Ethanol Loading with SafeRack and Jefferson Energy

Safe Ethanol Loading

Even Hurricane Harvey didn’t slow down this bulk ethanol loading project SafeRack designed and installed for Jefferson Energy in Beaumont, Texas in 2017. Although Beaumont received record rainfall and was significantly impacted by the category 3 hurricane, we were nimble enough to meet their demand for a quick turnaround regardless. Safe and efficient transport is essential when it comes to the ethanol export business. Jefferson Energy’s location in close proximity to a deepwater port in Beaumont is ideal for the unloading of railcars and transfer to tanks which then get exported overseas by vessel.

Using SafeRack’s proprietary technology we determined that 30 unloading spots were necessary to justify the project for our customer. Our accurate budget numbers and concept made it easy for Jefferson Energy to sign on for the project. We designed a seamless track and gangway system so railcars wouldn’t have to be decoupled while unloading. This was a huge time-saver and compensated for mis-spotting at the rails. We work with railcar manufacturers so our platforms can be designed to adapt to common industry variations. “We specialize in the integration of the equipment on the loading rack so our customers can move their products efficiently,” explains John Edwards, SafeRack Gulf Coast Business Unit Leader. “Our goal is to design and install a complete package system so our customers can just plug and play. When it’s time, they hit the go button and everything works.”

Jefferson Energy Project Manager Larry Dueset was pleased with SafeRack’s adaptive ability to deliver the perfect loading solution. “Most terminals take 3-4 hours to unload 15 railcars. We’re now unloading 15, setting up the next 15, and unloading them in under 2.5 hours. SafeRack is helping us to be more productive.”

Welcome to Texas. Beaumont, Texas to be exact. About an hour and a half east of Houston on the Gulf of Mexico. The location where Jefferson energy is creating new opportunities for bulk ethanol loading and unloading for their customers. Ethanol is a biofuel made from crops like corn, barley, and wheat that is said to improve octane and emissions. With over a billion cars on the road around the world, consuming over a trillion gallons of gasoline a year, the quest for fuel options is never ending. So creating the infrastructure to get these fuel products transported as safely and efficiently as possible is crucial. That’s where transporting by rail comes in.

By shipping with rail car, you’re able to control the quality, you’re able to sample each car and keep batches together so you know it’s a top quality of product being shipped. The benefit that Jefferson had was a deep water port, so we’re able to bring it in by rail car from the Midwest or really all over the country, bringing into the Beaumont area, unload it from rail car into a tank so it can go on vessels to ship overseas to the export market,

So in the past when Jefferson Energy would look at a project like this, they typically would have to contact an engineering firm to do a feed study. The tools that we have at SafeRack, we’re able to provide them a very accurate budget number as well as a concept, usually within a plus or minus 5% range.

In order for this concept to work, it’s all about turn times. The unit trains need to be able to come in, unload quickly and get back on the tracks to go pick up the next load.

Working with SafeRack, Jefferson Energy landed on a scope that 30 spots of unloading would allow them to justify doing this project. If a customer can’t get their products to market and the projects don’t happen.

This particular unloading system was a 30 spot system, 15 loading spots per side. It was a tracking gangway system that was designed to index off one of the middle cars, so none of the rail cars would have to be decoupled, which is a huge time saver in the unloading process.

As with anything in the rail car industry, there’s a lot of variation in the rail cars, though trying to make it to compensate for miss spotting of the rail, trying to compensate for various length cars, various connections. We incorporated all that in our platform system and provided the unloading equipment so the train can come in, unhook the cars and move off to go get more cars and it’s just a seamless process.

Most terminal take anywheres from three to four hours to unload 15 rail cars. We’re unloading 15 and setting up the other 15 on the other side and unloading them within two, two and a half hours. So the efficient rate of utilizing the SafeRack equipment is helping us to be more productively moving the product into our tanks, out of our tanks to the ships.

SafeRack provided a complete package for Jefferson on the ethanol rack. From the loading rack to the hoses to the connections, the grounding units so that we can almost have a plug and play system. We’re working with the rail car manufacturers to understand the latest connections, the way the top of the cars have changed, the way the bodies of the cars have changed. So it’s not just about building a loading rack so wide, so long. It’s to make sure it’s going to work as an integrated system. This is what we specialize in, the integration of the equipment on the loading rack so we can make sure that nothing’s going to be forgotten. Nothing’s going to be missed. Then when the customer’s ready to start moving their product, they can hit the go button and it’s going to work.

Jefferson Energy had a particular timeframe in mind that they needed to have this job completed for a start up and commissioning date.

The process of getting the contract completed and then getting all of the components there to be complete by their use by date was very, very difficult. But because we are able to be so nimble and adaptive, we were able to make that date. The weather was the major challenge. At that particular time of the year in Beaumont, Texas, there’s a huge amount of rain. We were also hit by Hurricane Harvey.

To have a Category One hurricane just this afternoon, 85 mile an hour winds already. Be the first category three to make landfall in the US a more than a decade. Harvey is on the way. Category 3 hurricane, we’re talking credible rainfall amounts are possible. As Harvey provoking an unfolding flooding disaster in America’s fourth largest city, Houston, Texas. Beaumont, Texas has been dealt in a especially tough hand in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It also battered Beaumont, Texas. The city’s among the hardest hit in the state.

In 2017 was a record rainfall of about 97 to 98 inches of rain for the whole year and it’s unheard of. SafeRack was challenged to try to keep us on schedule and they had done everything within their power to work the time that it needed to pull us back in the schedule to be able to be ready for the offload on the first rail car that came in.

And you know this leads to additional business where we’ve gone from doing the ethanol product rack to the refined product rack.

Just the refined products rack followed closely on the heels of the ethanol rack was another fast-paced project. A lot of the engineering was being done as we were building the project which was completed in time to get all our fabrication correct. Once again, the fabrication and the structure went together exceedingly well. We started out with a three-spot single sided and came back very soon after that and doubled the capacity of that rack to three spot double sided and we also added metering and the ability to meter two different products on different sides of the rack. In March of this year, that rack will double in size, which we’re looking forward to.

Again, you’ve got to be able to start up on time and get product moving because, in the end, it’s trying to keep not only their customers happy but the people who are supplying them happy.