Flour Silo Cleaning with Bin Whip

June 2, 2016
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Project Challenge

A leading supplier of protein and prepared food products needed a 46 by 20 foot flour silo cleaned. The silo had buildup in the cone area that was restricting the flow of flour to the sifter units. The buildup was approximately 24 to 36 inches deep, extending from the cone to approximately 15 feet up the shell. This restriction caused inefficient and inconsistent batching of flour for their process. Previous contractors had cleaned the silo with water resulting in moisture that had caused a blockage and mold issue. The bin whip cleaning process was a relatively new concept for all parties involved. The client wanted to maximize productivity and minimize waste generated.

Project Solution

The bin whip is a hydraulic driven rotating device that is lowered into a silo from the top opening of a silo. As it is lowered it rotates, much like a weed eater head. The position of the head is controlled by a position arm that allows the whip to be moved around the circumference of the tank. As it rotates, chains “whip” and pulverize the compacted material. As the material gets loosened and becomes flowable again it is vacuumed out of the bottom of the silo with an air mover vacuum truck into a vacuum box. 

The client engaged Action Environmental to remove the flour buildup inside the onsite silo storage unit.

Any project that requires specialized equipment such as a bin whip to be placed 50 feet in the air on the top of a structure using a crane is a challenge in and of itself. Attention to the details particularly regarding safety are paramount, all personnel including the 3rd party crane crew were briefed on the job scope and safety precautions. A site evaluation was performed to identify obstructions to the lift, power line locations and identification of exclusion zone for personnel during lifting operations was established. All personnel working at height were briefed on the fall protection requirements and the identification of the tie off cable system in place to be used for 100% tie off at all times.

All projects involving fine particulate materials such as flour create an explosion hazard when the dust in air reaches an ignition source such as a spark or static charge. For this reason, particular attention to grounding and bonding of the equipment was necessary. Air Mover vacuum trucks by virtue of the material being moved by high velocity air through a plastic hose creates large amounts of static electricity, the uncontrolled discharge of this static electricity in conjunction with the flour in air mixture can cause catastrophic results if not mitigated. This hazard is controlled and eliminated by grounding and bonding of all equipment in use by connecting ground wires from the hose connections to an earth ground away from the work zone. Additionally, to eliminate the chance for a metal on metal spark being created from the rotating bin whip, brass non-sparking chains were used so that there would be no sparks created when the whip contacts the shell of the silo during normal operations.

Our crew used a crane from Maxim Crane to place the bin whip head, hydraulic power pack and hose reel on top of the 46-foot flour silo. Via the access hatch, the crew used the bin whip to effectively remove buildup of material and collect it into a vacuum box with the assistance of a King Vac. 

After removal of the flour buildup, the silo’s internal temperature was raised to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 hours per FDA regulations, killing any biological contaminants and microorganisms.

Project Results

The flour silo cleaning project was completed under budget and early, in 4 days instead of 5. Now that setup and breakdown have been mastered, future projects can be completed more quickly. For future projects, Action Environmental recommended using the manway in the center of the silo instead of the access hatch. This way the crew would be able to reach all material without the downtime of adjusting the arm after each section was completed.

Approximately 25 yards of material was collected from the flour silo and sent for recycling at Silver Creek Materials in Fort Worth, TX. (Side note: Recycled flour is added to topsoil mixtures as food for organic microbes and other biological critters such as earth worms.)

The client had immediate access to the silo upon completion, and it was put back into service with no additional downtime or contamination.

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Action Environmental | Manufacturing | Silo Cleaning | TX - Texas | Tank Management
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