Project Description

A Chemical Plant in Joliet, Illinois needs to increase their production capacity requiring improvements to their existing rail operations. The chemical plant currently handles 200 railcars on site at one time. Operational bottlenecks occur on any volume of railcars above 225 railcars. Their off-site storage costs continue to increase with the additional challenges including limits to how many additional cars can be stored off-site. The plant is space constrained and adding additional track is extremely challenging. To help resolve this issue, ERS has assessed alternatives for increasing the plant’s loading capacity using a revised rail operational plan and strategically installing new cross-overs and double ending some tracks. This scope of work included developing a rail operational model to allow alternatives to be tested and verified before final design and construction. ERS was asked to design the rail improvements as identified and validated during the study phase. The major challenge with this project is the requirement to not incur “down” time for plant production. This has required detailed coordination with the plant manager, rail switching crews, service rail carrier and contractor.

Project Objective & Deliverables

The objective for this project was to strategically and proactively position the plant for safe, efficient and cost effective rail operation to meet current customer demands and support future growth.

Engineered Rail Solutions delivered a comprehensive operational plan, timeline and financial analysis for meeting the goal to increase plant capacity by more than 25% by 2019.

Current Layout

Proposed Layout

Conceptual Design Samples

Project Approach

Engineered Rail Solutions first needed to survey the current plant and rail operations by preparing high resolution aerial images of the exiting plant and connecting rail, observing and interacting with multiple rail and plant stakeholders, and producing a working model of current plant operations. From this, they were able to develop scope of recommended improvements based on balancing plant requirements and operations with costs and complexity of construction.
Operational “As Is” Evaluation 96%
Operational Process Evaluation 98%
Production Integration & Financial Analysis 94%
Technical & Physical Design 93%

“As Is” Evaluation

The “As Is” Evaluation focused on the current rail operations and rail layout. It also looked at product handling and the loading/unloading processes, along with railcar utilization and shipping patterns. This evaluation helps determine if there are potential rail plant efficiency improvements that can be made without new capital infrastructure investment.

Final Results

The new operational plan added an additional 65 storage spots, while also releasing scale track for operational use and gaining the ability to weigh all railcars in and out of the plant. There is also a dedicated interplant operational track that will expedite the switching of the entire plant, reduce operational bottlenecks and allow a rapid response of rail crew to last minute changes in railcar placement.

Additional Insight

After the completion of the project, additional steps were taken to further improve the rail plant operations. Engineered Rail Solutions developed a database for improving management and reporting processes. The also validated current maintenance levels for all rail infrastructure.