Western Iowa Energy is a small private biodiesel producer based in Wall Lake, Iowa. The company has been growing steadily since 2004, along with the entire biodiesel industry. Within seven years the company reached the point where it had outgrown its production capacity and required expansion of its facilities.
The company hired Hawkins Construction to perform design-build construction and installation of two new 500,000-gallon biodiesel storage tanks and one new 145,000-gallon refined oil storage tank. These massive steel tanks were welded together on-site and set with steel ring foundations and a sand foundation. Hawkins prime-painted the exterior of the tanks and wrapped each with 2” of fiberglass insulation and aluminum skin.
The project also required the installation of the interconnecting supply and discharge lines, two pumps, pipe rack structures, two side-entry mixers and the necessary electrical, instrumentation and controls. These advanced instruments require specialized technical expertise, so Hawkins brought in the original instrumentation contractor as a guarantee of quality assurance.
Due to the function of these tanks, they were constructed in a “tank farm” within a containment berm, which allowed for all rainwater surrounding the tanks to be collected and tested before it was permitted to leave the containment area. This precaution provides added environmental control and safety, while adding complexity to the construction project because of the need to halt work every time it rained so the water could be collected and tested. Hawkins adjusted the schedule for this complexity and finished the project on time and with zero abnormal rainwater tests.
After the first project was completed, Western Iowa Energy hired Hawkins for a second project to complete the expansion. This project included the design-build construction of one 500,000 gallon biodiesel storage tank built to the same specifications as the first two. Hawkins also converted another tank from biodiesel to glycerin, and installed a new rail load-out arm and two new wastewater load-out arms at the rail car loading platform. This project also included several additions to the building, including new recirculating piping, a new addition to the Filter Building, and the addition of a structural steel mezzanine inside the existing facility.
Both projects were completed on time and within budget, and without any shutdown of Western Iowa Energy’s operations during the project. Prior to construction, Western Iowa Energy was producing approximately 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year. With the new facilities, they are producing over 45 million gallons and plan on increasing this amount.