New Solutions in Cleaning

Companies introduce new approaches to keeping ethanol facilities clean.
By Ann Bailey | June 14, 2016

Long-time companies know that one of their keys to success is to be flexible, so they not only meet the demands of loyal customers, but also attract new ones. Two industrial cleaning services are examples of companies bringing new technologies to the ethanol industry.

Arizona-based Clear Solutions USA LLC serves customers in the brewing and food industries, including 12 U.S. Anheuser Busch production facilities.  The company owns eight patents and has three pending for specially formulated cleaning solutions.

Innovative Plant Solutions is a new company with a sister firm well-known in the ethanol industry, Premium Plant Services. Both based in Hibbing, Minnesota, Premium Plant Services primarily serves customers in Minnesota and Iowa. Innovative Plant Solutions serves customers throughout the Midwest. Both provide a variety of cleaning services including dry ice blasting, hydroblasting, industrial vacuuming and sponge blasting. The companies are working to bring new dry and wet cleaning technologies to the ethanol industry. 

Ethanol Producer Magazine talked to the CEOs about their companies and what they offer the ethanol industry. Here’s an edited version of what they had to say:

Mark Parenteau
Innovative Plant Solutions

“Premium Plant Services, the sister company of Innovative Plant Solutions, decided that before it began to offer other services to the industry, even vac services, that we were going to perfect the hydroblasting side of it, and we did.  We created an industry standard of the cleaning ability for hydroblasting.

“Steve Farris, Innovative Plant Solutions vice president, approached me about getting an idea to the industry where we could effectively combine the dry and the wet cleaning in a very efficient manner, getting the best of both worlds. You don’t have all water, but use it where you really need it. But it’s hard to replace the benefit of the horsepower that comes with hydroblasting and the advantages of dry. For example, if there is construction going on in the area, it isn’t as messy and the cleanup isn’t as difficult with the dry side.

“What Steve Farris and Innovative Plant Solutions have done in water cleaning is to develop rotary tooling where in water, you use tooling that’s not manned. Why it’s so much more effective is, you take 350-horsepower and put on a tool and get out of the way. It’s automated and it rotates 360 degrees and gets inside vessels and inside ductwork.

“If you can take that concept and apply it in dry cleaning, that’s very innovative. It’s never been done in the ethanol industry. We are going to be, as far as I know, the first people that will be providing a rotary method for dry cleaning.    

“On the water side, what we want is for IPS to be doing innovative cleaning work and customize our tooling. We’re really good at hydroblasting—there’s a lot of physics that go into hydroblasting. We understand fluids and pressure. Steve Farris has come up with a process in hydroblasting where we can be more efficient with the water by tooling and we can reduce the water by 30 percent. We’ve taken away a lot of the reasons people don’t like hydroblasting methodology for their shutdowns.

“If we then bring in the process of dry, where we are more efficient and effective, we think the customers are going to end up getting the best of both worlds.  At the end of the day, the plant is getting the best of the technology offered, by both dry and water.

“One of the biggest problems right now that we’re having, matter of fact, is trying to keep the throttle regulated on demand. It needs to grow, but we’ve got to grow under control or this whole thing can be washed down the stream. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in this industry, in my 15 years, is people overcommit. Premium has had that experience. We’re guilty of that same thing. We learned years ago of the consequences of that.”

Lance Renfrow
Clear Solutions USA
 “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the magic, if that was the right word, was cleaning with liquid—with caustic soda and sodium gluconate. Sodium gluconate is pretty well-designed as a chelator that takes into account hard water. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when phosphates were taken out of detergents, the industry tried to compensate with a product called phosphonate. Primarily, it is an environmentally friendly substitute for phosphate.

“In the early ‘80s we started working with the brewery people, explaining why phosphonates were used in addition to gluconates. They started with dry gluconate product and when they found that the dry wasn’t very soluble and caustic, they made a liquid.

“As we moved forward to the late ‘80s and very early ‘90’s we came across beer stone, basically the buildup of calcium oxalate. I think that the ethanol producers know about that build up very well, depending on the area of the country.

“It was pointed out to me by one of the people at Anheuser Busch that the calcium oxalate phenomena not only was a cleaning problem because it builds up, but it also had an effect on the shelf life of the beer. I was summoned by the corporate office of Anheuser Busch in St. Louis and asked if I could fix the buildup problem.

“This buildup, much like plaque on your teeth, is very hard to clean. We set out to solve the problem of beer stone and Anheuser Busch was good enough to allow us to trial our original product at breweries in Fairfield, California.

“It took two or three years, because companies move very slowly, to incorporate it totally in their system. We did this at Miller and Busch. We worked through several versions of that product, which is basically a surfactant to reduce surface tension, to make it more wettable. When you make something more wettable, all sorts of things happen. We generally say we can use about half the amount of product in half the time with far better results.

“We’ve done this now for quite some time with several improvements. The last revision we had was in 2002 and the patent was issued in 2005. That version we still use today.

“It doesn’t make any difference what you’re cleaning in the food and beverage industry. You could take milk, cheese, ice cream, potato chips.  What we basically do is to take an individual look at each plant and formulate for that company. You must know the temperatures it operates in, the water hardness and, particularly, if it changes. We also must know the final concentration of the working solution, which in most places in the ethanol industry we see somewhere around 5 percent. What that means is they can take the caustic soda they currently use and dilute it down to about 5 percent. It’s pretty dramatic. There are some other factors involved that are a little bit different than the beer industry, but that’s how it works.  There’s nothing like this product in the ethanol industry. 

 “We’re excited to bring this product to the ethanol industry and to come to the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Milwaukee.”

Author: Ann Bailey
Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine