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January 31, 2024

The Elements of Success: The Keg River Chemical Story (Part 1)

Part 1: The Road to Keg River

Twenty-five years ago, Daryl and Sherry Schuster made a bold business decision.

The couple had been involved in manufacturing a premium calcium chloride product at their Edmonton plant. Calcium chloride is commonly used as an ice melt to reduce dust on busy roads. It’s also widely used in the oil & gas industry to make drilling mud or to reduce well pressure during servicing.

But Daryl wanted to return to his roots in agriculture and resume manufacturing elemental sulfur fertilizer.

This is the story of Keg River’s rise from upstart to North America’s quality leader in bentonite sulfur fertilizer.

While the company we know today was officially established in 1998, this story goes back much further.

Richard “Dick” Schuster, serial entrepreneur and sulfur fertilizer pioneer, posing in a photo booth at the Calgary Stampede (sometime between 1970-72).

It all started with a truck… and a drive for business.

Richard “Dick” Schuster was a serial entrepreneur. In the 1950s, he started his first business venture: a trucking business called Mercury Tanklines. Richard had a sharp mind for finance and would continually be looking for opportunities to buy up struggling companies and turn them around for a profit. This took the family, including young Daryl, across North America.

In 1964, Richard founded Tiger Chemical. Initially, he provided transport services for sulfuric acid and alum. By 1976, they expanded into calcium chloride, soda ash, potash, as well as ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate and sulphur. The services grew to include packaging and warehousing of these chemicals. Richard Schuster’s two daughters and son Daryl were involved in the family business.

A young Daryl Schuster stands on one of his dad’s rigs in 1964. 24 years later, a similar photo was taken with Daryl’s eldest son, Scott in 1988.

1983 was a pivotal year. They began manufacturing and distributing many of these chemicals themselves. They also brought in an ingenious process for making pastilles from Austria to North America. The company applied this technology to their bentonite sulfur fertilizers and calcium chloride products. Making pastille sulfur in this way has since become an industry standard worldwide.

Tornado Strikes Edmonton Plant: On July 31, 1987, a deadly tornado touched down in Edmonton – killing 23 and destroying over 300 homes. Richard Schuster’s plant was in the path and was completely leveled. Fortunately, no employees were injured. Hard work was put into rebuilding the facility.

Keg River Chemical is born

As an astute learner who developed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of bentonite clay, Daryl Schuster had ambitious plans and a game-changing product that would shake up the industry.

To be continued…

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