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Winnie the Pooh

Source to heat the still, electrical, NG, propane?

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I am trying to find a property for the future distillery in greater Seattle area. Not an exact place for now - more like trying to figure out of what I can rent in term of size (I am looking for 1500 - 2500 sf. fts), utilities (sewer is a must, I guess), loadable dock (nice to have), small office, place to make a tasting room, etc.

The main question of what should be a source to heat the still? I thought, that gas is the most efficient way of doing that, and NG is cheaper and easier than propane. I actually thought, that steam based stills is a simply speaking big boiler with water or oil heated by the gas (for efficiency) and still's boiler is (simply speaking) floats there.

When I asked this question one of still fabricators, I got the following answer:

" ... Stills that are direct fired with gas are becoming a thing of the past.  There have been distillery explosions etc.  It is very unlikely that you could get a still like that passed a safety inspector or Fire Marshal.  However our electric baine maries stills that pass all inspections 99% of the time. .... "

Can you clarify this? Because, if it is true information, I can look for the places with electrical only, that is actually much easier to find.

Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

loadable dock (nice to have)

If you don't have a doc you'll need a forktruck

 

1 hour ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

The main question of what should be a source to heat the still?

You can run the math for all of these. In the midwest NG is less than anything else.  

 

1 hour ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

Stills that are direct fired with gas are becoming a thing of the past.

I believe they mean literally directly fired -- as in an open flame beneath the pot.  Less efficient than any other method of heating, and yes, I think it would be difficult to gain approval from your local permitting folks.

If you can afford steam, go with steam. There are folks here that will sing the virtues of the water bath. Just pull our your high-school physics book and calculate how long it will take to heat up. Time is your enemy in the distilling world.

 

 

 

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56 minutes ago, indyspirits said:

I believe they mean literally directly fired -- as in an open flame beneath the pot.  Less efficient than any other method of heating, and yes, I think it would be difficult to gain approval from your local permitting folks.

If you can afford steam, go with steam. There are folks here that will sing the virtues of the water bath. Just pull our your high-school physics book and calculate how long it will take to heat up. Time is your enemy in the distilling world.

When I mean heated by gas (NG or propane) vs. heating by electricity, I mean more like SFH gas or electrical water heater. Both of them meet modern fire hazard codes, and both of them gets approved by the local inspectors. However, it might have a different set of the requirements. In the same time, gas water heater has a boiler, and gas burner with some gas regulators and safety features. 

Thanks.

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Natural gas fired steam boiler is king for a reason.

In most cases, it's significantly less expensive in the long run, compared to running electric - to the tune of about 50% savings.  Sure, you can find places with a closer gap, but you can also find places with a wider gap.  Low pressure steam is very safe, and well understood by local authorities.

Lets say you have a 300 gallon still, to heat it up from 70f to 197f (the bulk of heating), given a few losses, takes about 375,000 BTU.  That's roughly equivalent to 110kw over an hour.

Let's say you pay $0.12 per KWH.  That's $13 to heat up your still, and roughly $25.00 for the whole run.  There are some states that would be close to 2x this (Cali, Mass, NY, etc).

Lets say you run 4x a week, every week.  That's $5000 a year in electric, probably $2500 a year in natural gas.  That's $2500 a year savings.  Over 5 years, that pays for the boiler.

Trying to compare this from a "simplicity" perspective is moot, since 110kw is going to require either 480v 3 phase, or heavy 400a 240v 3 phase.  If you don't have either, they'll cost the same as a steam boiler and gas to install.  Brewery next door just installed 400a 240v 3 phase, they had to pay the local utility $20,000 to drop power to the meter head, and probably another $20,000 of electrical work internally.

There is a "balance point", where the decision is significantly closer.  Probably around the 150 gallon mark, especially if you already have 240v 3 phase in place.  However, if you are successful, it means you are going to hit a point where you are scrapping your investments and installing steam and nat gas to be able to scale.

If I had heavy 480v 3 phase, and absolutely no option for natural gas or even fuel oil, I'd install a Sussman or Chromalox electric boiler.

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Your quote looks like it came from me. For direct heat, direct fired gas is dangerous indoors. Direct fired electric is okay but you should not put in low wines only wash and you cannot have solids in the pot or they will scorch, For indirect heat a natural gas fired low pressure steam boiler is best, propane fired is 2nd best and electric steam boiler is 3rd best, my baine marie electric over steam is 4th best, oil is 5th best and hot water sucks because it is so slow. Electric costs way more than natural gas in the long run but it can take 13 years for a nat gas low pressure steam boiler to pay for itself when firing a 100 gallon still, compared to a 100 gallon electric baine marie stills energy costs.  For a 300 gallon the nat gas fired low pressure steam boiler can pay for itself in 5 years. and larger stills less than 5 years.

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I always thought the holy grail would be to find a building on city steam - aka Con Ed steam in NYC.  Why even bother with a boiler?  Unlimited high pressure steam on tap.

That said, fuel oil isn’t mentioned often here - we burn fuel oil for steam.  Our boiler came with two burners, gas and oil.  Running gas was complex for us, the pipe was too small.  So we said screw it, drop in a 300 gallon tank, once oil gets expensive we would swap.  Oil still pretty cheap.

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You don't say what and how much you are attempting to produce. If you are shooting for a 1500sq ft facility in an urban area inclusive of a tasting room, you will probably not actually be distilling any significant product, so the type of energy you consume will be insignificant.

If that's the case, then just go electric as it will get you through the permitting process a lot quicker and with less hassle. If on the other  hand you are serious about production, then steam is the way to go, and NG is the preferable fuel, followed by Propane, then elect. 

 

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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

I always thought the holy grail would be to find a building on city steam - aka Con Ed steam in NYC

Our distillery was on a street with city steam... approx $125k to connect (it did require closing the street during connection along with all of the regulators & equipment to get it to LP steam) and then you had to contract with the city to purchase steam, the minimum amount  was WAY more than we needed. Even when used for heat in the facility the initial outlay simply wasn't economically logical.  It certainly sounded like a great approach initially. 

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6 hours ago, indyspirits said:
8 hours ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

loadable dock (nice to have)

If you don't have a doc you'll need a forktruck

Not necessarily.  We make do with a pallet stacker. Would be nice to have a forklift but we just don't have the room. 

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17 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Trying to compare this from a "simplicity" perspective is moot, since 110kw is going to require either 480v 3 phase, or heavy 400a 240v 3 phase.  If you don't have either, they'll cost the same as a steam boiler and gas to install.  Brewery next door just installed 400a 240v 3 phase, they had to pay the local utility $20,000 to drop power to the meter head, and probably another $20,000 of electrical work internally.

There is a "balance point", where the decision is significantly closer.  Probably around the 150 gallon mark, especially if you already have 240v 3 phase in place.  However, if you are successful, it means you are going to hit a point where you are scrapping your investments and installing steam and nat gas to be able to scale.

If I had heavy 480v 3 phase, and absolutely no option for natural gas or even fuel oil, I'd install a Sussman or Chromalox electric boiler.

Most likely, place that I can potentially rent or build would not have any serious NG or electrical service. So, most likely, it will be on my own expense. In this case, I guess, I should consider to setup a NG service and my still(s) will be NG based.

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17 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

Your quote looks like it came from me. For direct heat, direct fired gas is dangerous indoors. Direct fired electric is okay but you should not put in low wines only wash and you cannot have solids in the pot or they will scorch, For indirect heat a natural gas fired low pressure steam boiler is best, propane fired is 2nd best and electric steam boiler is 3rd best, my baine marie electric over steam is 4th best, oil is 5th best and hot water sucks because it is so slow. Electric costs way more than natural gas in the long run but it can take 13 years for a nat gas low pressure steam boiler to pay for itself when firing a 100 gallon still, compared to a 100 gallon electric baine marie stills energy costs.  For a 300 gallon the nat gas fired low pressure steam boiler can pay for itself in 5 years. and larger stills less than 5 years.

Yes, that is from our conversation over email. I did not mention names as it was a personal conversation between me and you. I guess, I misunderstood you - I got your message as "gas fired stills and old date and cannot pass inspection these days". I guess, my problems is that I have no understanding of difference between NG direct fired stills and NG indirect fired still, and where steam boilers are located in this puzzle. I am thinking about 300+ gallons still, ideally 500+ gallons still. So, I am try to differentiate cost vs. complications.

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17 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

I always thought the holy grail would be to find a building on city steam - aka Con Ed steam in NYC.  Why even bother with a boiler?  Unlimited high pressure steam on tap.

That said, fuel oil isn’t mentioned often here - we burn fuel oil for steam.  Our boiler came with two burners, gas and oil.  Running gas was complex for us, the pipe was too small.  So we said screw it, drop in a 300 gallon tank, once oil gets expensive we would swap.  Oil still pretty cheap.

Sorry, I did not consider oil. Actually, I have no knowledge about oil fired stills.

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17 hours ago, Roger said:

You don't say what and how much you are attempting to produce. If you are shooting for a 1500sq ft facility in an urban area inclusive of a tasting room, you will probably not actually be distilling any significant product, so the type of energy you consume will be insignificant.

I was thinking about 1500 - 2500 sq. fts excluding tasting room. I guess, it should be enough space to start from one still (500+ gallons) with potential grows up to three stills: outcome of two runs of still #1 and still #2, will be a source for still #3. Or combination of different products. Currently, I am thinking about running flavored spirits. Plus, I have some ideas of making liquors based on flavored spirits with some infused addition. is it too small or too aggressive? Unfortunately, it is hard to setup any actual marketing goals/numbers w/o having actual product.

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we are just installing a oil fired 15 hp boiler that will fill our steam needs ,were lucky there is top notch boiler manufacturer a hour away . so for us oil was the answer . electricity is killing us , natural gas is not available , propane is more expensive BTU/hr , so oil it is .  we still plan on preheating with our hydronic system and taking it to the final temp with steam . 

on the topic of boiler manufacturers make sure u are getting all your answers from a reputable manufacturer , not a boiler salesman . we delt directly with the owner he is 74 years old , has been in the business his entire life and is the third generation in the business . he really helped us figure out exactly what we need for what we plan on doing , and cleared up alot of steam myths floating around the internet . hands down the best company we have ever dealt with . 

tim 

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7 hours ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

Yes, that is from our conversation over email. I did not mention names as it was a personal conversation between me and you. I guess, I misunderstood you - I got your message as "gas fired stills and old date and cannot pass inspection these days". I guess, my problems is that I have no understanding of difference between NG direct fired stills and NG indirect fired still, and where steam boilers are located in this puzzle. I am thinking about 300+ gallons still, ideally 500+ gallons still. So, I am try to differentiate cost vs. complications.

If someone references a gas fired still it means direct fire. The correct reference is steam fired by a ng boiler.  I have sold 300 gallon and even 500 gallon electric baine marie stills, however in both instances the customers had huge amounts of industrial power and no access to NG.  I pushed them towards one of our low pressure steam boilers fired by LP but they just would not go there.  With 300 to 500 gallon stills, an ng fired boiler is your very best option 2nd best is LP.  If you would like a quote for a complete system including everything except the bottling line just let me know.

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On 2/17/2019 at 8:30 AM, Silk City Distillers said:

I always thought the holy grail would be to find a building on city steam - aka Con Ed steam in NYC.  Why even bother with a boiler?  Unlimited high pressure steam on tap.

That said, fuel oil isn’t mentioned often here - we burn fuel oil for steam.  Our boiler came with two burners, gas and oil.  Running gas was complex for us, the pipe was too small.  So we said screw it, drop in a 300 gallon tank, once oil gets expensive we would swap.  Oil still pretty cheap.

Silk,  I had a fuel oil fired boiler for my drying kiln when I owned my wood products business.  It worked great but I ended up buying a wood fired boiler because it cost me a great deal less to operate than the fuel oil boiler and the federal government gave me a grant that paid 50% of the cost of the wood fired boiler.  I think a fuel oil fired boiler is a great option for a distillery.  I don't know why I didn't think about that.  I have sold to one customer in NY that has municipal steam.

Edited by Southernhighlander

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6 hours ago, Winnie the Pooh said:

Sorry, I did not consider oil. Actually, I have no knowledge about oil fired stills.

It would not be an oil fired still.  It would be a steam fired still with an oil fired boiler.  It is very important for you to learn the correct nomenclature.  Without the correct nomenclature you will continue to have communication issues.

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Winnie. From your previous posts and this one you sound like you are ready to spend some money.  Seriously consider hiring a consultant to at least get you through the process to get you started.  There are a few on this forum and I would be shocked if there's not one in the Seattle area. I say this with all due respect. 

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On 2/17/2019 at 8:27 AM, Southernhighlander said:

Direct fired electric is okay but you should not put in low wines

I have never heard that before. Can you please explain?

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20 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

I think a fuel oil fired boiler is a great option for a distillery.  I don't know why I didn't think about that. 

Oil is usually a better option than propane, but it really depends on where you live.  Out here in the Northeast, heating oil is still pretty common (although slowly disappearing).  I can pick up the phone and have a 250 gallons delivered in an hour, no big deal.  But I understand, in many parts of the country this just isn't the case.

You can burn biodiesel with an oil boiler too.

Always wondered if there was a way to make biodiesel using heads (ethanol+esters and not methanol).  Could be a really interesting way to be self-sustaining, recycle waste products into usable fuel.  You can add a small amount of heads to heating oil, but only a small amount is soluble without fancy chemistry.

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aux arc,

It is safer to only put 6% to 14% wash in the pot for obvious reasons.  If you put 25% to 80% low wines in there you have a much bigger bomb.  My safety manuals address this concerning my stills.  Of course you can do whatever you like with your still.

 

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Silk,

I had no access to heating oil so I ran regular diesel fuel in my kiln boiler which was fine except that it was really expensive compared to wood waste which cost me zero.  I had purchased the kiln and boiler used from a company that was up near KC that had heating oil access. 

Funny thing was that the government was doing grants for businesses that ran boilers off of biomass and wood as alternative fuels for environmental reasons.  That's funny because wood and biomass fired boilers put out massive amounts of pollution compared to nat gas and othr energy sources, however I apply for grants whenever they are available.  I certainly don't look gift horses in the mouth.

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On 2/18/2019 at 7:10 PM, Aux Arc said:

Winnie. From your previous posts and this one you sound like you are ready to spend some money.  Seriously consider hiring a consultant to at least get you through the process to get you started.  There are a few on this forum and I would be shocked if there's not one in the Seattle area. I say this with all due respect. 

That is the plan. However, I am trying to clear more questions (more grey areas) before I talk to the consultant. It is a huge difference between distill two gallons on the kitchen's cook-top and running 300 - 700 gallons still.

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@Winnie the Pooh . Great to see you vetting all options before deciding. Id highly NG powered recommend steam as your heat source. Steam is a excellent safe fast heat source. Yes there is some additional initial cost, but those costs are recouped quick with fuel and time cost savings that steam provides

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