Highlighting new cleaning standards
The former facility - also built by Gröninger - had been in use for 30 years so it was time for an upgrade.
The new complex replaces Imperial’s smaller operational site in the town of Axel. It has three separate cleaning bays: two for standard chemical products (operating at 100-200 bar pressure and with 5-6 cleaning heads), and a third cleaning line with a re-circulation cleaning system for heavy-duty cleaning of substances such as latex or synthetic resins.
Intermediate bulk container (IBC) cleaning can also be performed at the new station while the extended steam facilities allow tank heating out of hours and at weekends.
A significant upgrade was provided by an on-site tank container depot for the storage of empty and uncleaned units, which increased the flexibility of the cleaning services.
“We deliberately moved to a completely new location,” said Libbers. “On the basis of our many years of experience, we also knew exactly what was needed and what the market was asking for. That process took some time due to many factors and circumstances, but you can only do it right once and I really have that feeling now.”
As early as 2013, Gröninger and Libbers made an exploratory reference visit to a newly completed tank cleaning facility. Several visits followed in the years after.
As the project gained momentum, numerous preparatory discussions were held with Imperial as well as with the building contractor before the first pile could be driven into the ground. In addition to proper planning and the technical setup of the system, the location and logistics for a new tank cleaning are extremely important.
Libber continued: “We are now located at a very good spot on the map for our customers from Antwerp and Ghent and surroundings. A very large chemical producer is literally around the corner in Terneuzen, less than 15 minutes away.
“Moreover, we are closer than before to a very important customer, a transport company for which we do a lot of work. Last but not least, for Imperial's own tank transport we are very centrally located as well. This way everyone who needs to clean tankers and containers benefits. So, the new knife cuts both ways.”
New sustainable facility
The new facility looks state-of-the-art, but what kind of technology was applied?
"Our aim above all is to increase quality, in order to meet the current requirements of shippers," he continued. "We opted for a completely different set-up for the new cleaning.
“Previously we cleaned at 60 bar, now the standard is 100 bar and for some products we even have 200 bar available. That makes a difference.
“Our customers do transport a wide range of products. Some products are what we call 'heavy duty' chemicals, including class 3 products - we can now flush these products much faster and more effectively at 200 bar.
“A further advantage is that much less water and less time is required. In the course of time you recover the investment and our customers will benefit right from the start from higher quality. With this 200 bar we are well placed in the wider area of Terneuzen. At other tank cleaning sites in the Netherlands you often now see 200 bar operation, so it is really a trend.”
Innovation does not stop here as the cleaning bay has a special piece of equipment.
“This is a so-called latex circulation unit, the only one for miles around,” commented Libbers. “Latex is a common cargo. We deliberately chose this unit so that our employees do not need to enter a tank.”
The system circulates hot water with a cleaning agent at a relatively low pressure and with high volume through the tank, thereby rinsing the tank thoroughly.
“That has to do with safety and related aspects. That is a top priority at Imperial,” he added.
One of the key questions is, what are you doing differently and better than before?
“We do everything we can to distinguish ourselves with our services in this region,” Libbers continued. “There includes everything that I have already mentioned and what you have seen too so far. There is a 24/7 service to heat tankers and tank containers with products using steam. Some products must be kept at a constant temperature, others must have a certain temperature in order to be processed directly in a factory. So we take care of that too.”
At the current time, companies cannot ignore sustainability factors. So what does this facility have to maintain its green credentials?
“Gröninger contributed key knowledge and skills in this field. For example, heat is recovered via the flue gases from the boiler to preheat water. By applying more pressure, the lead times are a lot shorter, which also saves energy.
“By using washing programmes, the procedures provide exactly what it takes to get the tank thoroughly clean, saving water, gas or oil, chemicals or steam. All in all, significantly more tankers and containers can be cleaned per day with less input than before.”