Think once you’ve chosen a product to store in a dome, you’re locked in for life? Think again. Transitioning from one bulk material to another might not be as complicated as you’d expect, especially if your company anticipates potential shifts from the get-go.
Dome Technology clients have made storage changes in the past, and one customer will switch from wood pellets to grain this fall. It’s a smart way to maximize on existing infrastructure and to ensure multiple options are available no matter what the market does, said Dome Technology sales manager Lane Roberts. “In case (an industry) fell through, a company would still have the capability to reach out to other things,” he said.
The easiest way to make a dome versatile for distinct products is to develop the project with Plan B in mind. Here are a few factors company management and facility operators should consider for a smooth transition:
- To maximize storage, plan a facility designed for the heaviest product. This ensures engineers will design the dome and its systems for the hardest work they might face.
- The easiest changes occur between similar products. A company switching from, say, coal to petcoke isn’t going to require the same degree of calculations, reconfiguring, or cleaning as switching from canola to sugar.
- To determine if an existing dome can store a different product, look first at the foundation. “Say you have a dome that can store 100,000 MT of product. You could potentially store 100,000 MT of a different product with similar ground loading characteristics with no foundation modifications required,” said engineer for Dome Technology Adam Aagard.
- When the stored products have dramatically different angles of repose, it is important to consider how changing the products will affect the foundation system. For instance, for a dome storing cement clinker with a steep angle of repose — about 45 degrees — switching to cement powder with 10 to 12 degrees will change the loading profile on the foundation system. That’s because the clinker will have a higher load in the middle of the dome floor and lower load on the perimeter while the cement will have pretty much the same loading straight across. “Changes in stored product in the dome can often be easily accommodated through collaboration with our dynamic team,” said Dome Technology CEO Bradley Bateman.
- Cleaning the inside of the dome shouldn’t be a deterrent. Either a good spray down with water or a scrub with detergent might be all that’s required. In most cases, any residue left behind would be negligible, but considerations will vary industry to industry.
- If you are planning to switch products in the future, not everything needs to be considered upfront; some features can be added later. For instance, if the new product requires a different conveyance system, that’s a relatively easy change — though it obviously comes with a cost.
- Something to consider is possible chemical incompatibilities between respective products. For example, some fertilizer will corrode standard rebar; if the previous stored product didn’t have this concern, steps would need to be taken to mitigate corrosion as needed.
Editor’s note: The preceding is an excerpt of an article published in the Sept. 2018 issue of Dry Cargo International.