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Colorado Distillery Explosion and Fire


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Any more information on what happened here? I would like to know. Hoping someone is willing to share.

https://www.9news.com/article/news/local/elkins-distillery-fire-estes-park/73-db079654-b986-4813-ab2c-e4691e92c0d9

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2 hours ago, Absinthe Pete said:

Nope, but I'm curious as well. I hope it's not another, "Oh we let the still run unattended for 6 hours while we went to take a nap".

I had a consulting client that would leave his still running overnight unattended for 8-10 hours. Completely insane. He also put every bit of the heads and tails into his products and wondered why they tasted so bad.

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Happens more than people like to admit. Absolutely like playing Russian Roulette with 6 cartridges in the chamber. When I'm distilling I don't even go to the bathroom unless someone else is there or else I leave the bathroom door open. I know distillers who would start the still and then go out making sales all day long. Utterly stupid. It gives us all a bad name and in the end they'll just make more regulations for us to follow because of a few bad apples. I still love the people who don't do any research and don't go work for someone else to see what's required as far as skill level. Then they get their DSP, come on here and then ask, "can I use a garden hose from Home Depot to transfer high proof?".

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Prayers go out to the individual air lifted to a burn center.  That's never, ever positive.  I hear one other individual was subsequently transferred to the burn center, guessing that person was a bit more stable after the incident, but again, having to go to a burn center is never a positive.  There were a total of 3 people treated, so it wasn't a matter of an empty facility.

There are some other photos online, the damage to the building appear fairly substantial, clearly we're talking damage sustained from explosion and not necessarily from fire, so again, prayers for the two folks in burn, this is a life changer for them.

There is a gofundme for the two folks hospitalized.. https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-expenses-for-local-friends?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet

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The fire marshal's findings were that a failure of the still caused the explosion.  Does anyone know who built the still that they were running?  I just scanned through over 100 pics that they have online but they all showed the tasting area and outside etc.  There were no pics of the distilling area or still.  

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This has nothing to do with the exposition but iv always said if there is no pics of the still they don't distill.   Seems like most people with still are pretty fond of showing it off.  Cant tell if their cola's are for a sourced.   Again nothing to do with the exposition but.. 

 

Where did you see the fire Marshal report?   Would like to read that as well 

 

I think I found a pick of a still from way back on their isnta . No idea if this is what they where using. 

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whiskeytango,  As far as there being no pics of the still I think that you are generally correct, but the other reason that there are no pics of the still could be that it is an ugly home or shop built still.  Also since the issue seems to be the still and there was a fiery explosion, it could be that they were redistilling 190 proof GNS, but that is just speculation on my part.  Here is the link concerning the fire marshal's findings however it does not give the report and it is very vague.  I haven't had a chance to research and find the actual fire marshal's report as It is a Monday and I'm swamped with work.  This morning was the first time that I heard about the explosion and fire.  https://www.eptrail.com/2021/03/12/elkins-distillery-fire-deemed-accidental/

 

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Thanks Silk,  I found the pics.  It certainly looks home built and I don't see any safety devices on it, in the pics. 

It's really a sad situation that could have probably been avoided. I hope those guys are going to be okay.  Prayers for them and their families.

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6 minutes ago, Southernhighlander said:

Thanks Silk,  I found the pics.  It certainly looks home built and I don't see any safety devices on it, in the pics. 

It's really a sad situation that could have probably been avoided. I hope those guys are going to be okay.  Prayers for them and their families.

All the pics I see I dont see any safety devices.  But if I was building a still id put them in the back where they won't show in pics.  Anyway. Hope they make a quick recovery.  

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They may very well have a PRV on the top of the pot in the back but that would not be enough, in my opinion. 

Also I have seen hot water heater PRVs on most of the homemade stills that I have encountered.  A pressure relief valve for a 50 gallon hot water heater does not have the throughput for a 100 gallon still's contents.  There is more involved in PRV sizing than just psi but many people do not know that.

I'm not saying this accident was caused by a lack of PRVs or VRVs.  I have no idea what went wrong with their still.  I will say however that the last 4 out of 5 distillery accidents that I have researched occurred around stills that were either homemade or that were modified by the owners.  I'm not saying that home built stills are always unsafe.  There are some people out there that have built some good, safe stills themselves, however there are some home built stills that are flat out dangerous.  

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All true what you all said. Sad to see home built with no safety devices. You at least need a pressure gauge front and center to avoid explosion. Making a still explode is not that easy so I'm very curious of what went wrong. Plugged Lyne arm I would expect.

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I saw an older article that mentioned the still was built/designed by a friend that was some sort of equipment engineer. A big responsibility to take on for a friend. Still, too many unknown variables to know causation. A terrible situation for all involved. Hopefully they heal up quick. 

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2 hours ago, whiskeytango said:

This has nothing to do with the exposition but iv always said if there is no pics of the still they don't distill.   Seems like most people with still are pretty fond of showing it off.  

For giggles, I went through our own pictures.  Not very many pictures of our equipment (no recent ones).  Honestly, most people don't care, pictures of the end product are more popular except to other distillers which obviously aren't a target market.  I'm pretty proud of our equipment which is very visible to anyone that visits us, and we ferment and distill everything we sell from scratch, but it's changed a lot since 2016 which is when most of the posted pictures of this distillery were shot.  

And the posted pictures don't show a heating source either.  So the fact that there aren't any PRVs doesn't seem like much of a reason to judge them.  Hopefully they will be OK.

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On 3/15/2021 at 1:37 PM, Southernhighlander said:

A pressure relief valve for a 50 gallon hot water heater does not have the throughput for a 100 gallon still's contents.  There is more involved in PRV sizing than just psi but many people do not know that.

How should you determine the necessary LBs/Hr for a given still? I don't think I've ever heard throughput of a PRV mentioned before, and it is a great point. To be clear, I do not have any water heater PRVs on anything, I'm just interested.

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Lots to say here. First off no one should be using a Pressure Relief Valve made for a water heater. They make ones specifically for this purpose. Not to mention made with materials that, 1. Won't taint your product and 2. Are hot alcohol tolerant. As far as through put you'll have to engineer that. Also they should be plumbed to go into a barrel fill with water thereby knocking down the steam and making the alcohol inert to flammability.

They PRV and pressure gauge should be checked regularly. I use an air hose with an air gun with a rubber tip and set the PSI to only 2 or 3 psi. For the PRV set the PSI to what the blow off point it. NEVER fill a still with compressed air to test ANYTHING. If you need to check for leaks or any test of that sort use water. Water is not compressible, air is.

 

On my PSI gauge I have a big circular sign I made that says this should never read anything but zero!

Just for posterity a still should never be filled more than 75% full and maybe less so based on the shape of the pot. If you're distilling on mash, such as corn, that corn can block the lyne arm and that can leak to an explosion.

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16 hours ago, adamOVD said:

How should you determine the necessary LBs/Hr for a given still? I don't think I've ever heard throughput of a PRV mentioned before, and it is a great point. To be clear, I do not have any water heater PRVs on anything, I'm just interested.

Throughput is just the term that I use and it is the volume of steam that can pass through the valve in a given span of time.  For pressure relief valves for steam, it is given in lbs of steam per hr and it is on the valve's tag.  For a steam jacket, the valve must be a section VIII ASME rated valve of the proper PSI and lbs of steam per hr capacity.  Most steam fired stills are fired with low pressure steam so the PRVs for the steam jacket pop at 15psi.  The steam jackets on  stills generally operate at around 14 PSI or less.  To size, you calculate the lbs of steam per hr that the jacket is receiving and you size the PRV over that.  Our safety manual states that the output for the jacket PRVs should be plumbed into a drain,

 For the inner pot of our stills we use a 5 psi PRV with the same lbs of steam per hour rating as the PRV on the jacket.  The PRV for the inner pot will have a larger bore size (my term) than the steam jacket PRV because the lbs per hr rating on the inner pot PRV are for 5PSI not 15 psi.  We put a 2nd 5psi PRV of the same lbs per hr rating as the one on top of the pot at the top of the distilling column on the pot.  We put the 2nd PRV at the top of the column because the PRV that is on top of the pot may clog if there are solids in the mash.  So if you have a pot still and you don't have a PRV at the top of the column and you run mashes with solids, you really need that 2nd PRV.

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Good intel, thanks Paul.

On another note, I cringe at worm condensers.  More and more I don’t think they belong in modern commercial distilling.  Their design is a hazard - long narrow vapor path, narrow diameter soft copper prone to kinking.  It becomes very easy to overwhelm and easily achieve vapor speeds high enough to blow vapor through a cool tank.  In a puke scenario, clogging is a very real possibility, and cleaning them afterwards is difficult.  Shotgun style condensers offer redundancy and a far larger vapor path, easy to clean, incredibly difficult to clog when properly sized.

Sorry if I offend the traditionalists.  In the hands of an expert it’s probably a non-issue.

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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Good intel, thanks Paul.

On another note, I cringe at worm condensers.  More and more I don’t think they belong in modern commercial distilling.  Their design is a hazard - long narrow vapor path, narrow diameter soft copper prone to kinking.  It becomes very easy to overwhelm and easily achieve vapor speeds high enough to blow vapor through a cool tank.  In a puke scenario, clogging is a very real possibility, and cleaning them afterwards is difficult.  Shotgun style condensers offer redundancy and a far larger vapor path, easy to clean, incredibly difficult to clog when properly sized.

Sorry if I offend the traditionalists.  In the hands of an expert it’s probably a non-issue.

Silk,  I agree with all of your points concerning worm condensers.  We do not offer them on any of our stills and when someone asks about a worm condenser, I try to talk them out of it and if I can't then I accept no liability and I have the purchaser sign an agreement releasing me of all liability, in case an accident occurs.

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9 hours ago, Southernhighlander said:

Silk,  I agree with all of your points concerning worm condensers.  We do not offer them on any of our stills and when someone asks about a worm condenser, I try to talk them out of it and if I can't then I accept no liability and I have the purchaser sign an agreement releasing me of all liability, in case an accident occurs.

Basically with a Worm condenser, you are building a potential bomb with pressure build up and in my view point has no place in modern distilling.

 

That said, I further view the manufactured still for this distillery as irresponsible and those responsible need to be held to account.  It is high time that once a sized level of commercialisation is reached, all safety aspects and proper process design be taken into account.

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