Summer 2019

Our Canadian Exports: Steelmaking Coal and Potash

From our terminal in North Vancouver, Neptune handles potash from Saskatchewan and steelmaking coal from British Columbia and Alberta. Our main business is unloading trains and loading ships. In doing so, we are part of an important supply chain, exporting in-demand Canadian commodities to markets all over the world where they are used to feed people and build communities.


Steelmaking Coal:

The Canadian steelmaking coal handled at Neptune Terminals is, as its name suggests, used in the production of steel. 

Coal is a naturally occurring rock, formed over millions of years as plants and other organic materials are buried and subjected to geological forces. Heat and pressure cause physical and chemical changes that result in carbon-rich coal.

To make steel, steelmaking coal is first brought to a high temperature in an oxygen-less oven that drives off its impurities and produces coke, a pure form of carbon. The coke is then combined with iron ore and other ingredients in a blast furnace to produce steel. 

Steel – and the coal used in the production of steel – is used to make many of the things we rely on each day, including cell phones and tablets, bicycles and kitchen appliances. Steel also plays a critical role in green energy production: wind turbines, solar panels, tidal power systems and bio-energy infrastructure all require steel. For example, 100 tonnes of steelmaking coal is required to produce the 185 tonnes of steel used in a typical wind turbine. Steel is also one of the most commonly recycled materials. 

Steelmaking coal is transported by rail from southeast British Columbia and northwest Alberta. At Neptune, it is loaded onto ships destined for steel mills around the world in countries like Korea, Japan, China, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. 

Canada is one of the world’s leading overseas exporters of steelmaking coal, second only to Australia.



Potash is a naturally occurring, water soluble crop nutrient that is crucial to agriculture worldwide.  It comes from mineral deposits approximately 1,000 meters below the earth’s surface that were formed millions of years ago by the evaporation of seas. 

Over 90 per cent of potash is used in agriculture as a fertilizer. It can either be applied directly in the granular form in which it is shipped, or blended with nitrogen and phosphate. Commercial fertilizers, including those that you might buy to help your flowers or vegetables grow at home, typically contain three nutrients which help plants to grow in different, yet important, ways:

  • Nitrogen helps a plant’s leaves grow; 
  • Phosphorus supports a plant’s root growth and flower and fruit development; and
  • Potassium (from potash) is a nutrient that improves the plant’s overall health.

Potash comes in a variety of colours, sizes and grades. Canpotex, one of the companies that owns Neptune, exports more than 15 grades of high-quality potash, the majority it through our terminal. These grades of potash are sourced from 10 different Saskatchewan mines owned by Nutrien and Mosaic.

Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer of potash, responsible for about one quarter of the world’s supply. While potash is particularly important to nations with large and growing populations to feed, such as Brazil, China, India and Indonesia, it is imported by more than 100 countries worldwide and used to fertilize crops like rice, corn, sugar cane, and many other fruits and vegetables.

Interesting fact: Potash can also be used as road de-icer, where conditions permit. Although the melting power of potash is not as great as salt, potash is gaining acceptance as an environmentally-friendly alternative.


North Shore Waterfront Gala Benefits Two Local Community Organizations

The North Shore Waterfront Gala, sponsored by five key waterfront businesses in North Vancouver – Fibreco, Kinder Morgan, Neptune, Seaspan and Western Stevedoring – took place on May 16th. Every three years, Gala organizers select North Shore not-for-profit organizations serving children and families to receive the net proceeds of the event.  This year, Hollyburn Family Services Society’s Youth Safe House and Sharing Abundance were chosen to become the Gala beneficiaries for the next three years. In 2019, each received a grant of $50,000. An additional $100,000 raised at the event was used to establish the Waterfront Industry Endowment Fund with the North Shore Community Foundation, which will enable us to provide grants to local organizations in years to come.


Hollyburn Family Services Society

Hollyburn Family Services Society’s focus is on addressing social issues in our community. Currently, this includes domestic and sexualized violence, homelessness (youth, seniors and families), and other issues that marginalize youth. The youth safe house provides short-term housing for youth ages 13-18 who are homeless or living in unsafe situations. It gives them nutritious meals, clean rooms, showers and laundry facilities and helps them until they can return home safely or find an alternative living arrangement. 

A three-year funding commitment from the Waterfront Gala will help Hollyburn reduce the number of youth who are experiencing homelessness or living in unsafe environments. The Society also looks forward to the relationships it will form with the waterfront industry, and opportunities to expand awareness.

In particular, they are hopeful that this new partnership will allow the community to better understand the impacts of youth homelessness and the benefits that programs and assets such as the youth safe house provide to youth and the community as a whole. Joy Hayden, Innovation and Engagement Specialist, says, “many local businesses struggle to find qualified employees, a situation that could be partially rectified by stabilizing our at risk youth and supporting them with housing and education so they can work and contribute to our community.”

To learn more about the important work of Hollyburn Family Services and find out how you can support them, visit


Sharing Abundance

Sharing Abundance is about inclusion. By working to address two very different types of hunger among North Shore residents, it is moving isolated people who are living in the margins into communities and treating them with dignity.

The first type of hunger is tummy hunger, or hunger for food – experienced by many people who don’t have enough money for food or access to it. The second type is heart hunger, or the issues caused by social isolation. Sharing Abundance provides programs such as a community lunch and dinner every week for families, as well as a senior’s lunch program with a featured speaker twice a month.

Lizz Lindsay, Founder of Sharing Abundance, says that for her, the impact of the waterfront industry coming together was immediately clear. “I think the thing that surprised me was the sense of pride I had in the amazing contribution to our community by the waterfront industry. I love walking around Lonsdale Quay and seeing the Gala sponsors’ businesses, and now when I look at the industrial waterfront I think, ‘oh my goodness they’re part of us.’ Being part of the Waterfront Gala is a tremendous validation that our efforts are important and recognized by the community.”  

As a new beneficiary of the North Shore Waterfront Gala, Sharing Abundance plans to use the funds they receive to support family meal programs and work towards their ultimate goal, a permanent location where they can prepare and deliver food to the community on an ongoing basis.

To learn more about Sharing Abundance and how you can help end hunger on the North Shore, visit


Neptune Profile: Co-op Summer Student Olivia Armstrong

Olivia Armstrong joined Neptune at the end of April for a co-op work term, a requirement of her university studies as she pursues her degree – Honours Bachelor of Arts in Communications (co-op) at the University of Ottawa.

What made you choose to work at Neptune?  I am studying in Ottawa, but I was born and raised in North Van and really wanted the opportunity to come home and work in my own community for the summer. My role at Neptune is a chance to branch out and learn something new and outside my comfort zone. Working with Lisa Dooling, Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations, has definitely taught me a lot about Neptune’s involvement and relationships within the community and the importance of being good corporate and community citizens. Neptune works with over 35 different local organizations, all doing great things and it’s been a pleasure working or corresponding with almost all of them. 

What advice would you give other students? A co-op experience is a great way to apply the skills you learn in the classroom and make real connections in industry. Neptune has been a really positive experience and a great first step in my communications career. The staff have made me feel extremely welcome, made the transition so easy, and helped me realize that I do want to build a career in the field of communications.


Construction Update:

If you drive along Low Level Road or live in the Moodyville area, you may have noticed that Neptune has been building an extension to the existing Neptune/Cargill overpass. Work has been progressing well. In May, contractors safely moved the bridge deck into position – quite a feat given its 75 meter span and roughly 700 tonne weight.

The next step is to tie the new overpass into the existing one. If all goes according to plan, the project is expected to be complete by late summer or early fall. This section of road will be private, on Neptune leased land and not intended for public traffic. No community impacts are anticipated from construction or future use of this section of road. For updates on this and other projects underway at Neptune, please check our website or email us at and we’ll add you to our construction notification list.