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Cheaper than the Cure

23 September 2010

By ensuring utmost care in the cleanliness of all assets, even those actually used to clean other equipment, you'll avoid costly, time consuming and possibly legal consequences, says Jon Crean, MD of Fernco Environmental

Tanks used to store cleaning solutions are essential assets in the food processing industry. Sometimes neglected, should they themselves fall into disrepair the cleaning solutions they contain can be corrosive and hazardous, which could result in costly and time-consuming problems. In order to avoid this potential problem from occurring, they should be regularly maintained.

Some examples of hazardous cleaning solutions frequently stored in tanks are neat caustic soda and chlorinated water. Chlorinated water, an alkaline solution, can over time, attack metal tanks, weakening them. It can also infiltrate joints, cause localised rust and begin to contaminate the solution contained in the tanks.

If the cleaning solution becomes contaminated it could pollute the equipment and lead to problems further down the process. Pro-active maintenance of the storage tanks therefore, remains extremely important. It's easier, cheaper and less disruptive to carry out regular maintenance.

Solutions available: With respect to maintenance systems, several procedures are available, including cementitous and polyurethane, with some being hand applied. Cementitious methods can be absorbent to water and corrosive chemicals.

Many coating systems contain potentially harmful solvents, require a separate process of applying a primer coat and a topcoat, can react strongly with water, and provide various levels of chemical resistance.

There are also many exciting, environmentally friendly solutions now available on the market which are becoming increasingly popular owing to their non-hazardous properties and ease of application.

Ultracoat is one such solution. Environmentally friendly, it can be used to rehabilitate assets within confined spaces without the need for forced air breathing apparatus. It's a 100% solids epoxy coating solution (sprayed or hand applied). It is also highly resistant to aggressive chemicals including the H2S, and bacterial growth and can tolerate large extremes of temperature, high levels of sulphur dioxide, acids and alkalis.

Restoring storage tanks: Ultracoat was recently used to rehabilitate two chlorinated water storage tanks at a major blue-chip food manufacturer. Each tank had a total surface area of 130sqm, composed of a series of 9mm thick steel sheets with channel section stringers.

Both had major problems owing to corrosion. Their position in the basement, below a major part of the food manufacture process, meant it was impractical and costly to replace the tanks. As a result applying Ultracoat was chosen as an efficient, cost effective and long-term alternative.

Initially, the tanks were grit blasted to remove surface contaminants. Patch repairs then took place, some using resin impregnated fibre-glass matting where the steel jointing areas had degraded and become insecure. The tank was then sprayed using Ultracoat.

As the solution is free of VOCs, only a facemask with dust and fume filters, and a cyclone fan to create movement of air was required. No primer coat was required and the solution had a chemically resistant finish, which in this case means there will be no corrosion from the contents of the tanks.

Ultracoat was also used, by the same blue chip food manufacturer, for the rehabilitation of a bunded area that housed a caustic soda storage tank. Over time, where valves had started leaking around the tank, the neat alkaline solution had eroded the concrete substrate. Again, the Ultracoat system was sufficiently chemically resistant, and any contact with the neat caustic soda was not an issue.

Managing and maintaining these water storage tanks are crucial to the cleaning process of a facility but the maintenance need not be costly, particularly if dealt with in a timely, effective manner. Ultracoat is suitable for rehabilitating any substrate, which is vulnerable to corrosion or requires long-term protection, including manholes, man-entry pipes, culverts and tanks.


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