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Condensate Improvements in California:

Driving efficiency savings for the F&B industry

California nut production

Customer: Foodservice Manufacturer

There's more to California than rolling surf and Tinseltown. Not that far away is the agricultural goldmine that is the Central Valley. And, it has enormous benefits for the Golden State.

Using less than 1% of the USA's farmland, this fertile region provides 8% of the country's value from agriculture and a quarter of its food production.

Unsurprisingly, numerous food and beverage corporations are based in the Valley. One such organization, with roots dating back to the mid-19th century, is headquartered in Fresno and is renowned for its expertise in this area.

These days, if you enjoy a flavored coffee from Starbucks or Dutch Bros or order a shake from a popular fast-food outlet, there's a high likelihood that this company has contributed to making your day.

Like us, they've made a name for themselves by specialising in a particular sector, and delivering what they promise. Our paths converge where steam is needed to process the raw ingredients into their innovative products.

A common issue with condensate return systems

Imagine for a second, something like a geyser on your plant's roof. Hot condensate regularly erupts all over the place, and, being much more damaging than simple rain, it's important to solve this quickly.

That was the immediate concern here. However, in a colder climate, like the Midwest for example, that condensate could freeze, posing both structural load issues and dangerous safety hazards. There was also an element of brand reputation at stake too, since plumes of steam rising from the roof didn't look great.

The facility has six condensate return pumps, vented to the roof to release flash steam. One of these had failed, causing the condensate to gush out over the roof.

Our role was to investigate and remedy the situation, and do everything possible to prevent it happening again.

As our engineers looked into the situation, it became clear that the pumps had not been ideally fitted. There was no way to divert the condensate, no isolation valve ahead of the equipment, and no overflow in the receiver. This would have let the condensate be diverted to a safe location, rather than cascading over the roof. Plus, as we worked on solving the issues with the failed condensate pump, another promptly failed too.

Finding the best-fit solution, fast

Our solution involved completely refurbishing all six pumps at the site. This included adding strainers, inserting sight glasses on the pumps and receivers, adding overflow lines for the receivers, replacing check valves, and completely overhauling the pumping mechanisms. Pressure gauges and isolation valves were added downstream of the pumps, aiding the ability to quickly diagnose and remedy any future issues.

In any busy food and beverage plant, the local maintenance engineers have their work cut out dealing with the day-to-day issues on the production line. Being able to call upon specialist steam experts to troubleshoot any issues is an important benefit for this company in partnering with us. We were able to diagnose, recommend improvements, and complete the project within a fast, three-month turnaround, using planned downtime periods.

Our expertise also highlighted the sustainability and efficiency savings generated by the work. Whilst their initial concerns were about the roof damage, showing just how much water and energy was being saved was a welcome bonus.

Now they keep essential parts for their steam system on site, to avoid any downtime waiting for parts to be delivered, and retain Spirax Sarco for their steam expertise on an ongoing basis. Knowing they're in safe, reliable hands where their all-important steam system is concerned lets them focus on what they know best; providing first-class ingredients for the domestic and international food and beverage industry.

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