Building something awesome!

Many times during the last few months I have found myself marveling at how much has changed in the plant.

As perhaps everyone who has taken on a large-scale project, there are moments where I wonder why I took on such a massive undertaking as building something so large in the face of the tremendous constraints required to successfully complete it. Of course, it is in large part the constraints under which the project must be completed that serve to increase the feeling of project magnitude. The plant is neither unimpressive in scale or quality of construction, and in truth is as much a demonstration of American ingenuity and craftsmanship as it is a demonstration of modern continuous-batch methyl ester processing facility construction.

My schedule has been further impacted since I have spent the last few weeks coordinating and consulting with a variety of potential clients seeking design and fabrication services or process analysis. There have also been more than a few internal  mission-critical matters that have required my attention.

But, without a doubt, the most important duties are facing the challenges of maintaining team morale and focus while managing a budget that would make many, perhaps feeling that the project simply could not be completed, shake their heads and walk away. Making quality biodiesel is not an easy task.

The amazing thing about the team is that our faith, in the face of uncertainty, is winning the day. Given our individual personal and financial problems we endure and are able to maintain enough focus to finish mission critical tasks.

We don’t always get along. We aren’t all motivated by the same things. We share a common purpose. We’re building something awesome!

Make it a better place.


On the edge of open highway…

As it gets closer to the grand opening of the plant there has been a definite increase in traffic from the general public and enthusiasts. The phones are ringing more often with interested parties planning their summer vacations around access to biodiesel or who are simply excited to discover that a new production facility is coming online.

The increased traffic is slightly surprising because the only advertising has been through word of mouth and the existence of our sight on the internet and the NBB web site. One can imagine the tremendous challenge finance management poses in a cooperative environment, and the advertising budget is “Zero!”

Jeremy and I have been working on the details of plant construction that remain.

A slew of projects have been completed in the last few weeks.

My friend Bill, owner of Tuff Kote Systems, helped install a chemically resistant coating on the floor of our chemical storage room. A lot of work goes into the installation of a chemical floor; resurfacing of the concrete substrate, preparation of a custom-made epoxy coating that consists of 4-parts, laying the epoxy’s first and second stages, curing each stage, and finishing. The epoxy heats and smokes when you mix it, and the smell is unpleasant for a couple of days after installation.

One of the major projects I have been working on is the permit applications for the installation of the gas supply line for the boiler and the electrical control panels and motor installations for the pumps.  As the principal plant engineer, architect, and logistician I have had the opportunity to spend endless hours formally drafting plant diagrams, citing national and civil codes, performing a variety of calculations (including the dreaded fault interrupt current and maximal motor load contribution calcs), reviewing more advanced control panel plans, and enjoying meeting the various individuals at the City Planning and Fire Departments who are involved in approving the plant during every phase of its constuction.

The boiler installation / upgrade has passed the half-way mark; the plumbing of placement for gauges and sample taps is nearing completion.

One major project has been determining the solution for indicating level in PSICLOPS, our core reactor. The team had in the past made a couple of concept designs, all of them using a traditional sight tube, which would ostensibly be made of a high-grade clear plastic that could support heat and vacuum (given the nature of our production process). I was unhappy with most of the designs we had arrived at and took it upon myself to make a command decision and redesign the approach for level.  I will unveil this solution in photos after the grand opening.

The hours are still long, and really the completion of the plant simply heralds the next phase of the journey. It reminds me a little of taking a road trip to the mountains. It takes a little while to get out of the city, but once you do you start really watching the road and the mile markers.

We’re almost out of the city, on the edge of open highway.

Make it a better place!