As a new member of the Houghton Chemical Team, I have witnessed the ability of Houghton Chemical Corp. to support and manage challenges requiring various capacities and technical skills. Due to an extensive history, the industry relies upon Houghton Chemical for expertise and integrity pertaining to heat transfer fluids.
The company strives to support small, independent businesses while simultaneously supplying some of the largest manufacturers in the nation. To support customers, the company combines direct customer service, a technical laboratory, comprehensive logistics and an incomparable bulk fleet. This unique capacity and experienced structure became apparent in May 2013 when I received my first bulk order. It was a call from a national dairy manufacturer with an urgent glycol system malfunction.
Dairy consumers rely heavily on this private corporation, which distributes nationally to chain stores, independent stores and convenience stores. Approximately 16 dairy manufacturing facilities manage the prolific and diverse product lines. With a company revenue of approximately $2 billion, 3,000 employees and high consumer value, it is critical for all manufacturing facilities to remain in operation. The dairy company’s Massachusetts production facility has a contractual relationship with an experienced Massachusetts-based refrigeration company that referred the problem to Houghton Chemical.
In May, I received a phone call from the dairy company’s Massachusetts facility. Over the course of conversation, I gathered information and photographs, coordinated Houghton personnel, and worked closely with the professional engineers and dairy facility supervisors. The system malfunction became clear. The dairy product produced at the facility had leaked into the surrounding glycol chiller loop. Houghton coordinated with the manufacturer to develop a plan to quickly and efficiently remedy the situation.
The Houghton Laboratory, headed by ASTM Fellow Joe Lima, requested a sample for further glycol analysis. Houghton provides glycol analysis free of charge for customers and on a contractual basis for non-customers. This service is essential because it determines quality of glycol, which directly correlates to the durability and efficiency of heat transfer systems. The glycol sample confirmed the previous conclusion that dairy products inoculated the chiller loop. It was clear the system needed to be drained, the leak repaired and the system recharged with new inhibited glycol.
It was recommended to perform a system flush with a security system cleaner before charging with glycol. This is critical to remove contaminants, which will increase glycol degradation rates. Glycols used in food plant facilities require specific product standards due to the possibility of system leaks. It is crucial that food-processing applications utilize propylene glycol USP (United States Pharmacopeia). Propylene glycol USP meets government regulations that prove the glycol is safe for applications around food production. This propylene glycol USP is then formulated with an inhibitor for corrosion protection. Only certain inhibitors are approved by the FDA for food applications. These inhibitors, when formulated with propylene glycol USP, create a finished product authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Science Foundation (NSF). Once formulated, the inhibited propylene glycol falls under the category of Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). Inhibited glycols that are considered GRAS are acceptable in processing plants where contact with potable water or foodstuffs remains a possibility.
Upon verifying inventory, the Houghton Logistics and Production Team began formulation procedures and strategies. Houghton Chemical operates three separate contractual warehouses and production facilities with over 40 tanks of various capacities ranging from 3,000 to 30,000 gallons. There is direct rail access to receive up to five rail cars simultaneously. Production and storage of finished products varies from 5-gallon pails, 55-gallon drums to 250-gallon totes, in addition to flexible bulk orders.
Although the initial phone call was May 1, Houghton Chemical was prepared for an urgent weekend delivery just four days later on Sunday, May 5. The Houghton Bulk Fleet consists of professional and experienced drivers, each with 15 to 30 years of Houghton driving experience. Drivers maintain a personal tracker with the capacity to haul Houghton’s compartmentally unique trailers. On Sunday, May 5, at noon, Craig Couffer arrived at the dairy manufacturing facility. He carried 3,400 gallons of premixed SAFE-T-THERM® 40% solution on a bulk tank truck, which is always equipped with hoses, fittings, a product pump, and additional tools and equipment to ensure efficient delivery. Upon arrival, he was directed to the off-loading site by professional and eager personnel. After a smooth delivery, the day closed with the completion of a chiller loop inhibited glycol recharge.
In the months following that bulk delivery, I have developed confidence in the capabilities of Houghton Chemical. It was exciting and thrilling to watch the entire Houghton office, laboratory and production facilities unify with a high degree of synergy to support a local company with national distribution. I have full certainty that Houghton Chemical is experienced enough to handle critical and urgent situations, professional enough to provide product and business integrity, advanced enough with technical ingenuity, and efficient and flexible enough to provide the most reliable delivery service in the industry. I am proud to be a part of the team.
Houghton Chemical Corp.