With Volkswagen being the second largest automobile maker in the world, they’ll be looking for a similar “successful” result.

However, the big thing in all this is that I’ll forever cringe when I see a picture of a hippie next to an old slug bug.

Found on activerain.com

Found on activerain.com

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools discusses the Northern Colorado Energy Summit (#2015EnergySummit) and an energy future based on low oil and gas prices.

Last week I spoke at the Northern Colorado Energy Summit in Loveland, Colorado (#2015EnergySummit). That’s me—second from the right—missing the suit jacket memo:

EnergySummitPic

As the Summit was titled “Drilling Down: The Economic Impact of Declining Energy Prices,” Vortex Tools was invited to speak on our applications recovering more oil condensates and reducing operational costs. We’ll be speaking on similar topics at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit conference: August 24th-27th, 2015.

As with any trade show, the NoCo Energy Summit had booths loaded with swag (“I don’t know what this is, but I’m taking it anyway”), free meals and coffee, a fat stack of business cards exchanged, and, if you weren’t farting around on your smartphone the whole time, some great info to be gleaned from the panels. Of note:

Oil Prices Will Remain Low

I know, you get 10 speculators on stage and you’ll get 10 different opinions as to why oil and gas prices are low and if/when they’ll come back, but when you average them all out, very few think oil prices will get much above $60/barrel by year’s end. You can blame strict air quality regulations; you can blame the recent Iran deal; you can blame the downturn in the Chinese stock market (like I said, multiple speculators equals multiple opinions), but even with the small ups and downs this year, oil prices remain low overall.

Dan Kearney is the Senior Business Development Analyst with Noble Energy. When asked about whether the worst is over with low oil prices, he said, “I think we’re in between storms, and that we’ll continue to be between storms.” A recent uptick in oil prices led to producers flooding the market—hoping to grab part of that value increase along with everyone else—and this saturated the market, dropping oil prices back down again.

Another Low is Coming in 2015

Sarp Ozkan is an oil and gas Market Analyst for Ponderosa Energy. When asked the same question as above, he said that the next oil price drop will come in October or November this year. That seemed more specific than the rest, but he had good reason: That’s refinery maintenance season (and they’re currently running at 90%+ of capacity—leading to problems when they’re shut down).

$100+/Barrel Oil Wasn’t Very Realistic (Or Likely to Return Soon)

So things aren’t looking too great for 2015 oil prices and, as noted during the Summit, no OPEC country is balancing its budget at $50 oil. While some lament that $100/barrel oil is far, far away (if ever again), Ozkan ran the numbers as to where the oil and gas market can do well with lower prices. After factoring in lower commodity prices, increased regulations, and reducing operational costs to keep up, the price-per-barrel point to see good margins was $65/barrel. $60/barrel was about breakeven; below that was a loss; but $65/barrel is the marker where the industry profitability opens back up. At least that’s one analyst’s view.

The Global Middle Class is Growing and Needs Energy

Tisha Schuller was the President/CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) for five years and now serves as Project Director for Stanford University’s Natural Gas Initiative. Schuller began her career as an environmentalist, but became an oil and gas advocate for two main reasons:

  1. When comparing the total impact (energy output versus environmental imprint) of oil and gas versus alternative energy options, the numbers were heavily in favor of oil and gas; and
  2. She realized that giving access to this abundant energy resource is one of the best things you do for impoverished communities. Otherwise you are limited by daylight and what your body can do. Even in Colorado, abundant and affordable energy is valuable. For those living below the poverty line, 25% of their income is spent on energy. Schuller also noted that pesky detail that everything you’re standing on, sitting on, leaning on, texting on comes from petroleum.

As the breakfast keynote speaker, Schuller noted some reasons to be positive despite the down energy market:

  • Although it feels like the middle class in the U.S. is getting smaller, the global middle class is growing—mostly in Asia. According to Reuter’s, it will more than double in size by 2030.
  • With this growth will come great demand for energy, and 84% of it will be from oil and gas. It is currently estimated the need will be above the supply. When it comes to basic economics, you know what that does to prices.
  • Many believe that this will enable the U.S. to export oil. As someone later stated, “If Iran can, the U.S. should be able to also.” Analysts believe that the U.S. leaves $5.50/barrel of profit on the table by not exporting oil.
  • Operational costs continue to come down (hello, Vortex tools) as do emissions. Currently, CO2 emissions in the U.S. are down to 1992 levels. The U.S. is the only country to achieve this as a free market.

So the oil and gas market has reasons to be hopeful; just most of them aren’t showing up in 2015…

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Kintigh_Generating_Station_-_Somerset,_New_YorkVortex Tools covers the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to limit power plant emissions.

It’s been a spotlight year for the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). One week, a political group can claim SCOTUS is finally leading on an issue that is overdue for reform; the next week, the same group can gripe that the same SCOTUS shouldn’t overstep their bounds and should respect the laws as is. Yay, politics?

So this is the SCOTUS ruling this week:

The basics:

  • In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed new regulations on coal- and oil-fired power plant emissions. These rules—on curbing mercury and other hazardous air pollutants—were supposed to take place in April 2016 and included capturing 90% of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants (before they get released into the air), reducing 88% of acid gas emissions from power plants, and reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 41%.
  • However, 21 states and industry groups challenged the regulations in front of the Supreme Court, and on June 29th, 2015, they voted 5-4 against the EPA. The main reasoning was that the EPA did not reasonably consider the costs of these regulations, and the majority of SCOTUS believes that the economic cost—costing $9.6 billion to install/operate equipment to remove mercury pollutants—disproportionately exceeded the health and environmental benefits.
  • The dissent believed that the EPA had considered these costs at the later stages of the project. They estimated that while the costs were nearly $10 billion for energy companies to get into compliance, they argued benefits of $37 to $90 billion annually. However, the majority of SCOTUS did not agree, and the EPA now returns to lower courts to account for the costs of compliance.

The interpretation:

  • Saying that the EPA overreached and didn’t consider the plausibility of enforcing such a standard is a common complaint from the industries looking at regulation. However, there are previous examples where this has not helped, like with cellulosic ethanol standards in gasoline—where the standards were unattainable, but the EPA enforced fines anyway.
  • Energy companies rarely like regulation, and as much as they say that they’ll regulate themselves, it rarely happens unless they’re forced into it, so some regulation is needed. Once regulations are enforced, innovation happens. However, this is not always the case (again, looking at ethanol standards in gasoline: lignocellulosic ethanol was supposed to be the great equalizer, but it wound up being a fantasy fuel that remains unproven, and the regulations remain unattainable).
  • This was the first of President Obama’s energy regulations to make it up to the Supreme Court, and with the ruling, it sets a precedence for the rest. Now state courts can point to a ruling from above them and this may well stop other energy cases from reaching the Supreme Court again. Regardless, as the regulations were announced at the end of 2011, some power plant companies already made an attempt to comply with the regulations.

However it goes, political groups will still have plenty to complain about next week.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools looks at the Toyota Mirai—one of the first commercially sold hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The Japanese car company’s latest video explores some of the more creative ways Toyota can run this fuel cell vehicle (FCV).

If you read the title, you know this one will be NSFW (due to language), but since warnings don’t really work well in snappy titles, sorry…

Anyway, this is the Toyota Mirai (“Mirai” means “future” in Japanese):

Toyota_mirai_trimmed

The Mirai was revealed in November 2014 and Toyota plans to build and sell 700 of them globally in 2015. The car will sell in the U.S. for about $60,000 and only in California at first. Japan already has subsidies in place, but at this stage, it is unclear what government incentives will help promote hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the States.

So how does it work?

Yes, the video is light on the extensive process of how they strip the hydrogen from manure then use it to fuel cars, but hey, it’s a three-minute marketing piece for the everyman.

On their site, Toyota even admits that this cow manure approach is more of an attention grabber (as part of their “Fueled By Everything” campaign) than a reliable, sustainable approach:

While cow manure contains plenty of hydrogen, it’s not commonly used in the U.S. to create the biogas needed for this process. Today’s market biogas mostly comes from landfill waste, with food and green waste also showing lots of potential.   

As mentioned previously, you can run a car on just about anything—algae, cheese, unreleased Michael Bolton b-sides, maybe?—it’s just a matter of how efficient it is and how bad you’ll sound/smell coming down the road. So while hydrogen is indeed abundant, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be in an available enough format for fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to cover a full road trip.

However, as Toyota began working on this technology in 1992, and they’ve extensively crash tested with their high-pressure hydrogen tanks, it’s likely that we’re, at the very least, beyond the stage of where people should be concerned about driving around a four-wheel hydrogen bomb. Whether that’s enough to have a successful path through the current car climate remains to be seen.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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