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The Source for Dry Processing and Bulk Handling Technology

Tanks as Machines

October 27, 2008
Dick Jarman

Dick Jarman
Columbian TecTank


Cyclical shifts in traditional end-use markets and new opportunities being driven by environmental concerns are creating interesting changes in product mix for the large dry bulk storage companies. Today factory-welded tanks are being made as machines that do important processing work.

Regulatory deadlines on certain environmental issues have created a big demand for certain kinds of tanks and the larger tank manufacturers are busy making complex filtration units. Stored products like lime, potash, and activated carbon are used to treat the effluent of large industries that are facing tougher regulatory requirements. As a case in point, more than 900 power plants are facing new rules on mercury removal, with rapidly-approaching deadlines and urgent needs. Filtration tanks play an important role in the removal process.

These factory-welded tanks are complex filtration “machines” in their own right. Tank insides are full of hoppers, tank-in-tank installations, pumps, activators, motors, feeders, knife gates, and conveyors, to name a few. Supporting all this internal processing are platforms, stairs, lighting, plumbing, and eyewash stations. It’s not unlike walking through a submarine.

A select few tank manufacturers have devised an innovative solution for providing these complex regulatory tanks in an economically feasible way. Much of the assembly work on the tanks is being pulled into the plants of the tank manufacturers themselves. System integrators who operate in remote areas find the cost of field installers to be extremely high and seek the cost-effectiveness of the source manufacturer. Integrators who service broad geographic areas also find significant savings in not moving the factory-welded tanks from location to location to get installations made. These systems, or process integrators, have developed comprehensive inspection and engineering standards in order to achieve the quality they seek without moving the tank from place to place.

Tank manufacturers who do this specialized work have dedicated installation professionals who do the work every day and have become highly proficient at it. Work is done in a dedicated high-bay factory for work best done in the horizontal, or on special pads for work best done in the vertical. In both cases, the work is being done in a controlled environment, very near where the tank was made, with highly qualified labor, strong on-site engineering support, and active participation by the systems integrator. The result for the buyer is significant cost and time savings in the form of shorter installation turnaround on site.

Where the tank was once regarded as an add-on item, the tanks being made today are integral to the process itself. The additional specialized work we do brings genuine benefit to the integrator and his customers.

Dick Jarman is vice president and general manager of Columbian TecTank (Kansas City, MO), a worldwide leader in bolted tanks and factory-welded storage systems. Jarman is a registered professional engineer with more than 30 years of experience in running engineered nonresidential construction product companies. He can be reached at djarman@columbiantectank.com or 913-621-3700.