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It’s Just a big still

It’s Just a big still

Dave Derosier

Ever wonder why the petrochemical plants look the way they do? Or what actually goes on in there?

I sure did when I first moved down here to SETX.  So, I looked into it and came up with a rather simple explanation. Conceptually correct, but not technically accurate by any means.

 These huge plants are really just Big Stills, gigantic versions of what the bootleggers used during prohibition.

 A still (distillery) takes a fermented liquid called “mash”, heats it, then captures and cools the steam.  To make moonshine, mixing water with yeast creates fermentation which produces alcohol in the mash.

 Beer is used as a mash to make whiskey; wine is used as a mash to make Cognac. The mash contains alcohol mixed in with other stuff.

 Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, so the still is used to heat the mash just to the boiling point of alcohol. The alcohol rises as steam which is then cooled back to a liquid for storage in a separate container. Voila! Now we have pure alcohol.

 In the world of petrochemicals, instead of a mash they have “feedstock”, for example petroleum or natural gas. This is fed into a tank and heated under pressure until the desired ingredient’s boiling point is reached. The desired ingredient rises as steam, is cooled and stored separately. Voila! We have now captured a product which we can sell.

 But wait. Using what’s left of the feedstock, at different combinations of temperature and pressure, we can extract other products.

 The feedstock comes to the Big Still in a pipeline. The resulting products are distributed on down the line in another pipeline.

 As I said, when I moved here, I was totally ignorant of what I now know is called Process Manufacturing. What I always thought of as “manufacturing” before is really known as Discrete Manufacturing – to distinguish it from what comes out of the Big Still.

 Discreet (“traditional”) Manufacturing is ADDITIVE, that is, you add things (like raw materials) together to create something new (the finished product). An example could be as simple as a picnic table, made by adding pieces of wood and fasteners together with some labor.

 Process Manufacturing, on the other hand, is SUBTRACTIVE, that is, you start with something called “feedstock” (for example, crude oil) and subtract something (the finished product) from it using pressure and temperature to determine what gets subtracted.

 For example, gasoline is extracted from petroleum using this process. Other examples: ethylene can be extracted from natural gas or petroleum; and butadiene, the chemical that was most involved in the recent explosion and fire in Port Neches, can be extracted from ethylene.

the big stillSo next time you drive past a refinery or a petrochemical plant, you would be safe in saying, “It’s just a Big Still”.

 Please remember that this opinion is only intended to give you a conceptual image of what goes on in these plants. From a strictly technical view, this opinion can be challenged and most likely proven wrong in many things. However, once you have read it, I hope you will understand a little better what goes on inside all these places with the towers and pipes.

 David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through OhainWEB.com, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info

 This article was first published in The Orange Leader on December 11th 2019.

No kid sleeps on the floor in this town

No kid sleeps on the floor in this town

Dave DerosierNo kid sleeps on the floor in our town

Did you know that one in five people in Orange live below the poverty level? About one in ten struggles to make ends meet with less than half of the federal poverty level of income.

It is difficult to find the actual statistics, but too many boys and girls go without a bed or even a pillow to sleep on because their families cannot afford one. These children end up sleeping on couches, blankets, and even floors. This can affect their health as well as their happiness.

A short time ago I was introduced to a group of volunteers in Beaumont dedicated to building, assembling and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families in need AT NO CHARGE. They are a chapter of a national non-profit (501-c-3) charity started about seven years ago in Idaho.

As of last weekend (9-14-2019) the Beaumont group have built and delivered more than 200 beds. They have a waiting list of 460! On the national level, the goal is to build and distribute 10,000 beds across the US and Canada. As of last month, more than 8,000 had been built.

The charity is known as Sleep In Heavenly Peace and they work entirely on donations and with volunteers.

This group is such a secret that even our local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was unaware of it. Their need? They have potential foster parents for kids that can’t qualify because they don’t have an extra bed for the foster child. Now that’s really sad.

The cost for materials for a single bed is $150, and $300 for a bunk set. This includes mattress and bed clothes. Anyone want to donate the money to build a bed for a kid?

Once a month, the Beaumont chapter does a public “Build Day”, downtown across the street from the Fire Museum with the giant fire hydrant. They always need volunteers – both to build the beds as well as administrative stuff like registering volunteers. Or just take some time and bring refreshments for those that are working.

Even just donating a “Bed-in-a-Bag” from Wal-Mart for around $25 will help. Bring it to a Build Day.

Bed deliveries are made on Saturdays and evenings, when the kids are home. Volunteers also needed for deliveries.

For me, one of the most exciting opportunities is for local groups like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, VFW, Elks, or churches, even golfing buddies. If they could get together 10 volunteers, Sleep in Heavenly Peace will arrange for their own “build day”.

What a great way to give back to the community.

Donations can be mailed to Sleep In Heavenly Peace, 1120 Ivy Lane, Beaumont TX 77706. You can find them on Facebook by typing in “Sleep in Heavenly Peace-TX Beaumont. The national website is SHPbeds.org.

And their motto> You guessed it, “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”

J. David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through OhainWEB.com, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info

This article was first published in The Orange Leader on September25th 2019.