Maintenance, Compliance Now Conflux

New levels in maintenance planning, new solutions for cleaning and cooling tower tips are discussed in the July issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Tom Bryan | June 16, 2016

Often, plant maintenance is needed when you’re least excited about it being performed. Summer gives producers total access to their campuses, inside and out and long working days to knock out tasks large and small. But it’s also when ethanol plants tend to run full throttle with limited personnel. Fortunately, summer upkeep is made easier and quicker by specialized service providers offering predicative maintenance, optimization and compliance support.              

In “New Levels in Upkeep Planning,” on page 28, we discover how many ethanol plants turn to service providers to manage specific and interrelated maintenance and compliance issues. EPM Associate Editor Ann Bailey reports that those two things—maintenance and compliance—have become increasingly interwoven services in the ethanol industry. After all, even the most innocuous crack, failing seal or inoperable component can lead to unplanned shutdowns, noncompliance and hefty fines if not addressed quickly and correctly. Beyond spot-and-repair services, ethanol plants are receiving prescriptive maintenance plans based on the life expectancies of storage tanks, pressure vessels and other major assets. Ultimately, most ethanol plants utilize third-party maintenance and inspection companies for these services because it’s a cost-effective way to maximize plant reliability while staying in compliance with increasingly complicated regulations.        

Our annual dive into plant maintenance continues with “New Solutions,” on page 34, also written by Bailey. Anytime you think you’ve seen it all in the ethanol industry, something new comes along. Plant cleaning tech is no different. Bailey reports on how one cleaning company is blending the strengths of dry and wet cleaning practices, deploying super-efficient hydroblasting—using water when it’s needed most—and applying rotary-based, wet cleaning practices with dry mediums. The story also introduces us to a company supplying large brewers, including Anheuser Busch, with surfactants that reduce calcium oxalate buildup. It’s a proven solution that appears applicable to ethanol plants.

Freelance writer Holly Jessen further whets our interest in plant reliability with “Conserving Cooling Power,” on page 40. Cooling tower performance should be, but usually is not, a subject of conversation this time of year. These critical systems do their real work from June through September, and that’s also when these “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” assets tend to fail. As Jessen reports, deferred, or scant cooling-tower upkeep can result in curtailed production. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of companies offering cooling-tower optimization and maintenance services, and the Cooling Technology Institute also is there to help when needed.

We turn to production technology in our page-46 cover story, “Sugar Plus CO2 Equals More Ethanol.” In this in-depth profile, EPM Managing Editor Susanne Retka Schill explains how White Dog Labs is using a microorganism for mixotrophic fermentation to convert carbon from both sugar and gas into ethanol. That word—mixotrophic—is used to describe the dual conversion process. The science is complex, but suffice to say that the company claims it results in a 50 percent increase in mass yield, with applicability to both first- and second-generation ethanol plants.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief