Wednesday | 04 June, 2014 | 2:14 pm

Infrastructure inventiveness

Written by By Corinna Petry

An association recognizes projects that exemplify steel tank manufacturers’ functional creativity

May 2014 - Water and fuel storage are perhaps the most ubiquitously visible applications for heavy-gauge steel. Alongside I-beams, rebar and structural tubing, plate forms the basis for an incredible amount of infrastructure. 

Both public and private projects compel plate fabricators to execute more creative and useful designs each year. The Steel Tank Institute/Steel Plate Fabricators Association recently recognized the best work of 2013, some of it described here.

Cold storage

Fisher Tank Co., Chester, Pennsylvania, won the field-erected tank of the year category for an ammonia tank in Beulah, North Dakota. At 98 feet tall and 170 feet in diameter, this vessel used 685 tons of grades A516 60 and A516 70 carbon steel plate, 5⁄16  inch through 2 inches thick, supplied by Essar Steel Algoma. The vessel holds up to 10.9 million gallons.

Weather was a factor both in the design and erection. “We used steel plate suitable for subarctic temperatures. Ammonia is being stored in very cold temperatures. We had a very elaborate insulation system, and the size of the tank required an extensive roof support system,” Fisher Tank Vice President Paul Windham says. The base includes a heating system.

“Because of [regional] temperatures, the build schedule was a big deal. We had a window of April to September, so we worked multiple shifts with erection during the day and the welding at night.”

Fisher Tank also won an award for a 76-foot-tall, 1 million-gallon water tank in Fall River, Mass. It required 175 tons of steel from 0.84 to 3.125 inches thick. Fisher used carbon steel grade A36 plate rolled at ArcelorMittal USA’s Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, mill.


Here, too, weather played a role. “The base standard is E100, which has seismic and wind load elements configured in. The tank was designed to withstand 150 mph winds” as well as extreme cold, Vice President Jim Miller says. 

“Plates for the shell were squared, beveled and rolled, then sent to the field and erected by our own people. The bottom gets laid and, ring by ring, the steel is erected.” Welders work on cranes and scaffolding but Fisher also uses automatic welding machines “that we manufacture ourselves,” says Miller.

Fisher Tank enters a project to this annual competition every year and has won numerous times, says Miller.


One contract took Ameron International’s finished steel pipeline to an exotic locale: the jungles of Guatemala. Rancho Cucamonga, California-based Ameron won the award for Steel Pipeline Project of the Year. 

Ameron started with 645 tons of A572 grade 42 steel plate in coil, 1⁄4-inch to 0.48-inch thick, made by California Steel Industries.

To produce pipe in 38- and 42-inch diameters for the hydroelectric project, “we make cylinders on a helical plate weld mill, then we hydrostatically test the pipe, prepare the joints, then sandblast and paint it inside and out,” marketing manager Vic DeGrande says. 

“We nested pipe into bundles and slid them inside a shipping container.” Once in Guatemala, the utility installed and welded the pipe across nearly 1.7 miles of hilly jungle terrain.

Under pressure

Eaton Metal Products, Denver, Colorado, won the 2013 competition for pressure vessel of the year, building a 197-foot-tall, three-part demethanizer/cold separator using a total of 261 tons of steel.

The upper vessel is 155 feet tall, fabricated from grade 304 stainless steel up to 1.43 inches thick, designed for pressure of 350 psi and minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A 6-foot-tall intermediate cone adjusts the vessel’s internal diameter from 156 to 108 inches. At the base is a 114-inch-diameter, 24-foot-tall cold separator. Designed for pressure of 1,100 psi and minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it is fabricated from 3.12-inch-thick ASME 537 CL2 carbon steel and heat treated at 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours.


Because of its mass, “hydrotesting the vessel was a challenge. We designed our own saddles for the tank. I’m pretty sure those stands could hold up the world,” Eaton President Jim Travis muses.

For all of Eaton’s special projects, like this one, raw material is shipped to its Salt Lake City fab shop, “where we have all our burning tables, plate rolls and long seaming equipment. We do all the girth seaming, nozzle layout, nozzle installation, internal layout and installation.

“The welding on the stainless was challenging,” Travis continues. “We had to qualify weld procedures to minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit and we had never done that before. We did hours and hours of research with different welding consumables for the right combination.

“Even after the bumps and bruises, however, we would love to do it again. We are now experts in heavy-wall stainless pressure vessel applications.”

Lighting up

Paso Robles Tank Inc., Paso Robles California, landed prizes for three 2013 projects: a reservoir tank in West Sacramento, California, a special storage tank for E & J Gallo Winery in Livingston, California, and a reservoir fabrication project in Palm Springs, California.

In West Sacramento, it built a 40-foot-tall, 120-foot wide, 3.3-million-gallon tank and foundation using 500 tons of steel plate from 3⁄16-inch to 11⁄16-inch thick. The steel was supplied by PDM Steel Service Centers Inc. and Kloeckner Metals. 

What makes this structure unique was the installation of 1,100 solar brackets and LED lights that actually make it a focal point in the neighborhood. The city designed the lighting system, but Paso Robles designed and built the rest, fabricated the water pipes, attached the solar clips and “all the LED lights for proper reflection and a color scheme that complements the apartment buildings and playground nearby,” president and CEO Larry Wombles says.

For the Gallo winery, Paso Robles built 16 tanks each storing 350,000 gallons. This required 520 tons of light-gauge stainless steel sourced from Ken-Mac Metals. The vessels required more than 20,000 parts and pieces to fabricate and weld, including refrigeration jackets and foundation work.

“Because of schedule demands [a mere five months] the vessels were built as panelized tanks, which is the equivalent of a tilt-up building,” says Leslie Scott, manager of engineering and technology. “Panels were fabricated in our shop, shipped to the field and connected together to make the tank shell. Then the roof was fabricated on site and set atop the walls.” 

It wasn’t the first or only panelized construction performed for such a contract, but it is uncommon, Scott says.

Blending rubber

Hamilton Tanks LLC, Columbus, Ohio, won the 2013 contest for shop-fabricated atmospheric tank.

It built a portable asphalt rubber blending plant to fit inside a 45-foot-long, 8-foot-6-inch wide trailer that was then shipped to Venezuela.

Hamilton used about 20 tons of grade A36 carbon steel plate supplied by Universal Steel Co., Cleveland. “[A36] works well with heated liquid asphalt ... so there was no need to go with stainless in this application,” Hamilton Tanks president Stephen Meeker says.


Hamilton also bought structural steel and pipe and assembled “eight major components: the trailer itself, metering skid, reaction tank, crumb rubber hopper, mixing tank, a thermal fluid heater, a heat exchanger and a control room.” Hamilton had to plumb and mechanically link the components together but “the biggest challenge was designing all of that to fit within the container frame constraints. There were a lot of tight spaces,” says Meeker. “Systems like this can require two or more trailers so this was unique.” The heat exchanger required 3⁄4-inch-thick steel while the rest of it was 1⁄4-inch and thinner.

This was the second consecutive year Hamilton won this particular award. “We hope to win again next year because we’re doing another one-of-a-kind project this year,” Meeker says.

Fuel and water

The Woodlands, Texas-based CB&I Inc. earned three STI/SPFA awards. One was for building five API 650 oil tanks shipped to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Four tanks each required 129 tons of A 516, grade 70 steel while one was a 15-ton vessel. The shells ranged in thickness from 0.31 inches to 0.4 inches.

The company also earned an award for building four spherical pressure vessels requiring 2,075 tons of steel plate from 1.4 inches to 1.9 inches thick. Erected in West Virginia, the tanks store a combined total of 4.65 million gallons of propane, butane and liquid natural gas.

A third award recognized CB&I’s 1.5-million-gallon elevated water tank in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. At 138 feet tall and 90 feet wide, the tower required 475 tons of A36 and A516 70 plate, 1⁄4-inch through 2.25 inches thick, sourced from ArcelorMittal, SSAB and others.

The company has erected 250,000 water tanks in the past 100 years, starting with water towers for steam locomotives. “The challenge with this one is that it was built during a very snowy and windy winter,” says Daniel Knight, business development manager. 

CB&I enters this contest “for every category” each year, says Knight, who estimates “there are four or five companies we routinely compete against,” both for projects and for fabrication prizes. MM


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