“We wanted to be able to have the maximum use of recyclables in our mixes,” says VanDerslice. “We can effectively use up to 40 percent RAP in a mix with this new plant. PennDOT limits are currently set at 15 to 20 percent, but we wanted to be capable for higher percentages because we foresee that as an area of focus by PaDoT in the future. Given the various stakeholder benefits realized, it’s rare to have any mix today without some type of recycled material in it.”
While planning the new asphalt facility, VanDerslice says the company kept an eye on environmental considerations for today and, more importantly, tomorrow. The new plant’s emissions are well below the limits currently in place by DEP.
“We not only wanted to meet current emission standards, we wanted to be far below the established limits so we could easily meet more stringent regulations that are expected in the future,” he says. “This way, when the tighter regulations are put in force, we can focus on the quality of our products and service while others in our industry are busy reacting to the tighter emission regulations that they must comply with!”
To help with the goal of significantly reducing emissions, the new plant’s silo storage systems are equipped with vapor recovery kits that capture any residual fumes.
Another example of environmental benefits of the new plant – dust and noise suppression designed in. “We have residential houses that are less than a 1,000 feet from this plant, and we’ve been told it’s the quietest plant ever – you can’t even tell its running.”
Dust suppression is achieved with various areas throughout the system capturing fugitive dust and pulling it through the baghouse whereby the dust is filtered from the air before it travels out the stack. The plant also has an intricate unloading system specifically designed for the dust silo so that dust doesn’t free fall into the air as it is dropped into a truck.
The facility is also paved to help suppress dust, says VanDerslice. And the color of the facility as well as the landscaping were carefully planned to help the asphalt plant blend in with its environment.
Latest technologies to increase productivity
In addition to reducing emissions and suppressing noise and dust, new technologies are used to help increase productivity at the new plant. An RFID (radio-frequency identification) “easy pass” truck system matches trucks and their loads automatically, so there is no signing of tickets to slow trucks. VanDerslice says the load time for trucks went from 5 to 6 minutes down to one minute.
The old push/pull button control system has been replaced with a Gencor PLC-driven control system that runs the entire plant by computer. “There was a learning curve for our employees,” says VanDerslice. “It took awhile – about three months – to trust it was doing what it was supposed to do.”
Ron Witmer, a plant operator with Pennsy Supply since 1987, has one word for the old control system – “antiquated.”
“With the old system, you had to watch and start everything manually, and everything had to be started in the right sequence,” he explains. “With the new PLC-driven system, you push one button for the preheat system and everything else starts on its own and in the right sequence. It’s a huge time saver. Now we have time to focus on other issues.”
Witmer agrees with VanDerslice that there was some trust issues with “being at the mercy of a computer,” but that the system has performed exceptionally. Dwayne Zimmerman, another Pennsy Supply operator – on board since 2005 – says the system looked intimidating at first, but once he was trained, it was simple to understand. Both operators agree that training with the Gencor staff helped them feel comfortable with the new system, and now they can’t imagine being without it.
“Everything is right in front of you on one screen,” Zimmerman says. “Starting and running the plant is simple, and troubleshooting is much easier. The system has a tattletale – an alarm system that will shut down the plant if something is wrong.”