By Len Newton
For the 10-Year Anniversary of AsphaltPro magazine, we will help asphalt companies teach new workers some back-to-basics techniques for best success in the field, at the plant and in the lab. Even veteran employees will be reminded of best practices with these refreshers throughout the year, but the goal is to help readers who are bringing in new employees who may or may not be well-versed in the industry yet. On-the-job training takes time and energy, and we’re here to help with the Asphalt Paving 101 online training course and these free articles every month.
There are a few extra things to consider when starting up your plant in cooler weather. As soon as you arrive at the plant you should check the status of the hot oil heater system. Make sure the liquid asphalt cement (AC) lines, pumps and storage tanks are hot.
Your next step should be to gather all plant employees and inform them of the plan for the day—this will include the mix type, projected tons, shipping, bins to run, etc. You should also take care to follow all daily safety practices.
Afterwards you will want to drain any water from the compressor. If there is no auto-drain, you will need to start the compressor to do this. Next, visually inspect the area of the belt to make sure it is clear. If it is, you will then give the start-up horn warning.
Once the start-up warning has been issued, you will start the scale belts and collectors to remove water and to warm up the load cells. Next, you should check the reject gates and silo flop gates to ensure they move from silo to silo completely before beginning production. After these have been inspected you will want to double-check controls readings for any empty silos by opening each gate. You’ll want to use a haul truck or loader bucket positioned beneath each silo in turn to help with this inspection.
Your next step will be to start the exhaust fan and burner blowers. If the plant has a slinger you will also need to start that system now. Next, light the burner to preheat the baghouse and to circulate AC through the pumps and lines, and then start the drum.
When the baghouse is near the correct temperature, start the drag and any transfer conveyors for silos that will be used. Next, notify plant personnel before beginning production. Set a production target and start, increasing the burner and managing the exhaust fan speed or damper for proper air flow. Also make sure you monitor the baghouse inlet temperatures.
As the aggregate temperatures increase coming out of the drum you will need to allow the AC to inject. When the mix is coated, and temperatures are acceptable, close the reject gate and monitor silo operation. Check that the batchers are working properly and that the motor amp loads are normal.
Begin loading trucks when enough mix is in the silo, and be sure you have enough mix to keep the silo cones protected. Congratulations, you have just started up an asphalt plant on a cold morning.
Len Newton started in the asphalt industry August 1980 working for his step-father as a laborer. By 1986 he was a plant manager with his own plant. In 1994 he became an asphalt operations manager and was serving on the Carolina Asphalt Producers Association’s environmental committee. In 2003 he started his own service company called Asphalt Plant Services. Since 2010 he has been doing field service work with Reliable Asphalt Products, Shelbyville, Kentucky.