A pile of woodchips is a disaster waiting to happen. The heat generated by their compaction and decomposition can be intense enough to cause spontaneous combustion. That’s why a woodchip mill needs to have firefighting systems in place, as well as a solid backup plan. Unfortunately for a certain mill in Alabama, when a fire broke out in one of its two woodchip silos, the company had a plan A but no plan B.
Atlas Copco lends a hand
The mill produces biomass pellets for use in power plants as a renewable energy source. Before being processed, the woodchips are stored in a massive silo. Concerned that the fire would cause another hot spot in the second silo nearby, the facility manager turned to United Rentals Pump Solutions in Alabama. With the threat to the equipment and supplies stored at the facility as well as the safety of staff, the race was on to find a speedy solution.
Plenty of water from the nearby river would be needed to put out the fire. Since the river and its surroundings are environmentally protected, a diesel-driven hydraulic pump was not a viable solution. The damaging effects of a hydraulic leak or fuel spill would contaminate the water, put wildlife at risk and incur hefty fines.
Tripp Brown, branch manager of United Rentals Pump Solutions, says, “We knew an electric submersible pump was the way to go.”That’s when he reached out to Atlas Copco, which recommended its energy-efficient WEDA 90 for the job.
WEDA 90: the best option
Joe Moser, Atlas Copco Portable Energy Product Manager, says, “We took a look at the environmental concerns, required flow, elevation and distance from the river. Looking at the situation, their best option was the WEDA 90 electric submersible pump.”
Hrishikesh Kulkarni, Atlas Copco’s Divisional Product Marketing Manager – Submersibles, says, “We understood the needs of the customer, and in this case fire safety made it more critical. With our application expertise and product knowledge, selecting the right pump was easy. Our submersible WEDA brand of pumps are designed be quick, easy, reliable and efficient. This is where WEDA is a perfect match and Atlas Copco is a perfect partner for dewatering applications.”
It didn’t take long to convince Brown. Delivered in a day, the pump was set up by Brown and one of his colleagues in an hour. Hardwired to the permanent electrical power source nearby, the pump began bringing water from the river to a frac storage tank at the base of the silo. A diesel pump was used to control the flow from the tank and pump water into a manifold that split the upper column into three separate lines for uniform water dispersal.
The WEDA pump ran 24/7 for three months, shifting more than 2,000 liters of water per minute. Once saturated, the damaged chips could be extracted safely and disposed of. The new system worked so well that the biomass plant purchased it for permanent backup fire suppression.