Zero Bacteria, Zero Maintenance With FRP Panel Type Tanks

Owen Stevens

Owen Stevens of Fiber Technology Corporation talks about the advantages and life-cycle costs of FRP panel type tanks versus competitive technologies.

Todd Schnick: We are coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day three of the AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I am your host, Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, this next guy is going to be a handful I think.

Todd Youngblood: He is going to be a handful. I see that he brought an entourage with him. We have a bigger crowd than we have had.

Todd Schnick: I always love the entourages. I want to welcome Owen Stevens, who is the VP of Sales and Marketing with Fiber Technology Corporation. Welcome, Owen.

Owen: Thank you for having me.

Todd Schnick: It is our pleasure, Owen. Before we get started, do take a second to tell us a little about you and your background.

Owen: I am a South African. I started working for Fiber Technology Corporation in Dubai about 14 years ago, doing primarily business development around the world. The USA is country number 56 for me. I have been there and seen it all.

Todd Schnick: Wow. I want to hear all about Fiber Technology Corporation. What do you guys do and how do you help and serve your market?

Owen: We developed a unique water storage system back in 1992, which is a modular FRP panel type tank. The product is assembled in any size capacity tank that you require, and the major advantage to the tank is that it is a zero-maintenance product.

You will always hear people talking about the tank where they say “if properly maintained this won’t happen.” Normally, utilities – and especially smaller ones – the devices are too small to properly maintain things. That is the part that we wanted to eliminate.

Our tanks have nothing inside that can corrode. There are no coatings or linings. Basically, you put it up and it is maintenance-free for the next 40 years, at least. There is no end of lifetime determined yet for the product because FRPs have only been in existence since the late ‘60s. We don’t know how long it is actually going to last. We have determined that 40 years would be good. We have had tanks in service for 28 years and they are still perfect.

Todd Youngblood: I understand that AWWA just published a new standard that has something to do with you guys?

Owen: Yes. We initiated an approach with AWWA many years ago because the product is so unique that we didn’t fit into any of the existing standards. Initially, the requirement was for us to get NSF approval.

We went through that process. We achieved NSF-61 with NXG, the lead-free system in 2003. We then joined the AWWA committee and we helped them write a new standard, which was approved in January of this year. It has just been published in the first of June.

Todd Schnick: What are the other benefits to low maintenance and low-profile design? What does that matter to your customer?

Owen: The low maintenance has a huge benefit for them because, firstly, most utilities do not have the funds in their budgets to maintain tanks properly. They get funds for products through grants and loans. Maintenance is usually done from their budgets, which are restricted.

When you have a product that you don’t have to worry about lining, coating, or repainting, or having fail because of bacterial growth, that eliminates a lot of their problems. Secondly, the fact that the product is low profile, all of the communities don’t want to see these huge structures within the community.

Every time that a new tank needs to be built in a project, people try to move them somewhere else. They don’t want them next to their properties. Our product is low-profile. It goes up to 16 feet. They are rectangular and square. They just look like another building. We eliminate a lot of those problems.

With the onset of VFD pumping technology about 15 years ago, you don’t really need elevated storage tanks anymore. It has just been a tradition that has been carried over year after year, and it is a really expensive tradition.

Todd Schnick: Just before we started the broadcast, you showed me a piece of the material. It felt like it weighed nothing. Is that the FRP? Is that the stuff that we are talking about?

Owen: Yes, that is the FRP panel. Basically, what you were looking at is a portion of the inside of the tank, which is extremely smooth. Our panels contain 40% glass. The importance of that is the metallic finish, which the bacteria can’t adhere to; so if the bacteria can’t adhere to the inside of the tank, it remains clean.

Todd Youngblood: Correct me if I am wrong, but fiberglass – is that what we are talking about here? What is the difference? I think of fiberglass insulation in my house, and I know that it is not that.

Owen: Basically it is that, but we just use a different manufacturing process. We put traditional fiberglass – what people know – we put it under extreme pressure. The manufacturing process uses 1,500 tons of pressure per square inch at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the five-minute molding process for the panel to form permanently, we eliminate all of the starting emission inside the panel. You have no smell or aftertaste that you know with traditional fiberglass.

The other benefit is that there are no laminations. Normal fiberglass is built up over layers, and our product is a solid piece. There are no laminations that can delaminate over time.

Todd Youngblood: And you said that it was stronger than steel?

Owen: By weight it is stronger than steel.

Todd Schnick: Owen, what’s the future of these FTC/FRP panel type tanks?

Owen: Because it is modular, it is very easy for the client to relocate the tanks if they wanted to. We also put partition walls inside the tanks, effectively making one tank into two. If you ever need to do mandatory tank cleaning, you could shut off half of the tank and physically go in to clean the tank while the other half is still operational.

The added benefit to that is if you ever want to increase the size of your tank, you don’t need to shut down the whole tank. You can keep half of it running while you open a wall on the other side and just put a few more panels on to make it bigger.

Todd Schnick: Talk a little bit about the financial implications of the FRP tank, in terms of the initial costs, the maintenance costs, and the total life cycle cost.

Owen: Total life cycle cost – we are cheaper than any existing tank that is out on the market today. Initial investment is in the middle of the ballpark.

We are more expensive than the welded steel tanks, for example. We are about the same as the glass-lined bolted tanks. We are cheaper than stainless steel tanks, but as a life cycle cost, due to the maintenance, we become cheaper than anybody else.

Todd Schnick: Owen, I hate to say it but we are about out of time. Before we let you go, where can people get into touch with you and, more importantly, where can they learn more about the good works at Fiber Technology Corporation?

Owen: You can always go to our website at www.fibertechcorp.com, or just Google FRP panel type tanks and we’ll pop up at the top.

Todd Schnick: Outstanding. Owen Stevens, VP of Sales and Marketing with Fiber Technology Corporation, it was good to have you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Owen: Thank you for the time.

Todd Schnick: That wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest, Owen Stevens, my co-host, Todd Youngblood, and all of us at Water Online, I am Todd Schnick. We’ll be right back with our next guest.