T BAILEY INC. was commissioned to design, fabricate, and deliver 25 tanks for a new pulp plant on the Snake River in Washington State. The pulp plant was being built by Columbia Pulp LLC in reaction to recent regulation changes for wheat farmers in Eastern Washington.
This project presented our fabricators with a number of unique challenges, each of which our team solved in industry-leading fashion.
To learn more about how T BAILEY INC. stands out as an innovator in the world of pulp tank fabrication, read on!
How Regulation Changes Led to the Construction of the Pulp Plant
Chaff buildup on wheat fields is a problem for farmers because these husks can eventually become so thick that they prevent wheat from growing properly.
In the past, farmers dealt with this problem by running controlled burns across their fields every few years. This would destroy the chaff and promote healthy wheat growth.
Unfortunately, despite its convenience, field-burning comes with a wide variety of risks. And for this reason, many counties in Washington State have recently moved to ban the practice.
New regulations now dictate that most wheat farmers must remove the chaff from their fields — not burn it. Farmers now have a massive surplus of wheat chaff and need a way to dispose of it.
Enter Columbia Pulp LLC.
Columbia Pulp takes the chaff from off the fields, brings it to one of their processing plants, and recycles the husks into unbleached pulp and wet lap. The by-products of the pulping process are also recycled, forming a material called “Co-product” which can be used in a number of applications, including de-icing and dust suppression.
Due to the recent field-burning regulation changes along the Snake River, Columbia Pulp decided to build a new processing plant in the area. The new plant was scheduled to go into operation by Q1 2019, when it would start serving all the wheat farmers within a 200-mile radius.
The Pulp Plant’s Shop-Built and Field-Erected Tanks
Columbia Pulp LLC brought T BAILEY INC. onto the project to design, fabricate, and deliver 23 shop-built tanks and 2 field-erected tanks. These tanks ranged in size from 14’ in diameter and 12’ high, to 12’ in diameter and 34’ high.
The Shop-Built Tanks
The 23 shop-built tanks were designed to do one of two things:
- Store chaff as it was moved from one stage of the pulping process to the next.
- Hold the chemicals that were required for various stages of the pulping process.
This meant that the tanks would constantly be loading and unloading product, which required our design team to outfit each tank with a massive amount of piping.
While the interiors of the tanks were not coated, the majority of tank exteriors were shop-coated with an 80mm layer of high density polyurethane insulation. This was applied like a very thick paint.
The reason for the insulation was that most of the shop-built tanks were designed to store a hot product which would heat the steel exterior to over 200 degrees. Since plant workers would be constantly moving around the tanks, this high temperature posed a dangerous health risk to the facility’s employees.
T BAILEY INC.’s high density polyurethane insulation reduced external temperatures by 80 degrees, creating a safe work environment for Columbia Pulp employees.
The shop-built tanks were designed and fabricated in-house. Completed tanks were delivered to the job site by T BAILEY INC., where another Columbia Pulp contractor would crane the tanks off and set them.
T BAILEY INC.’s Field-Erected Tanks
The 2 field-erected tanks were massive, with a diameter of 12’ and a height of 34’. These tanks were fabricated out of stainless steel and were designed to be the plant’s “mix tanks.”
The mix tanks marked the start of the refining process. They would receive the raw chaff material — pushed into the tanks via a large hopper. Once inside, massive blades would blend the chaff and mix it up with chemicals and water. After sufficient blending, the product would then be piped out and on to another tank for further processing.
T BAILEY INC. sent out our own welders and construction crew to the job site to assemble and finish these two tanks.
The Challenges We Faced While Fabricating These Tanks
One challenge that has already been mentioned was the need for exterior tank insulation. Not every challenge our team faced was as easy to solve as that one.
Here are a few of the more difficult and colorful challenges we overcame.
Challenge #1: Welding Stainless Steel in a Windy Gorge
As mentioned above, both of the tanks we field-erected were fabricated out of stainless steel.
Welding stainless steel is a challenge even in good weather conditions. So to make matters worse, our welders were faced with a deep river gorge that channeled wind through the job site at over 30 miles per hour.
Welding in wind like that is basically impossible and so our team was forced to get creative in order to overcome this challenge.
By testing wind speeds over 24 hours, we found that the wind was strongest during the day and weakest at night. We also found that the wind was predictable, slowing down and speeding up at the same time each day.
Once we figured out exactly when the wind would pick up and slow down, we were able to solve our welding problem via some creative scheduling. Our crew of expert welders would begin work every morning at 5am, when the wind was slowest, and would weld until the wind sped up in the mid-morning. Then our team would come off the tanks and work on other aspects of the construction until the wind slowed down again.
By doing this, we were able to get the field-erected tanks completed on schedule.
Challenge #2: Preparing Tanks to Hold Peroxide
Another colorful challenge we faced was that two of the tanks we supplied were intended to store peroxide chemicals.
Both peroxide tanks were fabricated out of stainless steel and required intensive coating processes to nickel and pacify their interiors. This was needed to properly treat the stainless, enabling it to contain the peroxide and keep it pure.
The coating process was advanced and would take 4 days to complete, with multiple chemical washes and rinses required to treat the interior of the tanks.
Unfortunately, this method of coating is extremely specialized and because orders are rare, T BAILEY INC. lacked the in-house capabilities to do it ourselves.
This is where our position as an industry-leader came into play. Over the decades, we have cultivated a massive network of trusted contractors that we are able to call on for our specialized needs. So when Columbia Pulp LLC told us of their need for two peroxide tanks, we were able to bring in a team of peroxide tank experts. Our trusted partners came out to the project and orchestrated the treatment process for us.
Once they finished, our testing experts put the tank through a series of rigorous testing to ensure that the steel was properly treated and could handle the peroxide.
Challenge #3: Meeting a Demanding Delivery Schedule
The most difficult challenge for us to overcome was the client’s time frame. Columbia Pulp LLC had a very specific order in which they wanted the tanks to be completed and delivered. This was because they were building the rest of the pulp plant around the tanks, so the plant’s construction depended on the correct tanks being in place at the right time.
The pulp plant needed 3-4 tanks delivered every 2 weeks. If we failed to meet these deadlines, then we would be holding up the rest of the plant’s construction.
With liabilities like these at stake, the T BAILEY INC. team had to think outside the box so that we could streamline our design, fabrication, and delivery processes.
Fortunately, we are a one-stop-shop fabrication company — from preliminary design, all the way to delivery, we control every aspect of a tank’s fabrication. This enabled our team to tailor and adapt our processes to successfully meet Columbia Pulp’s strict deadlines.
An Expert Tank Fabricator Near You
T BAILEY INC. has a decades-long track record of fabricating the best steel tanks in the Northwest. To learn more about what our team of engineering and fabrication experts can do for your company, contact us today.
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