International-Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT) is a significant player in the bulk-liquid storage industry. In recent years it has been expanding its capacities in the tiny town of Geismar, La., along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Geismar site is one of 12 IMTT facilities in North America.
In 2008, the New Orleans-based bulk-liquid storage company began storing product for a major industrial-chemicals manufacturer. The manufacturer had several years before offered IMTT the opportunity to not only manage bulk storage of its products, but also to bear responsibility for drumming of these products.
IMTT has a more than substantial bulk-liquid storage business, but container filling is done only at one of its other 11 facilities, and on a much smaller scale than what was proposed for the Geismar site.
While container filling was just a small segment of IMTT’s overall project in Geismar, it was crucial to IMTT’s customer. To get the job done, IMTT worked with Haver Filling Systems, Inc., a company with 35 years of filling-systems experience, including machine design and facility layout, in the Americas.
Two challenges and counting
IMTT is said to be the fourth largest provider of bulk-liquid storage in the United States. The company primarily stores chemicals, mineral oils and vegetable oils in tanks with capacities ranging from 5,000 barrels up to 500,000 barrels at 10 facilities in the United States and two more in Canada. In its 70 years in business, IMTT has worked with some of the biggest oil and chemical companies in the world.
Manufacturers contract with IMTT to store their chemicals and oils, both hazardous and non-hazardous. They ship their products to IMTT facilities via pipeline, ship, barge, rail or truck, and the products are transferred to IMTT’s bulk storage tanks. They stay there until they need to be sent to end-users.
By providing not just a bulk-storage facility, but also an onsite drum-filling facility, IMTT’s customer would reduce its transportation costs.
"Most of the products come into our storage tanks via pipeline from the production facility, and IMTT is able to handle all of the remaining logistics from there," says Jos Wolke, who was IMTT’s project manager on what would become the Geismar Logistics Center. "The win for our customer is that they do not have to transport their products to the facilities of other terminal companies that they used to rely on for their storage and logistics. Now they’re able to place it all with one company and primarily all in one facility. Those transportation costs are eliminated, and that is a significant savings."
Foundation for filling
Wolke and his team needed to manage the construction of an entirely new facility and step outside their comfort zone into container-filling technology and systems.
"We’re experts in bulk liquid storage," he said. "Although drum filling wasn’t our core business, we were confident we could deliver on our customer’s needs and expectations."
IMTT wanted a complete turnkey system that included everything from empty drum-feeding conveyors, liquid-filling machines, container labeling and container palletizing. To help ensure safety and environmental standards were met, IMTT required a vapor-extraction system and thermal oxidizer to eliminate hazardous vapors. In addition, the entire system needed to be automated to handle high production volumes.
Due to the multitude of incompatible and sensitive chemicals involved, strict segregation of product was of crucial importance.
The IMTT customer already had a relationship with a division of Haver Filling Systems, Feige Filling Technology, which provides the majority of the container-filling equipment for the customer’s chemical production facilities in Europe.
"This particular customer of IMTT’s is one of our biggest in Germany," says Gudrun Gibson, Haver marketing manager. "In one facility alone, Haver has supplied more than 100 machines, so we were already very familiar with this company and the types of chemicals it manufactures."
Haver Filling Systems, Inc., based in Conyers, Ga., has supplied customers with complete, turnkey liquid-filling systems for more than 36 years. Not only could the company supply the systems and meet the strict requirements for safety, but it also was able to customize everything to the new facility’s requirements. Haver engineering services would ensure the filling systems were optimally configured in relation to the rest of IMTT’s equipment and operational goals, thus optimizing production.
This, combined with the fact that Haver Filling Systems is one of the few suppliers of fully automated liquid-filling equipment in the U.S., made the Feige brand a logical choice. IMTT and Haver then formed a team to engineer a solution for the chemical manufacturer’s complex needs.
More than drumming
Before long the complete Haver solution began to take shape. The core of the system included four Type 86 automatic drum filling and two Type 26 semi-automatic pallet-filling machines.
The Type 86 automatic drum fillers are capable of filling up to 100 drums per hour, and with six integrated stations inside the machines, they are the most advanced drum filling systems Haver offers. The stations’ functions are drum positioning and cap removal, nitrogen purging, coarse filling, fine filling, cap placement and cap sealing.
With these automated processes, the IMTT operator simply selects the product to fill from the control panel on the Type 86 drum filler and the machine takes care of the rest. Since the filling systems are fully enclosed, all of these processes are completed without exposing the IMTT operator to any potentially harmful chemicals. All vapors are removed during the filling of the 55-gallon drums, which is crucial to IMTT’s requirements for flammable and toxic hazardous liquids.
"It’s very important we don’t mix incompatible and reactive chemical groups," Wolke said. "We keep the most reactive product family separate from all the others and dedicate two full systems to it. Then we have two additional full systems specifically for our other product families."
The Type 26 pallet-filling systems can fill palletized drums or large, palletized intermediate bulk containers (IBC) with a volume equal to five drums. While these filling machines can handle the same products as the Type 86 drum filler, they give IMTT more flexibility to accommodate customized filling requests for totes from their customer.
The Type 26 semi-automatic pallet-filling machines have a balanced boom arm, which allows the IMTT operator to easily maneuver the filling nozzle to reach any drum on a pallet or the opening of an IBC. The filling system also has a pneumatic base-height adjustment to allow for quick height change of the filling lance location when the container type is changed. Furthermore, filling-lance changeover is extremely simple and fast.
One IMTT operator can handle the task, and it takes less than three minutes to complete. Changing the lance ensures there is no cross-contamination between the different products. The liquid-filling systems also overcome a primary logistical challenge that Wolke had predicted early on — the great distance from the storage tanks to the filling systems.
"After experimenting with a few settings for the pumps, pressure and flow rates, we found our optimized production point of approximately 80 drums per hour, per system," Wolke said. "We’re very pleased with that output as well as the accuracy we receive at that setting."
IMTT’s operational schedule and planned system shutdowns for preventive maintenance also contribute significantly to long-term production optimization. The full machine shutdowns are based on reaching a specified number of drums filled. The four Type 86 automatic filling systems are scheduled so only one system at a time is fully shut down for maintenance, leaving the other three in operation. Furthermore, because there are two systems dedicated to both the different chemical groups, one system is always fully operational.
After several years of engineering and design preparation, as well as four months of dedicated equipment installation, the Geismar Logistics Center went into full operation mode with 30 storage tanks and six fully optimized Haver liquid-filling systems. The terminal employs 85 people, including managers, operations and maintenance teams and customer-service staff. And while production is presently meeting the customer’s needs, Wolke’s team designed the facility to accommodate two more liquid filling systems should drumming needs expand.
"For complete systems, it only makes sense to keep consistency, and we’ve been extremely satisfied with Haver," Wolke says. "The group spent several years working with us to be sure the systems would meet our needs and, most of all, exceed our customer’s expectations. Haver Filling Systems was great to work with throughout the entire process."
Haver Filling Systems, Inc. provides a quality resource in material handling and in bag packaging and liquid and pasty filling equipment for North, Central and South America. Haver’s high-quality packaging equipment is specialized in filling various types of dry bulk materials, food grade, liquids and pasty products.