Full steam ahead: Sprint opens Trident Tank Wash in La Porte

April 2, 2024
Newly opened tank cleaning facility features eight bays, high-efficiency pumps for circulating caustic or detergent in all eight simultaneously, and dedicated piping for all cleaning agents

Here is something to make the competition’s blood boil: Sprint Transport’s new Trident Tank Wash, which opened in December in La Porte, Texas, enjoys unlimited access to high-pressure steam—without using a boiler.

Instead, the facility taps into NRG’s cogeneration power plant located at nearby La Porte Rail and Terminal, a former DuPont entity co-owned by the Swinbank family, which also owns the Sprint group of companies, for all utilities, including power, water, and superheated steam produced at 600 psi—equivalent to 488 degrees Fahrenheit. “La Porte Rail and Terminal reduces that to 350 psi, and we reduce it to 125 at our site,” explained Josh Noworatzky, president and CEO of Sprint Transport, Sprint Logistics, Sprint Rail Partners, and Trident. “So we’re always washing, because we don’t have boiler breakdowns, and regulators let us pick multiple pressures.”

A ceaseless supply of steam is one of myriad impressive features at Sprint’s second Trident location, which was designed and built from the ground up by B&K Contractors, the same system architect that retrofitted the Trident facility Sprint opened last January in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, just outside Baton Rouge. The tank wash features eight bays, high-efficiency pumps capable of circulating detergent or caustic washes in all eight bays simultaneously, dedicated piping for all cleaning agents, and streamlined PLC controls.

“This is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities on the Gulf Coast,” Noworatzky said.

Building a better wash

Sprint selected B&K, and owner Bryan Milam, after visiting Pleasant Valley, Missouri, to tour KAW Services’ tank-cleaning facility, which B&K overhauled in 2019. “We were extremely impressed with how it worked,” said Noworatzky, citing the system’s safety features, automation, and operational efficiencies as determining factors. “[Milam] designs and engineers the pipes and pumps, and makes the actuated valves work. He’s the mastermind. He even helped us design the facility, where the drains go, the flows, the pitches—everything.”

Trident’s new 12,400-sq.-ft. facility sits on 17 acres of 13-inch concrete, which are part of the Sprint companies’ 30 total acres. The building features corrosion-resistant concrete tilt walls, separate pipes that prevent recycled materials from cross-contaminating vats, and “fly-by-wire” electronics that allow technicians to operate every bay from one touch-screen display connected to the control-room computer via a single ethernet cable.

“The spinner system is quite unique,” said Eddie Putman, Trident manager. “The pumps are variable speed and tied into set frequencies. So, if a hose bursts while spinning a trailer with a corrosive solution, the computer detects the change in amps and automatically shuts off the valves to prevent chemical spillage.” This feature helps make the facility one of the safest Putman’s encountered in a four-decade-long career, he added.

“We selected B&K for its superior build quality and technology, even though the company’s bid was significantly higher than its competitors,” he said.

“Sprint wanted to go with the best system available on the market.”

Operational efficiency

The tank wash also boasts an optimized steam rack set to 125 psi thanks to NRG’s turbine-powered plant, Noworatzky said. “Many facilities don’t reach such high pressure due to the limitations of setting boilers to 125 psi, which can be too hot for the vats and increase operating costs,” he explained. “Often, they opt for a uniform temperature. However, we have the flexibility to regulate the steam to various temperatures.” Trident reduces pressure to 35 psi for vats, and even lower for parts steaming, Putman said.

The setup is advantageous for Sprint, which runs 750 tankers—many of which transport high-temperature products. “Most trailers steam panels are rated for 150-psi, but it's challenging to find tank washes that can provide that level of heat. We can,” Noworatzky points out.

Trident’s La Porte facility currently runs with two technicians who can clean 15-20 trailers per day, Putman said. But leaders plan to hire six to eight additional workers as third-party business expands with tank container cleaning, and potentially add a second shift. “Advanced automation allows the company to operate at a higher throughput with less manpower compared to more traditional facilities,” said Alex Prejean, Sprint Transport vice president of strategy and innovation.

A greener cleaner

The WCM Group, which specializes in industrial permitting and compliance, and an on-staff environmental lawyer ensure Trident is meeting all local, state, and federal regulations for emissions and wastewater disposal, but the company already is planning to upgrade water treatment and vapor abatement.

Currently, wastewater generated from pre- and final rinses is stored in a holding tank, where pH is adjusted, then trucked to Circon for treatment. But Noworatzky expects to begin sending water to La Porte Rail and Terminal, where a new biotreatment facility is in development, by the end of the year. And to better control air emissions, leaders intend to replace the facility’s flare, which burns 98% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during cleaning, with a thermal oxidizer that destroys 99.9% of VOCs by the end of Q3, Noworatzky said. “We can manage most of the chemicals out there right now,” he said.

“Once we have or thermal oxidizer in place, we’ll be able to clean anything.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.