Logistics & Distribution

Drumming Up Business in Louisiana


For generations, paddlewheels and propellers have churned the muddy waters near Geismar, La., moving riverboats and other vessels up and down the Mississippi. During this time, International-Matex Tank Terminals has been one of the largest players in the bulk liquid storage industry and has been expanding its capacities in the tiny town on the riverbank between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Geismar is one of 12 North American facilities operated by International-Matex Tank Terminals, which is headquartered in Bayonne, N.J. In 2008, the company began storing product for a major manufacturer of industrial chemicals. This manufacturer had issued a challenge to IMTT several years before: not only to manage its products bulk storage but also to take on responsibility for drumming these products at the facility.

This was a first for IMTT, which is well known in bulk liquid storage but had never before incorporated a container filling system into one of its terminals. While just a small segment of a massive years-long project, this service was crucial to IMTTs customer – and that made it crucial for IMTT. To get the job done, IMTT would need an expert with deep experience, both in designing filling machines and in facility layout.

IMTT is the fourth-largest provider of bulk liquid storage in the United States. The company primarily stores chemicals, mineral oils and vegetable oils at capacities of up to 500,000 drums in 10 facilities in the United States and two more in Canada. In its 70 years in business, it has worked with some of the biggest oil and chemical companies in the world.

Manufacturers contract with IMTT to store their chemicals and oils, both hazardous and non-hazardous. They ship their products to IMTT facilities via pipeline, ship, barge, rail or truck, and the products are transferred to bulk storage tanks. There they stay until they need to be sent to end users. The challenge for Geismar was to customize an on-site drum filling facility for this chemical manufacturer, whom it cannot name for reasons of confidentiality.

Most of the products come into our storage tanks via pipeline from the production facility, and IMTT is able to handle all of the remaining logistics from there, said Jos Wolke, who was IMTTs project manager for what would become the Geismar Logistics Center. The win for our customer is that they do not have to transport their products to the facilities of other terminal companies that they used to rely on for their storage and logistics. Now theyre able to place it all with one company and primarily all in one facility. Those transportation costs are eliminated, and that is a significant savings.

Fundamentals for Filling

Wolke and his team needed to manage the construction of an entirely new facility and step outside their comfort zone into container filling technology and systems. Were experts in bulk liquid storage, he said. Although drum filling wasnt our core business, we were all confident we could deliver on our customers needs and expectations for the new facility.

To get there, IMTT needed a manufacturing partner capable of providing a complete turnkey system that included everything from empty drum feeding conveyors, liquid filling machines, container labeling and container palletizing. To help ensure safety standards were met, IMTT required a vapor extraction system and thermal oxidizer to eliminate all hazardous vapors. In addition, the entire system needed to be highly automated and able to handle high volumes. Perhaps most crucial of all, due to the hazardous nature of some of the chemicals, the system also had to meet strict safety requirements specified by the customer.

Wolke and his team began at the most logical starting point, past experience. Fortunately, they had a bit of a head start in their research. IMTTs customer already had a relationship with Feige Filling Technology, a division of Haver Filling Systems Inc., which provides the majority of container filling equipment for the customers chemical production facilities in Europe.

This particular customer of IMTTs is one of our biggest in Germany, points out Gudrun Gibson, Havers marketing manager. In one facility alone, Haver has supplied more than 100 machines, so we were already very familiar with this company and the types of hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals it manufactures.

Haver, based in Conyers, Ga., has supplied customers with turnkey liquid filling systems for more than 37 years. Not only could it supply the systems and meet the strict requirements for safety, but it also would need to customize everything to the new facilitys requirements. IMTT also wanted Havers engineers to ensure the filling systems would take into consideration the rest of Geismars equipment and operating needs.

These services, combined with the fact that Haver is one of the few suppliers of fully automated liquid filling equipment in the United States, pointed to using the Feige brand. IMTT and Haver formed a team in 2003 to answer the complex needs presented by this chemical manufacturer.

More than Drumming

After identifying all of IMTTs customers needs, the solution began to take shape. The core of the system would include six machines: four Type 86 automatic drum fillers, and two Type 26 semi-automatic pallet filling machines.

The Type 86 automatic drum fillers – the most advanced Haver offers – are capable of filling up to 100 drums per hour, with six integrated stations inside the machines. The functions of the stations are drum positioning and cap removal; nitrogen purging; coarse filling; fine filling; cap placement; and cap sealing.

With these highly automated processes, the IMTT operator simply selects the product to fill from the fillers control panel and the machine takes care of the rest. The filling systems are fully enclosed, so all of these processes are completed without exposing the operator to any potentially harmful chemicals. The system ensures harmful vapors are removed during the filling of the 55-gallon drums – a crucial requirement for flammable, toxic and hazardous liquids.

Its very important we dont mix hazardous and non-hazardous, Wolke said. We keep the hazardous product family separate from all the others and dedicate two full systems to it. Then we have two additional full systems specifically for our other product families.

The Type 26 pallet filling systems can fill palletized drums or palletized intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), which have volumes equal to five drums. These fillers can handle the same products as the Type 86 system, but give IMTT more flexibility to handle customer requests to fill totes.

The semi-automatic Type 26 machines have a balanced boom arm, which allows the IMTT operator to easily maneuver the filling nozzle to reach any drum on a pallet or the opening of an IBC. The filling system also has a pneumatic base height adjustment to allow for quick height change of the filling lance when the container type is changed. Changeover of an entire filling lance is extremely simple and fast – one IMTT operator can handle the task – and it takes less than three minutes to complete. (Changing the lance ensures there is no cross-contamination among the different products.)

The liquid filling systems also needed to overcome one of the primary logistical challenges that Wolke had foreseen early on: the great distance from Geismars storage tanks to the filling systems. After experimenting with a few settings for the pumps, pressure and flow rates, we found our optimized production point of approximately 80 drums per hour, per system, Wolke said. Were very pleased with that output as well as the accuracy we receive at that setting.

To optimize the equipments productivity, the Geismar facility follows an operational schedule that includes planned system shutdowns for preventive maintenance. When a system reaches a specified number of drums filled, a full machine shutdown takes place for just that filler. The four Type 86 automatic filling systems are scheduled so only one system at a time is fully shut down for maintenance, leaving the other three in operation. Furthermore, because there are two systems dedicated to both hazardous and non-hazardous materials, one system is always fully operational for each of these two product streams.

Room to Grow

After several years of engineering and design preparation, as well as four months of dedicated equipment installation, the Geismar Logistics Center went into full operation mode in 2008 with 30 storage tanks and six fully optimized Haver liquid filling systems.

Currently the terminal employs 35 people, including managers, operations and maintenance teams, and customer service staff. And while production is presently meeting the customers needs, Wolkes team designed the facility to accommodate two more liquid filling systems should drumming needs expand.

For complete systems, it only makes sense to keep consistency, and weve been extremely satisfied with Haver, Wolke said. The group spent several years working with us to be sure the systems would meet our needs and, most of all, exceed our customers expectations. Haver Filling Systems was great to work with throughout the entire process.

Related Topics

Bulk Liquid Storage    Logistics & Distribution