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Industry Innovator: Freez-it-Clean - Cryogenic Processing: Why & When?
by Contributed by Kelly Brannick

In 2008, Freez-it-Cleen created a buzz with a unique cleaning process that can greatly benefit the ethanol industry through improved efficiency and longevity on a key piece of equipment known as a thermal oxidizer. The cleaning process we call Cryogenic Processing is, simply put, sand blasting with a media that is not wet and does not leave behind a residue.

Freez-it-Cleen is a dry ice blasting company founded in 2004. In late 2007 I approached an ethanol plant in Atwater, Minnesota to see if they were interested in having us clean the grain receiving building. Instead I was asked to clean the tubes on the boiler in the thermal oxidizer. Between the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008 I designed a unique tool that allowed us the ability to clean every tube throughout the boiler. The job was a huge success and the rest is history – well, not so fast. The first job took us 24 hours to complete. The specially designed tool worked but did not hold up to the abuse. Using CO2 in a confined space had potential hazards that needed to be managed. Once we improved the process, designed and used robust tools, we were able to clean an entire thermal oxidizer safely in half the time.

It is the nature of the beast that boiler tubes and stack coils become fouled. Their design lends themselves to this and keeping them clean is paramount in reliability, longevity, and efficiency. Through a study done by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program, it was determined that cleaning with Freez-it-Cleen’s process a minimum of twice a year will improve a thermal oxidizer’s reliability, longevity, and efficiency. The thermal oxidizer is typically cleaned during annual outages in the spring and the fall, so scheduling additional down time is not a requirement. We have created a very easy to use spreadsheet that can determine the return on investment, showing how cleaning makes the boiler more efficient and saves natural gas.

Centrifuge bowls and Westfalia oil separators are also important pieces of equipment, and the polishing effects of cleaning with dry ice can prove to be beneficial on these as well. Balance is a huge issue, and the fact that dry ice blasting does not etch or scratch the material and does not leave behind any material makes this cleaning process stand out from the rest. In 2009 we designed and built fixtures that allow us to clean an entire set of Wesfalia disks and associated pieces of equipment in less than nine hours.

Other very important areas of concern are grain receiving and load-out buildings. These buildings become very dirty with a combination of road and corn dust. This will often trap the moisture that is present, and often times will perpetuate into mold and mildew, creating an unhealthy environment for the operators not to mention an explosion risk. Dry ice kills mold; it will not, however, eliminate the mold completely. I’m afraid that is also the nature of doing business in the Midwest. In the summer time, especially, this can become a constant issue. Cleaning these buildings does not require the plant be shut down because it can take place on weekends or at night when there is little or no traffic. This is often a process that does not need to be repeated annually, but every two or three years as build-up increases.

We know that as this industry comes under scrutiny from people, including legislators, it will become extremely important to show that the industry is always working towards a better, cleaner, and more efficient means of producing ethanol. Our proprietary and patent pending process will save the ethanol industry thousands of dollars. Let us show you how.

KEY CONTACTS:

Kelly Brannick, President

Alternative Methods, Inc.

p) 612-597-9337

f) 763-767-5012

www.freezitcleen.com

Alexander America, Operations Manager

Freez-it-Cleen

p) 952-217-7370

COMPANY INFO:

Alternative Methods, Inc.

D.B.A. Freez-it-Clean

Cedar, MN

www.freezitcleen.com

(612) 597-9337

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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