Producer’s plant provides sand for internal consumption, customers

By |  November 28, 2016

The river is running unusually high this late-April afternoon, and the weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms later in the day.

The circumstances are enough to keep Herschel Peery, plant manager at U.S. Concrete’s Red River Plant in Thackerville, Okla., on edge. A year earlier, Peery and his crew saw firsthand how the Red River is capable of suddenly threatening their sand-and-gravel operation, which is situated on the Oklahoma-Texas border.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

A workboat makes its way toward the Shark Class model dredge on the Red River. Photos by Kevin Yanik

The river there flooded in June 2015, pressing waters toward the base of U.S. Concrete’s plant. Fortunately, not a drop reached the plant. No equipment was lost. And U.S. Concrete never ran out of material during the flood.

Still, Peery knows how quickly the Red River can rise. Typically running at a depth of about 5 ft., Peery’s colleague, David Behring, speculates that the river is running somewhere around 15 ft. deep on this day. So Peery plans to pull employees and equipment out of harm’s way as the forecasted rains approach.

“I don’t care to see flooding again,” Peery says.

Neither does the plant’s dredge operator who handles a Shark Class model that’s the primary source of raw materials. The dredge is capable of reaching depths of about 30 ft. in the Red River, Behring says, but a deeper river presents undesired challenges.

“We have to make sure the dredge is not in the river when it gets too swift,” says Behring, a regional vice president and general manager at U.S. Concrete. “We have a good team that watches for when these issues come up.”

The flood a year ago fundamentally changed the geology of the mine site, Behring adds, forcing the dredge into an entirely new location in the river so production could proceed. Still, production has been steady at the Red River Plant, as U.S. Concrete produces about 600,000 tons of concrete sand here per year.

Metroplex boom

U.S. Concrete has now operated at the Red River Plant for more than two years. The company opened the plant in March 2014 to complement its existing sand-and-gravel operations.

Today, the Red River Plant largely supplies materials to the company’s concrete operations in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In fact, U.S. Concrete consumes between 65 and 75 percent of the Red River Plant’s materials internally, Behring says. Some materials are purchased externally and put to use to the north in nearby Ardmore, Okla. But the majority of the plant’s external sales are directed to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.

“This is probably one of the biggest concrete markets in the country,” Behring says. “We have four really large [concrete] producers and a strong independent in this area, so it’s really five major producers and many smaller producers.

The Red River Plant is a big reason why U.S. Concrete has a firm position in the market, although U.S. Concrete’s Chatfield and Rainbow, Texas, plants to the south provide needed materials to the metroplex, as well.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

U.S. Concrete’s David Behring, left, and Andrew Pinkerton. Behring is a regional vice president and general manager while Pinkerton is marketing communications manager.

According to Behring, the Red River Plant produces mostly concrete sand. The plant makes some fine sand and saleable rock, too.

“We’re probably running 90 percent concrete sand and 10 percent fine sand,” Behring says. “Without the blending we do, it would probably be more like 70 percent concrete sand to 30 percent fine sand.”

Manufactured sand purchased from an Oklahoma-based aggregate producer gives U.S. Concrete the blend it seeks. Considering the infrastructure boom currently taking place in the metroplex, Behring expects concrete sand production in Thackerville to continue its healthy pace in the coming years.

Few sand-and-gravel operations are situated between the metroplex and Thackerville, he adds. That bodes well for the operation’s future.

“There’s maybe one sand producer between Dallas-Fort Worth and our plant along I-35,” says Behring, who adds that four competitive sand-and-gravel operations reside in the market along the Red River.

Smooth startup

Although U.S. Concrete is still relatively new to Thackerville, mining has taken place on the property here for several decades. The property U.S. Concrete leases covers about 1,100 acres and includes both a mining site and a cattle farm.

Mining of the land was completed before U.S. Concrete arrived, but the opportunity with the river was an attractive one for the company.

“Somebody else started this site,” Behring says. “The permitting was already underway, and they already had the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers permit.”

An entity, Red River Aggregates, sold the mining rights to U.S. Concrete, which also bought the plant it currently operates from Red River Aggregates. U.S. Concrete made a few adjustments to the plant, which had previously run elsewhere before going dormant. But startup in Thackerville could not have gone much smoother, Behring says.

The plant itself is comprised of various components, including a 12-ft. x 48-ft. classifying tank, a pair of 54-in. double screw fine material washers, a 36-in. x 35-ft. logwasher and a 36-in. x 25-ft. coarse material washer. All of this equipment is Eagle Iron Works-made. Two 30-in. x 100-ft. Kolberg-Portec conveyors and two 36-in. x 120-ft. Peerless radial stacking conveyors are also central to the plant, which produces about 300 tph across two shifts.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

U.S. Concrete’s Red River Plant in Thackerville, Okla., produces about 600,000 tons of concrete sand per year.

The dredge, of course, serves as the starting point for material handling, but a 50-ft. ladder, a Caterpillar 3412 generator set and a 12-in. x 14-in. pump are vital to the production process.

“The freshwater pump for the pond moves 6,000 gallons per minute to the plant,” Behring says.

Other equipment U.S. Concrete relies on: a 6-ft. x 16-ft. Deister Machine Co. screen, two L180 loaders from Volvo Construction Equipment and a 210G excavator and 850K dozer from John Deere. The company’s Mettler-Toledo truck sales were a unique find, Behring says.

“We got those scales out of a [General Motors] plant in Arlington, Texas,” he says. “GM said we could have them. We happened to be shipping concrete to a job, and our customer told us about these scales. We just had to get them out of there.”

A top-off hopper at the scales is another piece of equipment U.S. Concrete values.

“Trucks can take 80,000 lbs. onto the freeway going back to Dallas, but if they’re only loaded with 78,000 lbs. then they can be filled as close to max as possibly courtesy of the top-off hopper,” says Behring, who adds that the hopper helps U.S. Concrete avoid overfills.

According to Behring, between 15 and 20 external customers buy from the plant. That generally drives between 150 and 200 trucks to the Red River Plant each day.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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