No two fingerprints are alike, at least not in every detail. That same thing can be said for chemical loading and unloading applications. For this reason, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to outfitting loading bays for chemical plants, refineries and terminals.
In fact, there are three critical variables – product, site and transport – to every application that must be examined before choosing the loading arm equipment that will be used. Only when operators have considered these characteristics will they truly be able to select loading arms that will efficiently, reliably and safely meet their needs.
Let's take a brief look at each variable.
From wastewater to corn syrup and ethanol to acids, the commodities handled at a loading bay can vary greatly. It is the uniqueness of these commodities that requires the operator to identify the best loading arm equipment for the operation.
Fluids with water-like viscosities will need to be handled differently than those that are thicker. Hazardous or corrosive fluids can only be transferred using equipment with compatible materials of construction. Some liquids will thicken, crystallize or freeze at lower ambient temperatures, which can bring about the need for heating and insulation solutions.
A series of critical considerations include how will the arm be operated, how it will be deployed, how will it be stored, and can it be easily and safely accessed by the operator? It’s important to keep in mind the location and operational radius of the loading arms that will be installed, as well as where all the ancillary equipment and structures will be located in relation to where the loading arms reside.
Another location-based variable to consider is the actual location of the facility, specifically the climate in which it is located. Loading bays in extreme temperatures may require special equipment.
There are numerous modes of transportation and types of containers that can be filled at a loading bay. Specific to the modes of transportation, the primary consideration is how the vehicle will be loaded and unloaded, using bottom loading or top loading.
The operator must also consider how the loading arms will connect to the transport. The different types of connections and valves all have their own specific operational characteristics that will need to be fully considered before coming to a final decision.
All of these variables and considerations highlight the fact that you can’t reliably design a loading arm system without first considering the characteristics of the application. Ignoring these details could result in the operator experiencing a series of malfunctions, breakdowns, inefficiencies and safety issues that will undoubtedly hinder operational capabilities.
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