February 20, 2023

National Engineers Week was established by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) with the goal of celebrating how engineers make a difference in our world, and to increase public dialogue about engineers. As a firm founded by a structural engineer with over 100 years of engineering experience, we are proud to help the NSPE spread the word on the amazing solutions engineers develop that enhance the well-being of the public.

Epstein's engineering capabilities include civil, MEP/FP, structural and industrial process, all of which were utilized to great effect for the award-winning Seaboard Triumph Foods (STF) processing plant in Sioux City, Iowa.

Our engineers designed a site and facility that uses robotics and innovative technologies to produce the most sought-after pork for diverse global consumers. The facility design reflects a modern food processing plant incorporating many state-of-the-art technologies including the following innovative sustainable engineering solutions:

Biogas recovery from lagoons to power boilers

The STF facility is equipped with wastewater pre-treatment systems that include covered anaerobic lagoons. A by-product of this anaerobic process is the creation of biogas which is comprised of approximately 65% methane gas. At STF, this gas is collected, filtered, dried, compressed and used as fuel for the steam boiler system. The lagoon system creates up to 20,000 cubic feet per hour of biogas and has a flowrate with the capability of generating up to 15,000 lbs. per hour of process steam. The use of this biogas saves nearly $400,000 per year in natural gas cost and, best of all, dramatically reduces overall CO2 and CO emissions from the facility.

Lagoons designed to reduce soil removal costs

The anaerobic lagoons were also designed to minimize the amount of soil import/export activities required during the earthwork phase of construction. There were a number of factors considered in the design of the geometry of the lagoon, including flowrate, residence time, depth versus berm height, etc. The design of the lagoons balances the amount of soil excavated below grade with the height and width of the berm surrounding each.

Ammonia condenser heat recovery for defrost operation

STF's ammonia refrigeration system uses heat recovery approaches in both defrost operations and underfloor permafrost heave protection under freezer floors. The refrigeration evaporator coils throughout the facility will build up ice on the coils during normal operation, eventually restricting airflow and impacting the cooling performance. These coils need to be defrosted regularly to melt the ice off the coils. There are several means of defrosting a coil including air defrost, water defrost or hot gas defrost. The STF plant uses a hot gas defrost system which utilizes waste heat from the condenser system and redirects the warm gas to the evaporator coils to provide the means of defrost.

Waste heat from the condenser systems is also used to heat glycol which is pumped through circuited tubing underneath freezer floors. Without a means of heat under freezer floors, the temperatures within a freezer could eventually cause the moisture in the subgrade soil to freeze, thereby causing the floor to heave. Plate and frame heat exchangers are used to take the hot ammonia gas and transfer its heat to a closed loop glycol system that is circuited beneath the freezer floor.

We are extremely proud of the engineering solutions our team was able to develop for STF!