Designed to Go Above Nameplate Capacity

By Bibb Swain | October 26, 2006
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To clear up any possible confusion, I'd like to make sure Ethanol Producer Magazine readers realize that Delta-T Corp. designs its plants to operate well above nameplate capacity—20 percent to 30 percent or more above.

"Enticed to Surpass Nameplate," a feature article published in the September issue of EPM, expressed cautions and recommendations that run counter to Delta-T's experience with its equipment over the past 22 years. Unlike the technology designers quoted in the article, Delta-T actually encourages owners to operate well above nameplate as soon as their operators are trained and comfortable with the equipment.

Nameplate is not a speed limit with our designs. It's the minimum production rate an owner and operator should expect. There's little risk for a Delta-T designed plant to exceed nameplate capacity by a large margin, within reasonable constraints as instructed by our start-up team. We believe "supercapacity" operation demonstrates just plain good management.

To be specific, every new and expanded Delta-T plant has demonstrated continuous operation of at least 25 percent to 30 percent above nameplate capacity without significant debottlenecking. Some are running even higher, without any damage to plant equipment or significant loss of overall efficiency, and without undue safety concerns. In fact, with our forgiving design, and robust materials and equipment, our plants actually run better when they run faster. Our top speed is our optimal speed, and top speed will almost always provide top profits.

We consider nameplate capacity to be the rate at which the plant can operate with relatively untrained operators under the guidance of Delta-T start-up engineers. That rate is typically achieved very quickly after start-up. Delta-T's start-up staff normally stabilizes operation at 105 percent to 110 percent of nameplate to fully commission the plant, adjust control loops and demonstrate operation within specified guarantees.

Once the performance tests are completed, we not only expect our clients to operate the plant well above nameplate capacity, we actively help them do it, continually improving the performance of the plant, year after year. When we design an improvement to the process, we make it available to plants with our design. Furthermore, our one-year guarantee is not diminished because the owner runs the plant faster than nameplate.

For the past 22 years, I've been saying—from the podium, in magazine interviews and articles, at biofuel conferences, in our advertising—that not all ethanol plants are created equal. You can't take the specific performance resulting from one designer's technology and generalize about another's, certainly not in this case.

Thirty percent to 40 percent over nameplate is reality today with Delta-T's design. Technology that Delta-T has already developed will soon deliver an additional 10 percent capacity from the same plant equipment. And once again, we'll be saying that running at the higher rates is good plant management.

Bibb Swain is president and owner of Delta-T Corporation Inc., a leading design/build firm headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., with fuel ethanol, alcohol and biorefinery technology operating on five continents.