Sierra Nevada Brewing Company started out as a microbrewery in 1980 in Chico, CA. Since then, it has grown to become the sixth-largest brewery in America and recently built a facility in North Carolina. Even though breweries have a long history of using metal piping to cool beer and handle waste, both of Sierra Nevada’s breweries bucked tradition and incorporated two different types of plastic piping systems—a COOL-FIT system for secondary cooling and refrigeration and a Fuseal system for hot, corrosive waste drainage.
Rick Callow, manager of process piping for Sierra Nevada, Chico, was instrumental in implementing the piping systems installed in the Chico plant and consulted for the new facility in North Carolina. In 2007, the company first considered the GF COOL-Fit system for the Chico plant. After receiving training from GF, Sierra Nevada installed a trial system consisting of 100 feet of 140mm-diameter COOL-FIT Plus ABS pre-insulated pipe and fittings and ran 30 percent polypropylene glycol mixed with water at 26.5°F.
“We really liked the product and installed it in our central plant, along with another mile of it throughout the plant,” Callow says.
Before installing the COOL-FIT system, the plant had problems with its existing Schedule 40 carbon steel system. “The insulation doesn’t hold up over time,” explains Callow. “If you start to get some breakthrough with your vapor barrier, the pipe rusts, and you get spaces, moisture egress and condensation leaks contaminated with rust.”
With the COOL-Fit system, slippery puddles caused by overhead condensation leaks are eliminated. The system is corrosion and incrustation proof and has a lifespan of 25 years. Its core pipe is made of ABS, insulated with high-density polyurethane (PUR) and protected with a watertight, UV-resistant black polyethylene jacket. The system also is diffusion and vapor tight to minimize energy loss along the lines and eliminate thermal bridges. Plus, the lightweight plastic pipe is easy to install overhead.
“We have upward of 2,000 solvent-cemented joints and only one has leaked—and that was probably because we didn’t get enough glue in the joint,” sums up Callow. “We couldn’t be happier. We haven’t had any other problems, even with the 16-inch pipe sizes that were welded with electrofusion.”
After realizing the advantages of plastic in its cooling system, Sierra Nevada looked into plastic for handling its hot, corrosive waste. “We discharge waste to drain at temperatures in excess of 180°F in some areas, and through trial and error, we quickly learned what not to do,” says Callow. “We melted ABS, destroyed standard dimension ratio and tried different types of PVC and CPVC. The CPVC actually worked, but what worked best was the GF Fuseal polypropylene corrosive waste piping system. We now have hundreds and hundreds of feet of underground Fuseal piping in operation.”
Fuseal piping handles high-temperatures and corrosive waste, such as dilute mineral acids and aqueous acid salts. It also can be mated to stainless steel trench drains when various styles of fitting combinations are used to seal the system.
Due to the positive experience at its Chico facility, Sierra Nevada decided to use the GF COOL-FIT and Fuseal plastic piping systems in its new brewery in Mills River, NC.