Shreveport Tank Wash Adds New Rack for Mobile, Alabama, Customers

March 1, 1998
WHEN JWILL Sims Jr and Richard Nicholson decided to build the new two-bay Gulf Coast Tank Wash in Saraland, Alabama, they used their experience from almost

WHEN JWILL Sims Jr and Richard Nicholson decided to build the new two-bay Gulf Coast Tank Wash in Saraland, Alabama, they used their experience from almost a decade of operating the Shreveport Tank Wash in Shreveport, Louisiana.

That experience paid once the chemical wash rack, near Mobile, was up and running in July last year. In January, they reported more than 900 tank trailers had been cleaned and project an average of 200 chemical cleaning jobs per month by the end of the first year of operation.

"We are very pleased with this initial success," says Sims. "Customers asked us to open a wash here after we decided to expand from Shreveport. Every time we called someone to ask about suggested locations, they would recommend the Mobile area. Our decision was customer-driven."

Sims' experience, especially the acumen required for the wash equipment and wastewater disposal, comes from running the two-bay wash in Shreveport. In 1989, he and his partner founded the Louisiana business, a chemical wash similar to its Saraland sister, where 450-500 tanks are cleaned per month.

The new Saraland wash, located about 15 minutes north of Mobile off Interstate 65 on Commerce Street, provides around-the-clock availability by appointment and regular hours from 7 am to midnight Monday through Friday.

Shreveport Tank Wash, west of Shreveport, is two miles south of Interstate 20 and seven miles from Interstate 49 on Buncombe Road. Hours are 7 am-4 pm, Monday through Saturday with callouts available by appointment.

Although both wash racks handle similar chemicals, there are differences. The majority of the chemical business in Shreveport comes from the petrochemical and pump mill industries. Specialty chemicals are more common in Saraland.

There is little competition in Shreveport. The nearest washes are in Little Rock, Arkansas; Houston, Texas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three competitors are near the new Saraland facility.

Several Differences Unlike the competitive environment in Saraland, the Shreveport facility is the only commercial wash offering chemical service in the area, he notes.

Sims says state regulations regarding the two tank washes differ. "I thought Louisiana was the tightest state until I came to Alabama," he says. To meet some of the requirements in Louisiana, the cost is about $2,000 per year while in Alabama compliance expense averages $2,000 per month in laboratory costs alone.

"We knew our costs to comply with regulations in Alabama would be higher than they are in Louisiana," says Sims. "But we couldn't raise our prices in Saraland to pass the cost on because of the competition that we have here."

The Saraland wash rack has benefited from what Sims learned about tank cleaning systems at the Shreveport facility. "Of course, technology has changed in the past 10 years, especially for wastewater disposal," he says. "We designed more of our Saraland equipment than that in Shreveport."

The 5,000-sq-ft Shreveport facility uses two high-pressure/low-volume Kelton Model 320 systems that each have a heating capacity equivalent to a 24-hp boiler. The units generate 20 gallons of water per minute. There are two injection pumps on each machine for caustic and detergent. A Kelton C-50 recirculating unit is also partof the wash system. A stripper pump works like a presolve unit. Two air-driven spinners operate at 600 psi. Tanks are dried with Kelton blowers.

Preblended Detergents Commercial detergents are purchased preblended, but stripper and solvents are mixed on site. Strippers are used on resins, plasticizers, and other harder-to-clean specialty chemicals. No brighteners are used for exterior cleaning, he says, but tank equipment is checked and any problems noted to the customer.

"We see our mission as providing the highest quality service available at a fair price, which will generate repeat business and provide continued employment for the company's employees," says Sims.

The recirculating cleaning equipment in the Saraland location was designed and fabricated in Shreveport. Eight 1,000-gallon vats, five heated and three used for non-heated solvent wash, are part of the chemical cleaning system driven by pumps. The five heated vats contain recycled water, detergent, caustic, stripper and fresh water. Cold tanks hold solvent, fresh water and recycled water. Caustics, stripper, and biodegradable detergent are used as cleaning agents. A York-Shipley 40-hp boiler provides steam and hot water. Sellers 360 spinners are driven by pumps and run at 175 psi.

Water Volume The low-pressure, high-volume system uses more water than the Shreveport system, but the Saraland facility generates less wastewater because of the equipment's recycling ability.

In Shreveport, waste disposal requirements called for installation of four 400-barrel reconditioned oil field tanks that collect wastewater for a day of rest to normalize. A 10-hp pump mixes the wastewater with the injection of a coagulant for treatment. The pH is adjusted to a reading of six to eight.

"We've been using this technique for five years and get excellent lab results," he says. "The water sits for another day so the sludge falls to the bottom and can be pumped through a filter press and dewatered."

The chemical sludge is hauled to an industrial landfill. Water passes through a clarifier, over a deep bed filter, and into the city sewer, which is connected to an efficient city treatment plant, says Sims.

"We're in the waste management business as much as in the tank wash business," says Sims, estimating that the wastewater treatment expense represents 10-15 percent of company revenues.

Hands-On Experience At the Saraland facility, construction began with Sims' hands-on effort. He not only designed and directed the fabrication of much of the wash equipment and state-of-the-art wastewater disposal unit, but installed it.

"I hung pipe, installed equipment, you name it," he says. "The Mobile area economy is booming. That means that the contractors here are so busy that it is almost impossible to find someone to do the work."

The in-house designed wastewater handling system can recycle 90% of the water used in the two bays, although it is not used for that purpose, says V Wilton Dice, a Florida environmental specialist Sims consulted for the project.

Three 16,800-gallon storage tanks (two for the wastewater directly from the bays and the third for the treated wastewater) were constructed in Shreveport by Rodessa Tanks and moved to the Saraland site.

Chemical Treatment Chemical treatment and testing with a filter system produce organic nonleeching sludge that would qualify, theoretically, for nonhazardous disposal, says Dice. Sludge is hauled to an industrial disposal site. Treated water is tested before release.

Because the wastewater is stripped of many impurities, it attracts bacteria, which calls for the addition of ozone to control odor in the storage tank. Sims plans further capital investment to fully automate the wastewater treatment plant.

In Shreveport, John Joyce directs both operations while directly overseeing 15 employees on three shifts in Shreveport. Randy Flowers supervises seven employees on two shifts in Saraland.

All employees receive formal safety training at least twice a year, including tank entry and rescue procedures. Industrial Scientific Co monitor ing devices are used to check tank atmosphere before confined-space entry. "Nitrogen blankets are a no-go," says Sims. "It's not worth the risk. Regulations should require those tanks to be tagged."

Confined-space safety procedures also require use of harnesses for fall protection, retrieval devices, and half- and full-face respirators. "We require one man on the tank while another is in the tank," he says.

When Sims began looking for a wash site in the Mobile area, he would have preferred to lease a site; however, he was unable to find one that matched his company's needs. He and his partner decided to purchase three acres in the 6,000-acre industrial park in Saraland's city limits, and construction began in February with Jerry Nicholson of Tyler, Texas, coordinating the work when Sims was in Shreveport.

Buildings' Bays The 5,800-sq-ft building contains two 20-foot-wide bays with the cleaning vats centered between them. Constructed with expansion in mind, the building currently can handle 600 trucks per month, says Sims. A reinforced concrete floor with a six-inch curb around the building slopes about 1/4 inch per foot toward a center drain in each bay. The curb provides containment for spills.

Administrative functions are conducted in the downstairs office, although all accounting and billing is handled from Shreveport. An office upstairs is leased to Service Transport Company. Terminal Manager Mike Elliott says, "I'm glad Jay opened up. There's really a limited number of tank washes in town."

A drivers' lounge adjacent to the tank wash office contains restrooms, shower, microwave, television, and candy and soft drink vending machines. Outside, almost three acres of property are allotted for parking.

In its early years, Shreveport Tank Wash experienced financial growth of 8 to 10 percent and Sims anticipates similar success in Saraland. With the growth has come a need for upgrading cleaning capabilities.

In 1998, a planned expansion in Shreveport will add two bays, equipment for wastewater treatment, and a metal building. "It will make our Shreveport operation even more efficient," he says.

The Shreveport expansion and the installation of automated wastewater treatment in Saraland are two examples of a continued effort to keep pace with customer needs. "We will do everything we can to broaden our services to meet market demands," he says.