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Propane fired Boiler or combustion options in rural areas


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We are working on a project in a rural area and are exploring options for combustion/ steam production for a 1000 gal mash tun/ fermenter/ stripper sized facility. We are planning on cooling using a deep-pond with a coil in it for heat exchange. Would also like to utilize some wind, solar and heat recapture to make the facility as green as possible. 

Forefront questions:  

Is propane the best option? 

What other combustion methods are clean and cost efficient?

Who has done this before and has some insight on building such a facility? 

Thanks in Advance!

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This forum is filled with stories of boiler installation costing in excess of 100k.  Since you want to be self sustaining, why aren't you considering electricity?  When you talk about wind and solar, electric would likely be the best option.  We have three electrics with no green power but with a 5cent/Kwh electric rate.  Our tun is 500 gallon as is our fermenters which are glycol cooled.  You've got the cooling part coverer very well.  Our stills are a 125 gallon bain marie stripper and a 125 spirits still.  We are in the  process of bringing online a small continuous column to be used as a stripper and we will use the bain marie for whiskey while using out current sprits still for Vodka only.

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We run a propane fueled boiler (Aldrich) works great - more BTUs than natural gas. It's also not a greenhouse gas.

I would focus on keeping it simple and work to "greening" your facility after you are profitable. Building and outfitting a distillery will cost you 3x as much money than you think it will and take 2x as long without a green goal adding to the cost. 

Don't think you need a coil to perform the heat exchange - dump the return water back into the pond at the furthest point from the intake.

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2 hours ago, Thatch said:

 

Thanks!

Electricity means coal power and they are scheduled to shut down by 2030 or so. Then the electricity will have to travel a distance to even reach us. I don't believe we could get enough power to run our equipment on solar or wind and it's unreliable for a manufacturing plant. I think it better to be utilized to keep the lights on and run pumps.

We looked into becoming "possibly" the first hydrogen-powered distillery in the US but upon investigating (we have a friend building electrolytic hydrogen separators). I was told that I should be prepared to pay a premium for the hydrogen which would have to be trucked in. 

2 hours ago, Golden Beaver Distillery said:

Don't think you need a coil to perform the heat exchange - dump the return water back into the pond at the furthest point from the intake.

Do you mean: Pull water from the pond through a system of heat exchangers?

This system will be engineer designed, but I am interested in hearing all of the possible ideas for heat exchange and "greening a distillery". 

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We too have a propane fired boiler (Parker). We use way less propane than we had planned for. A good thing and a good lesson for us was to over budget everything.

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6 minutes ago, navenjohnson said:

Do you mean: Pull water from the pond through a system of heat exchangers?

This system will be engineer designed, but I am interested in hearing all of the possible ideas for heat exchange and "greening a distillery". 

Pump water from the pond and use tube-in-tube heat exchangers from @Southernhighlander, cheap and portable.  You can heat and cool what you need cheaply without the need for a bunch of engineering costs.  If your distillery takes off you'll outgrow what you design today - that can get expensive, we're experiencing it everyday. 

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I agree with Golden Beaver.  Circulate the pond water through your condensers and back into the pond.  You can handle the crash cooling the same way.  No chiller needed.  Get you a 30 gpm pump.  No engineering is needed. 

 

For heating a natural gas fired low pressure steam boiler is the best and propane second best, from a cost prospect.

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You said "wind, solar", these are ways to generate electricity.  Where does coal come in?  You say you want to be green, well wind and/or solar are a great way and using an electric still is right down that path

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On 4/19/2021 at 12:45 PM, Thatch said:

You said "wind, solar", these are ways to generate electricity.  Where does coal come in?  You say you want to be green, well wind and/or solar are a great way and using an electric still is right down that path

Thatch,

 

  He's saying that his power comes from coal fired power plants.  As far as wind and solar, a 1000 gallon stripping still, 1000 gallon mash tun and 300 gallon spirit still  need at least 500,000 watts of power.  With solar panels at 400 watts per panel that would be 1,250 solar panels.  There are no small to mid size windmills available (that I know of) that will produce that amount of power.  This is enough power for 30 to 50 homes.  also you would need enough batteries to store at least 3 days of energy for the distillery for when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining so that would mean a battery or batteries that can store 1,500,000 watt hours of power.  This is why solar and wind are not feasible for industrial power without either huge amounts of storage or other power sources such as natural gas fired power plants, nuclear power plants and or hydroelectric power plants.

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All very good points Paul.  He's the one who said wind, solar, not me.  Since he brought it up, I had to assume that he had access or was considering building something.

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 Thatch,

I hear you.

 

Navanjohnson,

Propane is not considered a green house gas. https://www.diversifiedenergy.com/news/how-does-propane-gas-affect-the-environment/  So it is a green solution.

One of my customers has a 2,500 gallon still, 2,500 gallon mash tun, 800 gallon still, two 800 gallon mash tuns, 300 gallon still and a 300 gallon mash tun that are all fired with the steam from a 10,000,000 BTU, propane fired, low pressure steam boiler.  His propane tanks are huge but everything works great.  He uses well water for his condenser cooling.  His well also supplies the water for the town that is near his facility.  He never hired an engineer.  He didn't need to.  I sold him the equipment and gave him all of the specs and cut sheets and his contractors used the spec sheets for the build out.  He probably saved over $1,000,000.00 by not hiring an engineer.  Most likely an engineer would have suggested that he use chillers instead of his well water which is one reason why he saved so much.  However this is not to say that engineers are not needed for building distilleries.  Some situations require an engineer. 

   

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Thatch,

No to be too snarky here but, please note that I stated that we would use wind and solar as best we can to "run pumps and keep the lights on", etc.

As far as I can tell a solar & wind powered distillery is really not feasible at scale.

I would like to see the examples. Please prove me wrong!

Explanation for engineering:

This is not our first endeavor.  We bootstrapped our current distillery. I call what we did "glorified moonshining" since we hacked it through the wilderness of a town that did not know what distilling was. We successfully lobbied and had the local codes adjusted that would even allow a business such as our to exist. We have grown 30% year over year since 2017. 

This extension of our distillery will have to be engineered because I don't have the knowledge or bandwidth to go hacking through unknown territory on this one. We have hit many chokepoints and had to make numerous adjustments to our operation but we are poised to fill 100 whiskey barrels this year plus another 40 or so rum barrels on a 300 mash/strip - double pot still set up. Our new distillery will scale our current style of making spirits (Pot Still Only)! 

I am interested in hearing all of the ways to green our new operation. Send any and all ideas, please!

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Not to be snarky as well. 

This was your initial post.  "Would also like to utilize some wind, solar and heat recapture to make the facility as green as possible." 

I was the first person to respond after your initial post and prior to your amendment.

Cheers,

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another option if you want to be green is look into a co-gen type of facility. Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico has micro turbines that produce electricity from bio gas (they have their own digester) or NG via the micro turbine then used the exhaust waste heat to have a supply of steam and hot water for the brewery. obviously there scale was a lot larger than yours but the equipment was very scaleable. the project would not have had a good ROI except there were some tax credits and incentives that helped make it favorable. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Mechengineer_81 said:

Thanks Mechengineer_81,

Good ideas.

I am hoping to do more affordable types of sustainable practice. I would like to utilize the following list of mechanisms, but please feel free to add something I should consider: 

  • Small scale wind and solar grid to power lights, pumps, and air conditioning.

  • Primary combustion via propane (non-greenhouse gas)

  • Heat reclamation & reuse (facility heating and hot water needs) 

  • Cooling via existing well-fed pond 

  • Small herd of livestock to consume spent grains (pig, goat, chicken, duck)

  • Bio-digester to generate gas for collection and use

  • Development of a stone-fruit orchard (apple, plumb, cherry)

 

 

1 hour ago, Mechengineer_81 said:

 

 

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 would not discount the micro turbine option until you price it out for your scale. It was a couple years ago but i remember it being a surprisingly economic option per unit, especially if you can get some tax credits or other incentives from your utility.

 

If you have a cool source like a pond or geothermal well  you can use that with a heat pump style heating cooling system. Depending on the size of your setup you could even use condenser water or pond water through heat exchangers to heat/cool your production space. I think an in slab hydronic piping system could be used for heating/cooling from your process water and also use the building itself as a heat sink. this could greatly reduce your electrical load and make solar/wind/etc more economical.  there are literally 1000's of ways to skin that cat but with all the heating and cooling going on in distillation t would be very easy to design a system to utilize as much of that heat as possible as long as you can make it flexible enough to accommodate your work schedule. I would think of it this way, f you have a big hot source from your boiler and a large heat sink (cool source) like a pond/geothermal well/ irrigation water i would use those two sources to do as much as possible before you put any more energy into your facility.   

I am assuming you mean using spents for feed or bio-digester because if you had a bio-digester i would put all fuel you can find into that for greater energy output. 

 

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On 4/18/2021 at 7:58 PM, navenjohnson said:

We are working on a project in a rural area and are exploring options for combustion/ steam production for a 1000 gal mash tun/ fermenter/ stripper sized facility. We are planning on cooling using a deep-pond with a coil in it for heat exchange. Would also like to utilize some wind, solar and heat recapture to make the facility as green as possible. 

Forefront questions:  

Is propane the best option? 

What other combustion methods are clean and cost efficient?

Who has done this before and has some insight on building such a facility? 

Thanks in Advance!

Hello from Italy, 

we're in a similar situation than navenjohnson and after consider all our options we decided to proceed with a propane fired steam boiler for our future 150 gallons still.

my question is, it must be a LOW PRESSURE steam boiler?

 

Thanks!

Hugo

 

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If you want very cheap green energy, good options are waste fryer oil burners.

I have 4 of them in my distillery for direct flame heating stills, and steam and hot water production. About to install 2 more.

Used engine oil also works in these burners, it is not so green but maintenance is easier.

With the waste oil burners you need a boiler that has a firebox that is easy to clean out, the waste motor oil makes a bit of white ash and the veg oil eventually causes a crusty build-up on the heating surface.

My electricity bills are very small.

 

 

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Naven, 

I didin’t see where in the US You will  be located. I have shell and tube htx’s available for around $2;500 that will cover your pond/process water plus if you can filter the mash ,using only the wort one can be used to crash cool the mash too. if your pond water gets too warm, I have a few reconditioned chillers that are 230-3-60 that would work to trim the coolin loop, but you need to buy a phase converter to make 3 phase power ( I assume you only have single phase).

Mike

Email me if you need specs or call 678-773-2794.

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8 hours ago, PeteB said:

If you want very cheap green energy, good options are waste fryer oil burners.

I have 4 of them in my distillery for direct flame heating stills, and steam and hot water production. About to install 2 more.

Used engine oil also works in these burners, it is not so green but maintenance is easier.

With the waste oil burners you need a boiler that has a firebox that is easy to clean out, the waste motor oil makes a bit of white ash and the veg oil eventually causes a crusty build-up on the heating surface.

My electricity bills are very small.

 

 

Got it.

Thanks Pete.

 

h

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On 4/20/2021 at 5:33 PM, Southernhighlander said:

 Thatch,

I hear you.

 

Navanjohnson,

Propane is not considered a green house gas. https://www.diversifiedenergy.com/news/how-does-propane-gas-affect-the-environment/  So it is a green solution.

One of my customers has a 2,500 gallon still, 2,500 gallon mash tun, 800 gallon still, two 800 gallon mash tuns, 300 gallon still and a 300 gallon mash tun that are all fired with the steam from a 10,000,000 BTU, propane fired, low pressure steam boiler.  His propane tanks are huge but everything works great.  He uses well water for his condenser cooling.  His well also supplies the water for the town that is near his facility.  He never hired an engineer.  He didn't need to.  I sold him the equipment and gave him all of the specs and cut sheets and his contractors used the spec sheets for the build out.  He probably saved over $1,000,000.00 by not hiring an engineer.  Most likely an engineer would have suggested that he use chillers instead of his well water which is one reason why he saved so much.  However this is not to say that engineers are not needed for building distilleries.  Some situations require an engineer. 

   

How does he cool the mash- he must have a heckuva well!

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23 hours ago, MG Thermal Consulting said:

How does he cool the mash- he must have a heckuva well!

He does have a heckuva of a well and all his cooling costs him is the electricity for his well pump, which is almost nothing.   He's also talking about buying 2 more of our 2,500 gallon stills with 2 mash tuns  and 28 more 2,500 gallon fermenters.  He will use the same well or another for this equipment. 

One of his wells supplies the water to the nearest town. It may be the same one that he uses for his distillery, but I'm not sure.

Wells are cheap to have dug in rural areas, where there's plenty of water.  I paid $11,500.00 to have my last well drilled here, 4 years ago.  It would have cost less but I wanted it to put out at least 40 gpm so they had to go deeper.  It put out 53 gpm when they tested it and it is 432ft deep.  It put out 6 gpm naturally without a pump or back pressure so it could be classified as a spring.   There are 2 other wells on my property here.  The one for my house put out 22 gpm when tested and it's a little over 200 ft deep.  There is an old well that was here when I moved here that is only 20 to 30 ft deep that's been here over 100 years and it still works.  It has a hand pump. 

  There's a lot of chicken and turkey operations south of here that have wells that put out between 40 and 80 gpm and then south of there the irrigation wells down in the bottoms put out over 100 gallons per minute for the rice farms there.

A good well, with plenty of cold water, is almost always a better option, when considering costs, than a chiller.  It can also be a much greener solution than having a chiller, if done correctly.  Of course where there is not cold well water, a chiller is the best option for crash cooling mash and sometimes for condenser cooling.

 

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