That big, old-timey, heavy industrial-looking thing just south of Bricktown is more earth friendly than it looks.
Producers Cooperative Oil Mill, a cottonseed and canola compress, stands out like — well, like a bunch of big barns. The industrial site is a sight in contrast to booming downtown and its office towers and Bricktown’s quaint, red-brick former industrial buildings turned eateries and attractions.
The 43-acre mill property, at 6 SE 4, is a throwback. It’s been there under the Producers Cooperative name since 1944. It was called Terminal Oil Mill before that. It was Liberty Cotton Oil Co. before that. It was Southwest Oil Compress Co. as early as 1906.
It just looks so heavy-duty, like the kind of industrial operation that would be hard to get zoning for nowadays — and never, now, right there.
But the place isn’t as scary as it looks. Austin Rose, president and CEO, in fact, said it’s downright earth-friendly because for all the tonnage of materials that come in, almost none is wasted.
From cottonseed, the mill extracts edible vegetable oil; meal, a livestock feed ingredient and source of protein; hulls, also used in livestock feed, as roughage or fiber; and linters, the short-short fibers left on seed after ginning, which go into paper, plastic and other products.
From canola, the mill makes oil sold for use in cooking and in food products, and meal, also used in animal feed.
Almost all the processes are mechanical, although some chemical processes are monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency.
How is it earth friendly?
“We buy the seed by the ton, which is 2,000 pounds, and we sell 1,930 pounds worth of products, so the only thing that’s lost is a little bit of dirt and sticks and rocks that come in with the seed. So there’s no waste,” Rose said.
He said even the field trash is used.
“We separate the foreign matter in the cleaning room where the seed is fed over seed cleaners, which are large shaker trays with holes in them to allow the seed to pass through but sift off the foreign matter. We collect this material and then sell it for a very nominal fee to landscape companies in Oklahoma City and they use it to make compost. So there is essentially nothing wasted and nothing that goes to a landfill or has to be disposed of,” Rose said.
With canola, he said, the foreign matter is even cleaner. It’s collected, he said, and “when we have enough, we pass it through a grinder and pellet mill, then sell to livestock producers as a low-protein ingredient for their feed rations. There is always more demand for these pellets than we have.”
Producers Cooperative is an industrial plant. But it seems almost green compared to lots of others. It just goes to show: You can’t tell what your neighbors are up to by the look of their place.