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Technical Article

No Grain, No Gain


As featured in Dry Bulk Magazine
by Austin Anderson

With a growing global population expected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050, our highly populated planet will need to be fed.

Grain is among the basic building blocks of the average human diet, accounting for almost half of the calories consumed by an individual. Livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land yet produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories. Grain feeds the world’s livestock and is an ingredient of many products used in daily life. There is no doubt that grain will remain among the world’s most traded food commodities as producers aim to keep our growing world nourished. What we eat becomes more important than how much we eat.

The world population uses approximately 50% of total habitable land for agriculture. In many overpopulated areas, there is not enough land available for crop production, hence the need to transport grain to these areas from other areas of the world.

In 2017 the United States grew 14.6 billion bushels of corn with 17% being exported to more than 80 different countries across the world. In 2018 the world’s three leading producers of wheat, Canada, Russia and the United States, exported a combined $19 billion (€17 billion) of grain which accounts for nearly 50% of the world’s total wheat exports.

When it comes to moving the world’s grain supply and other bulk solids, shipping has proven to be one of the most efficient processes, saving both cost and time.

When retracted, these Vortex Grain Ship Loading Spouts boast a height of 29’ 21/2” (8.9 m).

Ship Loading
Shipping of products, like grain, can be among the world’s fastest and most effective solutions. However, loading of these various products can be a dirty process. With increased international regulations being placed on shipping due to both health and environmental concerns, ship loading is an evolving process and can be an environmentally friendly bulk loading method.

Traditional methods of ship loading utilising belt conveyors and chutes can lead to material spillage and have adverse effects on the nearby cities and neighborhoods. Dust released into the atmosphere can pollute waterways, collect on homes, businesses and vehicles and be inhaled by both humans and animals in the area.

With more than 10,500 bulk ships moving unpackaged bulk solid commodities through the world’s oceans, the shipping industry continues to search for cleaner methods to execute various processes, including loading, to meet the evolving governmental regulations being placed on these methods.

When properly applied using proprietary engineering controls (headchute, spout, dust collection, etc.), loading solutions can be specifically designed for dust-free grain loading, thereby protecting the port’s nearby neighborhoods, waterways and other surrounding ecosystems from grain dust emissions into the atmosphere.

All projects are different and require individual specifications and modifications to meet each customer’s application requirements. Among the parameters to consider are the spout’s overall size, load rate capacity requirements and vertical travel distance requirements.

The utilisation of telescoping tubes which slide into one another as the spout retracts, allows bulk carriers safe entry and exit at the port. Constructed from durable metal materials, the telescoping tubes are protected from the elements of the surrounding environment, address wear and abrasion from the grain being handled and provides stability in spouts with especially long vertical travel distances.

Perhaps the most important feature of ship loading spouts is the implementation of a discharge filtration system. These filtration systems provide a cleaner option for bulk carriers as they transport various commodities around the globe.

Situated on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, these three Vortex Grain Ship Loading Spouts can handle 120,000 bushels (4,228 cubic meters) per hour.

Case Study: Ship Loaders Handling Grain on the Gulf Coast
In 2016, Vortex Global, a US manufacturer of telescoping loading spouts, was approached by a major grain exporter to collaborate on the development of an exclusive Grain Ship Loading Spout. Engineers from Vortex worked hand-in-hand with the client to address their specific needs and parameters, including the development of a specialised dust filter unit.

Located on the Gulf Coast of the United States, this grain loading facility installed three Vortex Grain Ship Loading Spouts to be implemented at a ship and barge loading facility to handle whole grains. These three Ship Loaders feature a tube-in-tube spout design consisting of 10 telescoping tubes and boast a vertical travel distance of 72 ft (22 m).

In total, each unit measures 99’ 5 7/8” (30.3 m) when extended and 27’ 5 7/8” (8.4 m) when retracted. Each of the three Grain Ship Loading Spouts have a load rate capacity of 120,000 bushels (4,228 cubic meters) of grain per hour (more than one ton per second).

These spouts utilise a two cable, two-part, single-reeving hoist drive system, incorporating eight transfer sheaves to support the two cables. Redundant features are included to limit travel at both the upper and lower limits, as well as over- and under-speed conditions and cable tension monitoring.

Discharge Filtration System Features

Each of the Ship Loading Spouts are equipped with a Discharge Filtration System for improved dust management at the point of discharge. This filtration system is designed to displace dust-laden air from its source, separate dusts from the air, exhaust the cleaned air into the atmosphere, and re-entrain the filtered dusts back into the load.

These filtration systems are active units, meaning air withdrawal forcibly pulls displaced air and dusts through the filter cartridges, in order to perform a filtration process. Throughout the loading process, reverse pulse jets continuously purge collected dusts from the filters and down into the load. This allows dusts to be loaded out alongside materials, rather than being disposed of as waste.

This Discharge Filtration System features more than 3,100 sq. ft (288 sq. m) of polyester cloth and boasts an efficiency rating of 99.9%.

Case Study: Ship Loaders to Handle Grain in Western Canada
Following the completion and successful implementation of the Gulf Coast project, Vortex was approached to duplicate the project for a client in Canada. These Grain Ship Loading Spouts will serve a grain loading facility in British Columbia on Vancouver Harbor.  Once installed and operational, these ship loading spouts will handle whole grains utilising a tube-in-tube design made up of nine telescoping tubes. The travel distance for this specific spout will be 80 ft (24.4 m).

Once installed, these Grain Ship Loading Spouts will feature a load rate capacity of 120,000 bushels (4,228 cubic meters) of grain per hour (more than one ton per second).

When extended, the spouts will stand at a height of 109’ 2 1/2” (33.3 m). Once retracted, their height will decrease to 29’ 2 1/2” (8.9 m). These units also feature a two cable, two-part, single-reeving hoist drive system but incorporate six transfer sheaves to support two cables.

Vortex Grain Ship Loading Spout being prepared to be shipped.

Looking Ahead
With the ability to load at rates of more than 120,000 bushels (4,228 cubic meters) of grain per hour (more than one ton per second), the Vortex Grain Ship Loading Spout is among the world’s fastest and most efficient loading solutions.

“The most critical features of ship loading equipment are reliability and environmental safety,” explains Mark Schaberg P.E., chief engineer, Vortex Global. “Nowadays, ports worldwide consider pollution prevention a primary objective – paying special mind to reducing dust emissions and preventing cargo overflow or spillage. To address these concerns, it is critical to incorporate sophisticated engineering controls and dust control measures to provide the best available technology to our customers.”

Ship loading is a complex endeavor and developing these systems for specific applications can sometimes take up to two years. Each client’s unique application requires made-to-order specifications. This includes the spout’s overall size to meet load rate capacity requirements, vertical travel distance requirements, and other considerations for application parameters.

Moving into a new decade, the opportunity exists to modify these Grain Ship Loading Spouts to be utilised in other industries outside of grain. Each commodity has unique traits and will require specific engineering, which may lead to significant design and configuration changes.

As existing bulk handling facilities and their equipment age and environmental regulations on the shipping industry are strengthened by the government, ship loading spouts can load at high rates with little to no visible dust providing an efficient and environmentally conscious solution.

About Vortex
For over 40 years, Vortex Global has provided quality slide gates, diverters, iris valves and loadout equipment designed specifically for handling dry bulk solids in gravity, vacuum, dilute, or dense phase applications. Vortex equipment is engineered for dependability, durability, easy maintenance, and offers proven solutions to material handling and process efficiency problems. With an in-house team of engineers, Vortex products can be completely customized for individual applications or special installations. For more information, visit www.vortexglobal.com.

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