Express Container’s new Houston chemical tank wash rack getting busier by the day

April 4, 2018
WITH the opening of its newest location, Express Container Services now has two tank wash racks serving the Houston, Texas, market.

WITH the opening of its newest location, Express Container Services now has two tank wash racks serving the Houston, Texas, market. This is also one of the largest of 14 facilities in the Express Container system.

Opened in January, the new wash rack at 8700 Industrial Drive occupies a 16-acre site on the north side of the Houston Ship Channel. The facility is dedicated to chemical tank cleaning, but can also provide a diverse range of equipment maintenance and ISO tank container depot services through third-party contractors.

“We’ve been busy since we opened the doors on this new wash rack, and we are very happy with where we are in the start-up process,” says Matt Moser, general manager of Express Container Services. “We have the systems and team in place to handle some of the most difficult chemical tank cleaning jobs. 

“Across our system, we’re going strong. We had a record 2017 by providing quality tank cleaning, great customer service, and stable pricing. Resolving problems quickly helps ensure satisfied customers. Even though the labor market is tight, we are finding the workers we need.

“We continue to pursue growth opportunities in major chemical markets, and we currently have a midwestern location under consideration. We’re looking for acquisitions in the right places, but most of our growth will come from existing facilities in the Express Container system.”

Growing operation

Established in October 2002 by Moser and three partners in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Express Container services has steadily grown to 14 facilities serving some of the nation’s largest bulk transporters, tank container operators, and intermediate bulk container (IBC) operators with full service tank cleaning, convenient locations, superior driver rooms, competitive pricing, and quality service. 

“Our St Rose, Louisiana facility was purchased in 2002,” Moser says. “In 2005, we purchased Mast Tank Cleaning Inc facilities in Atlanta and Winder, Georgia; and Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2008 we opened Keasby, New Jersey; and in 2009 we bought our Ohio operations (Cincinnati and Grove City) from Cargo Clean Inc. Our Reserve, Louisiana facility was purchased August of 2014 from Schneider Bulk. We also have locations in Creola, Alabama; and St Gabriel, Louisiana.

“We have enjoyed this growth largely due to the dedication of our personnel, great service, and the tremendous support from our customers. Our managers are out on the floor directing operations and making sure tanks are cleaned correctly. That really has been the key to our success.”

Houston project

Work on the new Houston wash rack started in May 2017, but a number of factors interrupted the project along the way. Hurricane Harvey was one factor that actually had little or no impact on the work underway at the new wash rack.

“We had eight feet of flood water at our other Houston area wash rack, which is on the east side of the city,” Moser says. “The building with the tank cleaning equipment had four feet of standing water, and it took 21 days to restore operations. The new location was high and dry.”

The wash rack occupies a site that previously served as a box container depot and includes a two-story office building. The 7,000-sq-ft lower floor has been subdivided into offices for fleet customers. Five fleets currently have leased space for dispatch and operations staff.

Extending from the office building are 14 work bays—eight for tank cleaning and six for truck and tank maintenance operations. Third parties provide the maintenance services: A tank fleet tenant offers tractor and trailer service from two maintenance bays. A third-party ISO tank container depot operator provides tank container repairs and inspections. 

Tank cleaning

The eight tank cleaning bays are dedicated to chemical tank cleaning. Some of the other Express Container wash racks also offer foodgrade tank cleaning, as well as sanitary washouts of dry vans and refrigerated trailers used to transport food cargoes.

The new Houston location currently can clean 80 to 90 tanks a day. Twenty-six-foot-wide bays can accommodate two tank trailers parked back to back. Eight tanks at a time can be cleaned with the recirculating vat-style wash system.

An Express Container division based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, fabricated and installed the wash system and all of the metal stairs and platforms in the wash bays. “The fabrication team gives us greater flexibility, because we can do virtually all of the equipment design, fabrication, and upkeep in-house,” Moser says.

The vat system includes 550-gallon stainless steel water tanks and 750-gallon cleaning solution tanks. Sellers and Gamajet spinners are powered by 75-horsepower and 40-hp electric pumps. Twenty-five horsepower pumps help limit the amount of water needed for rinsing cargo tanks. 

Cleaning chemicals

A1 Chemicals & Equipment Inc supplies detergent and other products used in the tank cleaning. A1 Chemicals also supplied the pressure washers for exterior tank trailer and tank container cleaning.

Steam for cleaning operations is supplied by a 150-hp Williams & Davis boiler, which also serves 10 outside steam heat stations for tank trailers and tank containers. A 100-hp boiler is available as a back up.

Wastewater from the cleaning operation goes into three 31,000-gallon storage tanks and is hauled away for treatment. The wash rack currently ships about two tanker loads a day of wastewater to be treated.

Moser predicts steady growth for the new Houston location as more tenants arrive at the facility in coming months and chemical shipments remain strong across the Gulf Coast region.   

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.