Ethanol Plant Maintenance

In 2004, manufacturers produced 3.41 billion gallons of ethanol, and forecasts for the future predicted 5.5 billion gallons by 2007 (BioFuels Journal, First Quarter 2005). As ethanol manufacturing increases, so do plant maintenance issues. Keeping processes clean helps ethanol manufacturers maximize their production capacities.

Hydro-Klean’s hydro-blasting services for ethanol plants have played a key role in keeping scheduled-cleaning downtime to a minimum. Typically, an ethanol plant schedules shutdowns two times a year, in the spring and fall, for cleaning and modification services. However, even arranging shutdowns twice a year does not prevent plants from foul ups that require emergency, call-out cleanings. Plants dread these situations as they usually cost valuable dollars in lost productivity. To be more specific, every hour of downtime for the average 40-mmg-a-year plant results in approximately $5,300 in lost production revenue (ICM-2005).

Choosing Preventive Maintenance
Recently, a 40-mmg-a-year ethanol plant asked Hydro-Klean to provide quarterly cleanings for their process dryers, ductwork, smoke stacks and cyclone headers. By tracking and measuring production data, this plant had found that fouling occurred more often in these areas, which in turn impacted production levels. Fouling includes the build-up of hard deposits that plug up process equipment and limit the flow of ethanol production. In some cases, they can increase the risk of fire if deposits become too thick. 

When the company looked at the numbers, they decided to take a proactive approach to cleaning and maintenance, rather than simply react to potentially expensive crises. As they saw it, if they serviced their plant more regularly, it would decrease the likelihood of emergency cleanings and keep the plant running at a maximum rate for longer periods of time.

Meeting a Thirty-Six-Hour Deadline
This January was the first service cleaning for the quarterly, preventive maintenance plan. The plant allowed a maximum downtime of thirty-six hours. In order for us to meet this timeline, we used two hydro-blasters, an industrial wet/dry vacuum truck and sixteen service technicians around the clock.

Since we know that planning and constant communication are essential for success, staff from Hydro-Klean and the ethanol plant held several meetings prior to the cleaning to discuss various elements of the job. This allowed HK personnel to predetermine and eliminate any factors that could jeopardize the established timeline. The discussions allowed Hydro-Klean to make adjustments that facilitated quicker, more thorough and safer cleaning.

Setting a New Standard
Hydro-Klean and the ethanol plant successfully met the thirty-six-hour turnaround time. We executed cleaning smoothly and efficiently and set a standard for the future of HK’s hydro-blasting services.

We received compliments on the entire clean-up operation, which was described as up to “Hydro-Klean standards.” The crews were excellent. They worked with a good attitude and all of their equipment was in top shape, which meant no breakdowns. This project's all-round success demonstrated the knowledge and skill of Hydro-Klean's personnel, as well as our commitment to serving our customers.

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