Fire and Brimstone and … Sulfur. Sulfur Tank Cleaning

This past October, Mosaic Crop Nutrition had a planned maintenance project on a sulfur tank in their Channelview, Texas warehouse. CCC Group, Inc. out of Bartow, Florida was charged with the task, but before they could properly service the tank, solid sulfur remnants calculated at 8”-10” thick needed to be removed, which would prove both difficult and time consuming. CCC Group estimated two weeks’ time for the job, with a round-the-clock schedule, and tapped for the demanding removal and cleaning project.
Upon’s arrival at the job site, the South Florida technicians realized everything really was bigger in Texas – including the scope of their project. The tank had been drained prior to job commencement, but the 8”-10” of sulfur turned out to be more like 28”-32” – a significant difference.
What’s more, Jack Dye of Mosaic Crop Nutrition cautioned the operators that there was a possibility that some of the molten sulfur may not have cooled completely. “We were going to be working in hell,” said’s Brent Hoffpauir, who was onsite throughout the project.
Hoffpauir’s fire and brimstone reference wasn’t that farfetched. Using a waterjet abrasive cutter, the crew began by cutting a 12’X15’ doorway into the tank to gain access. The bottom edge of the cut was planned to be 12” off the bottom, but had to be adjusted to 32” because of the potential for molten sulfur pockets. Once the doorsheet was cut and removed, Keith Parma, Project Superintendent from CCC, inspected the tank and determined the crew would have to remove the top layer of sulfur before they could tell if there was indeed molten sulfur to consider. Upon removal, with a combination backhoe loader, sure enough, the crew was met with the heat and smell of liquid sulfur. ‘Hell’ was translating to be a more literal term than they’d anticipated. It was becoming obvious: there was nothing typical about this job.
The unexpected molten sulfur, along with the underestimated levels were serious hindrances to the project timeline. They easily tripled the scope of’s work, and, one might assume, the completion time. Doubt crept in, as CCC and Mosaic both wondered just how far the extra sulfur would set back the project. But true to modus operandi, the Waterblasting crew disregarded doubt, and the setback. There was a job to be done after all. got to work. Liberal amounts of water were used to cool the sulfur, ultimately solidifying it so that the crew could remove, and then properly dispose of it. The team worked day and night alongside a safety crew from CCC that was in place to ensure the hazardous gases of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide did not pose a noxious threat. Personal air gauges were worn by all contractor personnel, and air levels were carefully monitored. Although a few alarms sounded throughout the process, all escaped unscathed, and the project was a true success. The crew was able to complete their portion of the tank cleaning in fewer than three and half weeks, a far cry from the possible six weeks it was estimated to take.
The crew stayed focused and driven, concentrating not on obstacles, but on solutions. They were able to complete the intimidating job, and wrapped up in nearly half the time expected. Upon finishing their project at Mosaic Crop Nutrition, Brent Hoffpauir and team left exhausted, but proud of their job well-done. “Our crew packed up and headed home for a well deserved rest,” says Hoffpauir. After three and a half weeks in hell, it was well deserved indeed.