When Construction Resources Management, a company that provides design, materials and construction for the heavy and highway construction industry, first acquired its Milwaukee Terminal site in 1988, only one very small heater was being used to heat a single small tank. There were several tanks on site; however, they were all deteriorating and had to be torn down so new ones could be constructed. Although the terminal was in sad disrepair, the advantageous geographical location - with access by rail and barge for the transportation of liquid asphalt - tipped the scales for the Waukesha, Wis.-based captive service provider in favor of purchasing the site despite its condition.

As a part of improving the site, new 140' pilings were installed for support for the new tanks, and load-bearing tests were performed to verify stability. The construction and renovation took place over a seven-year period and, in 1995, all the tanks on site were new, which dictated the need for new heating equipment.

Glenn Elliott, CRM’s asphalt plant and tank farm manager, began the equipment selection process with the assistance of John Schwalenberg from Heat and Power Products Inc., Fulton Thermal Corp.’s local representative. “I had originally been looking at other equipment, but when I was introduced to the Fulton product, I liked the total package aspect,” says Elliott.  

Elliot also was swayed by the product’s heavy-duty construction, precise temperature control via a modulation package, and the fact that the equipment is made in America, which means obtaining replacement parts would not be an issue.

“I also liked the down-fired heater design since it is actually better for the thermal oil,” says Elliott.

The first equipment selected included:

  • A 6 million BTU/hr design thermal fluid heater.
  • A thermal fluid circulating pump.
  • Deaerator cold seal tank with autovent and expansion tank.
  • A 150 hp horizontal SteamPac unfired steam generator, return tank, blowdown separator and chemical feed system.

The generator produces steam off the hot oil, and the steam is used to heat the coils under the railroad cars, clean the railroad cars and provide a full backup via relatively simple piping, should anything happen to the heaters in the building. The unit also can be set up at a major highway construction site, or it can be used as a backup to any of CRM’s other tank farms, which are located in Waukesha, Green Bay, Wis., and Gladstone, Mich.

CRM’s Green Bay Terminal also runs with Fulton equipment. It has a 10 million BTU/hr heater, modulation package and a Fulton SteamPac unfired steam generator within the system, which provides steam when needed. Between 1995 and 2001, two 10 million BTU/hr thermal fluid heaters were purchased. These skid-mounted packaged heaters are piped together with two skid-mounted pumping stations containing a custom deaerator system and temperature modulation control system. The system is a split system. Either of the heaters and the pumping station can heat the entire terminal, or the heaters can be split up for each to run its own half of the tank complex. The outdoor expansion tank has nitrogen blanketing, which keeps the thermal fluid from oxidizing.

The Process

The liquid asphalt comes in via barge and rail. A polymer is added to the liquid asphalt to give it elasticity. Although used in Europe for some time, this procedure is relative new to United States, having only gained wide use within the last 10 years. Most of the interstates in Wisconsin use the modified, more elastic asphalt due to its increased durability.

The modulation package maintains different temperatures for the piping and the storage tanks: Pipes are maintained at 320 to 335°F (160 to 168°C) and the storage tanks from 275 to 350°F (135 to 177°C), using thermal fluid supply temperatures ranging from 450 to 550°F (232 to 288°C). This temperature control is extremely important because without modulation, the lines could hydraulically pressurize the valves, creating a hazardous situation as well as a costly mess to clean up.

Elliot explains, “For the past year, one of the Fulton heaters has been operating 24/7 without any problems, while the other unit remains on stand by as a backup.

“The recently tested thermal fluid is just as clear today as it was the day it was installed.” He adds that he is glad price was not his first consideration when purchasing the equipment. “You spend up front so you don’t have headaches in the future,” he says. “The proof is in the condition of the units, longevity of use and the condition of the thermal oil.”