Contractor plays key role in biodiesel plant

BY ROBERT P. MADER Of CONTRACTORs staff SENECA, ILL. Biodiesel, the fastest growing alternative fuel in the world, will soon be produced at the site of a former Naval shipyard here. Nova Biosource Fuels Inc., a leading-edge provider of the energy source, will use its proprietary patented process to produce approximately 60 million gallons of renewable fuels a year. Creation of this $68 million Seneca

BY ROBERT P. MADER

Of CONTRACTOR’s staff

SENECA, ILL. — Biodiesel, the fastest growing alternative fuel in the world, will soon be produced at the site of a former Naval shipyard here. Nova Biosource Fuels Inc., a leading-edge provider of the energy source, will use its proprietary patented process to produce approximately 60 million gallons of renewable fuels a year. Creation of this $68 million Seneca facility is a boost to the local economy, bringing construction and supply contracts to local businesses, as well as approximately 30 local jobs when operating permanently.

One of the key components of the project is the prefabricated pipe that transports the biodiesel fuel within the plant. Nova Biosource chose Edwards Engineering Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Ill., to take on this task because of its cutting edge technology and industrial experience. The project was so large that Edwards opened a separate facility specifically for this project, which is added good news for the Illinois economy. Edwards employs approximately 75 workers in its 50,000-sq.ft. prefabrication facility in Minooka, Ill., and as part of an installation team on-site at the Seneca plant.

Currently, the largest market for biodiesel is vehicle fleets of federal, state and local government agencies, as well as fleets operating in urban or environmentally sensitive areas. The plant’s end-product is expected to come from locally generated, low-cost feedstocks, including rendered animal fats and oils and recycled vegetable and animal-based greases. It’s anticipated that fuel production will begin early 2008.

“It’s very exciting to have our company involved with the alternative energy market,” stated Jim Jacobsen Jr., vice president of sales and marketing for Edwards Engineering. “We went up against some of the biggest and best contractors in the Chicago area on this project, so we’re extremely proud to have been awarded this project. Working with pipefitters who have the training that Local 597 provides gives us an edge. We have the workers available to us, and they have the expertise to do the job.”

Edwards Engineering is installing both the process area and the distillation area of the facility, Jacobsen explained, where the plant will take in rendered fat and other feedstocks and turn it into diesel fuel. The firm is performing all mechanical work, including all piping systems. It also hopes to win the contract to construct the tank farm, which had not been awarded at press time.

Edwards is installing three ownersupplied fiberglass cooling towers and two steam boilers for heat tracing of the pipelines and al so for heat exchange coils inside the finished storage tanks that use steam for heating. They are also installing three natural gas thermal oil boilers for processes that require more heat than can be produced by steam . The contractor has installed more than 70 process and utility pumps supplied by either Iowa-based Viking Pump Inc. for high viscosity lines or from Bell & Gossett for process lines, cooling water or heat tracing for freeze protection. The project includes a lot of heat tracing, Jacobsen explained, because the plant is in a cold climate and works with a high-viscosity feedstock and finished product.

The Edwards crew has installed approximately 15,000 linear feet of pipe in the process area and 18,000- ft. of pipe in the distillation area. If the company wins the tank farm portion of the project, that would involve another 30,000-ft. of pipe. The process area involved 15,000-in. of welding, and the distillation area an additional 19,000-in. of welding. The pipe runs from 2-in. up to 18-in. in both carbon and stainless steel. The pipe contains steam, nitrogen, compressed air, cooling water, vacuum, thermal oil, raw feedstock material, plus there’s load-out piping to fill up tanker trucks.

The total contract value is more than $10 million.

With a sophisticated database that tracks project status in near real-time, a highly trained workforce, and the latest welding technology in the industry, Edwards has impressed the client.

“This is the best integration of field operations and IT support that we’ve seen in a construction project of this size,” said Jeff Jones, Nova Biosource on-site project manager.

The Minooka facility was a great fit for this venture. The buildings, already existing but standing vacant, were outfitted by Edwards for the task of prefabricating the pipe. And, since the Seneca project site lacked the necessary space and the sites are only 20 miles apart, it works well logistically.

Edwards was successfully awarded the first two phases of the overall project: the process area and the distillation area. Phase one is to be completed in early September with the second phase scheduled to be finished by late October.

An aggressive firm with a good reputation, Edwards is excited about what they’re contributing to this project, as well as keeping an eye on the future. “This latest venture gives us a nice platform to look at other opportunities,” added Jacobsen. “It is representative of the kind of large magnitude projects that Edwards is uniquely capable of handling.”

Edwards Engineering is a full-service contractor providing integrated solutions for industry as well as HVACR for commercial and public projects. Edwards Engineering has successfully designed, installed and maintained a variety of systems in Fortune 500 companies, major hospitals, and both large and small office buildings and warehouses. Additional information is available at www.edwardsengineering.com and www.nwindustrialpipe.com.

Nova Biosource Fuels currently has more than 230 million gallons of biodiesel in various stages of construction or in operation throughout the U.S. with the most current being the Seneca, Ill., facility.