Poultry Plant Avoids Shutdown with Fast, Cost-Effective Solution

If you operate a food processing plant, you know that the USDA can audit your facility and shut it down for an infraction. After a recent audit at a poultry plant, the integrator received a non-compliance ultimatum: Address a condensation issue or halt production. The maintenance manager contacted Sunbelt Rentals Industrial Climate Control team for help on the Thursday before a holiday weekend.

USDA audit demands immediate response

The original poultry processing structure was built decades ago. As needs changed, so did the plant, growing to 852,000 cubic feet. The facility attempted to maintain air flow through a system of exhaust fans in the front of the plant. The air flowed from coolers and second processing across an immersion chiller vat, where it gathered additional moisture, before meeting the warm air near the front of the facility. The result was condensation that dripped from the ceiling, causing USDA concern over product contamination.

Although Sunbelt Rentals does not offer airflow studies, the team took readings and ran models to develop a custom-engineered solution. The solution required a combination of cooling and dehumidifying 30,000 cfm of make-up air, with a goal of delivering 40°F single-digit dew point make-up air. Within two days, the Sunbelt Rentals Power & HVAC, Scaffolding, and General Tool divisions had developed a plan to implement the solution and gained the facility manager’s approval.

Installation calls for careful management of space and time

The facility had no existing roof or wall penetrations. The plan called for core drilling of six 20” penetrations 40 feet above ground through pre-stressed concrete walls above existing ammonia lines. Inside the plant, air had to be distributed throughout the area, despite limited space overhead to run duct.

The site for equipment laydown sloped in two directions and had a traffic lane that could not be obstructed, as well as a runoff drain with specific environmental requirements. The equipment needed a level base to function properly. The Sunbelt Rentals team custom-designed scaffolding to provide a level platform to place the equipment and ensure it would function properly.

Drilling and installation had to be completed in a 36-hour window over the weekend. During that time, Sunbelt Rentals installed platforms, ran duct lines inside the plant, installed dehumidifiers, chillers, air handlers and a glycol tank, and supervised subcontractors hooking up electricity and gas lines.

Within 10 days of the first call—and just 36 hours after start of installation—the make-up air system was alleviating condensation and the plant was ready for the Monday morning shift.

Plant goes online with guaranteed, cost-effective solution

Sunbelt Rentals guaranteed that either the solution would work or the rental company would pay any additional cost. For the first week, Sunbelt Rentals kept a technician on-site, who adjusted equipment controls to keep temperature and dew points in the correct range and answer questions from USDA. With the condensation issue resolved, the USDA released the facility, minimizing lost production.

The plant chose to implement a Sunbelt Air Monitoring System (SAMS) to track and log environmental conditions and equipment performance. Sunbelt Rentals continually monitors the equipment remotely and will dispatch a technician if the readings are outside the acceptable range. The SAMS also provides 24-hour logging of readings for plant USDA meetings.

Minimizing costs was critical for the project. The installed dehumidifiers are tri-fuel units that can run on electricity, propane, or natural gas. Running on fuels other than electricity significantly reduces energy costs. Also, Sunbelt Rentals modern fleet has higher energy efficiency ratings than most equipment in the market.

The Sunbelt Rentals Industrial Climate Control team has more than 150 years of combined experience handling temperature and humidity issues and can mobilize immediately to resolve problems with a custom-engineered solution. If the installation requires other equipment—for example, the scaffolding and lifts for the poultry plant—Sunbelt Rentals specialty businesses can collaborate for a powerful result.