With the maintenance at particular temperatures during transportation of various products – such as containers and tanks carrying oil and bitumen acids – having become a critical part of realising quality and insurance guarantees, electrical heat tracing (EHT) has emerged as a vital component for the maintenance process.
Heat tracing specialist, Eltherm South Africa engineering manager Frik van Dyk says bitumen must flow freely from the relevant storage containers to the point of application; however, owing to its high viscosity, it is notorious for blocking pipelines and causing delays.
EHT enables organisations to regulate heat in containers within specified parameters. For example, to ensure that bitumen continues to flow freely over long distance, the temperature in tankers must be maintained at 120 ºC.
Van Dyk explains that the EHT cabling is attached and insulated on the outside of the tankers – each installation is designed and engineered to perform as required by the customer. The cable generates heat over the surface of the container, which, in turn, heats up the product inside the container.
“The system has temperature controllers and sensors that will regulate the product within preset parameters. The EHT system is also powered by a generator which is mounted on the tankers or, alternatively, an external supply is provided if the container is parked,” he says.
Van Dyk adds that the installation of an EHT system on tankers offers numerous, important benefits. It is safer and more effective than using gas burners. In the case of bitumen, reheating often burns the product which leads to unwanted carbon build-up and blockages which can result in a substandard substance. Transport of gas remains a dangerous option.
Gas flumes take up loading space inside the container and add additional weight.
“The installation of EHT is more cost effective than gas burners, especially if you need to maintain the product over a long distance at a predetermined temperature,” he says.
Van Dyk notes that an EHT system also offers complete control, the drivers can monitor the temperature and adjust it if necessary – this depends on the system the customer chooses to install. The product and the system temperature can be monitored and logged over a period to ensure it is maintained and that insurance coverage is in place.
This form of temperature regulation and control is used extensively in the shipping industry, which transports various products between countries. In Europe, the use of EHT systems on containers has become commonplace over the years with significant success; it is now an invaluable part of the transport process.
In South Africa, the market is also enjoying significant growth.
“We’re going through an exciting growth period; organisations are realising that to safely maintain their liquids and materials during transport, they have to employ an effective heat regulating system – EHT is the safe, cost- effective and reliable answer,” concludes Eltherm South Africa GM Andrea Hector.