1/4 Mile Long Train Terminal Building

by Larry Stevens

Suncor Energy Success Story

See the original letter from Suncore.

The team at Suncor's Grand Junction, CO Products Transfer Terminal, like everyone in the oil & gas industry, operates in a challenging environment. They work in a physically demanding business, handling heavy equipment and exposing themselves to the elements every day. Their products are all hazardous and require special care and rigid compliance with regulatory guidelines. The railroad supply line never stops - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Stoppages and delays simply can’t happen. Competitive pressures are always a concern, as well, and productivity is critical. So the Suncor team asked a question, “How can we improve?”


The focus quickly came to the safety and protection of the men offloading the railcars. Every rail car had to be fitted with a very large hose at the bottom and then a man had to climb to the top of the railcar and open the pressure cap so the fuel could be pumped away into the holding tanks. This sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly. There are 2 tracks feeding the terminal, side by side, and the tank cars are barely 3’ apart between them. Space is tight and the tank cars are tall. The facility is also in Grand Junction, CO. Weather conditions can be brutal and are very often unpredictable. And the tank cars never stop coming.

The idea that surfaced was to build a shelter at each of the pumping stations along the line at the terminal, providing protection from the elements and safer access to the railcars. Workers who are safer, warmer and drier will be faster, more productive and less likely to make mistakes. Both the workers and the company would benefit greatly.

With a clear vision of the project in mind, Suncor’s team was ready to discuss the project with vendors. They needed a metal building supplier. Enter the Rapidset team, headed by Steve Carter. Rapidset had worked with a contractor previously to provide a truck wash bay that was erected at Suncor’s site. Suncor’s team was impressed with the ease of construction and the quality of the building, so they invited Steve to be a part of the new project discussions.

As the project unfolded, the group decided that their needs would be best served by using a catwalk to access the tops of the tank cars and that it needed to span the distance between all of the pumping stations. This changed the concept of the project significantly. Instead of individual shelters at each of the stations, the building now needed to run the full length of the terminal in order to handle the loading requirements of the catwalk. The shelter would now be about ¼ mile in total length. The regulatory environment also presented challenges in designing the building. OSHA compliance, railroad requirements, and fuel handling safety issues all affected the design of the catwalks and the building itself. These changes caused a total redesign of the building structure. The Rapidset team went above and beyond to make necessary design modifications that same day.

The design was done and appeared to be ready to go. Suncor’s group found one more important change to make. The original design called for one catwalk running down the middle of the tracks, meant to provide access to tankers on either side. On review, however, they realized that there was not enough room for two men to work the catwalk at the same time. Space was just too limited. They needed a second catwalk. Understanding the impact that this change would have on building design, Suncor feared the project would have to be totally re-done and possibly even scrapped due to the approaching deadline of the end of the year (this was mid-November - the project had to be delivered and paid for before Dec. 31). Steve and the Rapidset crew went to work. Coordinating with the catwalk manufacturer to confirm point loads and modifying the structure, Rapidset completed the redesign and had prints updated and delivered in just 2 days. The project was a go.

Designing the project was definitely a challenge, but the project isn’t done until it is erected, on time and on budget. With just seven weeks before the end of the year, production of the building required hand-holding and close monitoring to make sure the materials delivered on time. There was also no room for error in the detailing and manufacturing process. This building had to go up quickly and smoothly. Thanks to Rapidset’s keen attention to detail and commitment to customer service, the project was delivered on Dec. 28, three days ahead of the deadline. Thirteen trucks delivered the materials to Suncor’s site, each load detailed by part numbers and coordinated to be offloaded at precisely the correct location along the terminal line. The building went up perfectly, just as promised. This is amazing considering that it was December in Colorado - bitter cold, windy, and snowy. It’s even more amazing when you learn that the building was erected while the terminal was running 24/7 the whole time. The building was actually erected over the top of the railroad lines while the terminal was operational.

Customers usually say it best, so take a look at what Douglas Pumphreys, Suncor’s Manager of Western Slopes Terminals, had to say about his experience with Steve and the Rapidset team:

“I wanted to send you a note regarding the building we purchased from Rapid Set Buildings to facilitate ou[r] Safety Catwalk Project at Suncor’s Grand Junction Products Terminal.

The building has gone up without problems, as advertised, and I would especially like to thank you for the excellent service you provided regarding numerous field questions and attention to delivery time schedules. You delivered a great building on time and on budget.

I would especially like to commend you for handling the last minute changes, required by our side, to accommodate the third party catwalk structure issues. The fact that you showed up on site after delivering prints for the building we originally thought we needed, and that you were capable of changing the entire building that day was amazing.

In addition, the eight point loads to all the rigid frames requirement as confirmed by the catwalk manufacturer, on a new building size was immediately addressed and resolved. Prints were updated and delivered in 2 days. We feared a total re-do of the project would be necessary, but your help got us through without delay and rework.

Again, thank you for all the hard work in helping us get this project completed. A great product combined with great service is hard to find these days. We will definitely use Rapid Set Buildings when future projects arise.”

Industrial projects always come with unique challenges that may seem too difficult to overcome. As in the Suncor case, however, expert help can make all the difference, especially when it is delivered with outstanding customer service. The next time your project requires a metal building, call on the Rapidset Building team. You will find your experience to be just like that at Suncor - expert knowledge, outstanding service and great value.

“Come for the price, stay for the service!”