LESS THAN six months after opening for business, Al-Kel Alliance Inc is well on the way to meeting its initial business objectives. Cleaning volumes at the commercial tank wash rack are growing steadily, and the first terminal/office building at the location is occupied with a long-term tenant.
This is the first move into chemicals cleaning for Jim Alexander, who also owns Southco Enterprises Inc, a 7,000-sq-ft foodgrade wash rack in Sherman, Texas. He and Ben Kelley put almost 18 months into planning the facility and scouting out the right location. Alexander suggests that this could be the beginning of a longer-term expansion effort by his company.
“We've met our expectations so far with this new wash rack,” Alexander says. “Most importantly, it gave us the opportunity to get into chemicals cleaning. As far as future expansion is concerned, we have some possibilities in mind. We'll just have to see how all of this works out.
“Shortly after opening November 1 (2001), we hit 250 tanks a month running three shifts. We're now cleaning around 350 tanks a month, and our maximum capacity is 475 to 500. We should reach that as the economy improves.”
Located just south of Dallas, Texas, off I-45 in Hutchins, the four-bay wash rack provides chemical and foodgrade cleaning of tank trailers and intermediate bulk containers. Halogenated and chlorinated chemicals are the only products not accepted at the wash rack. Full details on the capabilities at Al-Kel Alliance are available through the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) tank cleaning facility audit form.
“We've targeted general chemicals, and our Texas air and water permit grants us a very broad range,” Kelley says. “That permit enables us to clean 1,000 tanks a month. We're in the process of obtaining certification that will enable us to do kosher maintenance cleaning of foodgrade trailers.”
Asked why the site in Hutchins was selected, Kelley points to the tank truck traffic on I-45. “We're in the right place for tank truck traffic moving to and from Houston (Texas) and other chemical plant locations along the Gulf Coast,” he says. “In addition to I-45, we've got interstates 20, 35, and 30 within easy access.
“We're cleaning a lot of tankers coming from the eastern seaboard. I don't really know why they wait until this point to clean, but I do know that much of the tank traffic is headed for the Gulf Coast to load.
“Other factors also influenced our decision to put the wash rack in this area. The Hutchins exit off I-45 was added in the past year. Also, Jim and I felt that the Dallas/Fort Worth area was under-served with tank cleaning, particularly after Matlack shut down and broke up the Brite-Sol system last year. The Brite-Sol rack in Arlington was closed.
“We're getting a certain amount of cleaning from the Dallas area. This includes caustics, acids, glycols, and paints and other coatings.”
As executive vice-president, Kelley has directed much of the initial effort to promote the new wash rack and build a customer base. He also drew on his years of experience at Kelton Equipment Inc in outfitting the Al-Kel Alliance operation. (See the sidebar on page 28 for an update on Kelton's status.)
Day-to-day activities at the wash rack are directed by rack manager Gerald Barnes, who has 16 years experience in the tank truck business. He oversees 10 workers who keep the rack running around the clock from midnight Sundayuntil midnight Friday each week.
Most of the workers had prior tank cleaning experience before hiring on with Al-Kel Alliance. They averaged five to seven years in the business and received about 90 days of training. At least three workers are assigned to each shift.
Safety is a primary focus of the initial training. Workers receive a thorough orientation on personal protective equipment, including respirators, gloves, steel-toed boots, and coveralls.
Fall protection and confined-space entry are addressed. Harnesses and other fall protection equipment are from Miller Equipment. Confined-space orientation includes instruction on the use of the atmosphere test unit. Kelley notes that the company tries to limit tank entry as much as possible.
Tank cleaning operations are conducted in a 12,500-sq-ft metal building that sits on a 12-acre site, 7.5 acres of which have been developed. Also on the site is a 4,800-sq-ft building that was leased by Trimac Transportation Services Inc as its new Dallas terminal.
The Trimac building has offices and a two-bay maintenance shop that accepts outside repair business. This building, as well as the one housing the wash rack, has been reinforced to enable the addition of a second story. (Please turn page)
“With the amount of acreage we have, we can build additional office buildings for other clients,” Kelley says. “We have room for probably three or four more of these buildings.”
The acreage also provides plenty of room to expand the wash rack as business grows. The current wash rack has four cleaning bays, all outfitted with Kelton galvanized mezzanines, sodium vapor lighting, and translucent skylights in the roof.
The concrete floor has a slope of one inch in 12 for drainage into a trench. Under the floor is a 30-mil plastic liner to protect against ground water contamination.
Four Wash Bays
The building was laid out with two wash bays on each side of the central section that includes offices, driver waiting area, and an equipment room that houses two Kelton single-pass wash units, a reverse osmosis water treatment system, and a 40-horsepower boiler.
Chemical cleaning is the focus of the two bays on the left side of the building. A Kelton recirculating, vat-style wash unit sits on the far side of these two bays. Spinners used in the cleaning process are from Spraying Systems Inc and Sellers Cleaning Systems.
“We're running boosted caustic at 180°F in the vat unit to clean resins and latex,” Kelley says. “We use one of the Kelton single-pass, high-pressure/low-volume units with detergent to clean other chemicals. The other Kelton single-pass unit handles foodgrade cleaning.”
The vat system shares space with the wash rack's wastewater pretreatment system and heel storage area. “We don't have a lot of space for heel storage,” Kelley says. “The industry has made progress in heel reduction, which has made tank cleaning easier. A lot of credit goes to NTTC for highlighting this issue.”
Hot water for the cleaning operation is provided at 210°F. Most of the tank cleaning finishes with a hot rinse that lasts three to 10 minutes. Tanks are dried with filtered, ambient air for 12 to 15 minutes.
Wastewater goes into the pretreatment system for pH adjustment and oil/water separation. Once the wastewater meets guidelines, it is discharged into the city sewer.
Final steps in the cleaning operation include a visual inspection of the tank interior. Tank entry usually is unnecessary. Valves and other tank hardware are cleaned and reinstalled. Seals are attached to all tank openings, and the numbers are recorded on the cleaning certificate.
The trailer is now ready to be moved out of the wash bay. In many cases, it will be parked for later pick-up by the carrier. Al-Kel Alliance has plenty of trailer parking on the 7.5 acres that have been developed.
Extensive preparation went into the parking area and the rest of the site before any building construction began. The soil was conditioned with nine inches of dry lime, and the parking area was capped with six to eight inches of crushed concrete.
“We also had to put in water and sewer utilities, which included laying 1,500 feet of pipe to the city water line,” Kelley says. “Fortunately, the city had just installed a new lift station. We're on the Dallas sewer system, and we had to meet their requirement for an eight-inch line.”
Electricity at the facility includes 800 amps of 440-volt power. Both buildings are wired for the latest in data communications.
For site security, substantial exterior lighting already is in place, and more will be added in the next three months. Management plans to fully fence the facility in the next six months.
“We're moving as fast as we can,” Kelley says. “Our initial objective was to get the wash rack up and running. We believe we have good security now because we have workers on-site most of the time. In addition, we have good local law enforcement coverage in this area.”
Kelley and Alexander make it clear that they believe Al-Kel Alliance has the capabilities in place to achieve long-term success. The business is growing steadily as more tank truck carriers find out about the wash rack.