A start-up portable washing operation follows paving action on I-80
Considering the high costs of material transport, it’s a significant benefit when construction aggregates are readily available near large paving projects. Apex Sand & Gravel meets that demand as it follows the paving action on I-80 in Nebraska and Wyoming. As a young, yet experienced portable washing operation, Apex is a start-up company owned and operated by industry veterans. “We saw the uptick in construction projects on I-80, and we wanted to supply major paving companies with high-quality aggregate, efficiently mined, processed and stockpiled close to the paving jobsite,” says Tom Andersen, operations manager for Apex.
In Nebraska, I-80 follows the course of the Platte River and the Platte Valley where the water table is high, and sand and gravel deposits are prevalent. As construction began on I-80 in the late 1950s, sand and gravel was often mined off the right-of-way, rather than being trucked to the jobsite from miles away. Today, these mining excavations are interstate lakes and popular fishing spots located near exchanges or overpasses.
Certainly, the region’s geology is fortunate for portable washing operations such as Apex Sand & Gravel, which recently processed material on land leased in Lodgepole, Nebraska. This location is ground zero for a $38-million I-80 removal and reconstruction project. During its 2016 season, Apex produced 200,000 tons of material at the site, half for the construction of the eastbound lanes, and the other half left behind for the westbound construction in 2017. With that completed, Apex prepared for tear down and relocation to the next production site.
“Prior to the season at the Lodgepole site, we did some drilling in the area and found a nice deposit less than a mile from the paving job,” says Andersen. He explains that they began by excavating to create a pond for the wash water, as well as a stockpile of material to feed the plant. After the material is washed, the water is sent to the pond where the solids settle out. The water is recycled and pumped back into the plant.
The portable washing setup at the site includes two fine material washers; 14 transfer conveyors; and a telescoping radial stacker, all manufactured by Superior Industries, a leading provider of a complete line of crushing, washing, screening and conveying equipment.
Portability & reliability
Andersen says that the equipment was chosen for its portability and reliability. “Setup and teardown is super-fast. We can fold up the conveyors and stack them on a flat-bed truck in no time,” he says, adding that it only took one shift for he and another worker to set up all the conveyors on the site. “We needed many portable conveyors as we are processing our material on a limited footprint. Washed material must be conveyed via the transfer conveyors to nearby property where it’s stockpiled and loaded onto trucks for a short, three-quarter-mile haul to the paving jobsite,” he says.
The material is washed, classified and dewatered using two Superior Fine Material Washers. Andersen says he likes the durability of the units. “They just outlast anything else I’ve seen,” he says. Importantly, Superior has safeguarded the outboard bearing on each unit by placing it outside and away from the water tank to provide extra protection against potential water damage. The design also prevents the common problem of over-greasing the bearing.
Apex stockpiles its finished products using a Superior TeleStacker® Conveyor, which is engineered to eliminate material segregation by stockpiling materials in windrows to ensure that products meet specifications. It’s equipped with an automation system that allows the stockpiling of larger-volume piles on smaller footprints. “Also, the belts track nice, and you don’t have to babysit it all day long,” says Andersen.
Among multiple axle configurations, Apex chose an FD Axle configuration for its stacker, as it offers the most flexibility when moving from site to site. “I’ve been around all sorts of stackers, and this one is the best rough-terrain stacker. It goes where we need it to go. In our business, we need a unit that’s tough and husky. Previous stackers that I’ve operated would often get stuck, and we’d have to pull them out with a loader,” says Andersen.
According to Superior’s engineers, its TeleStacker conveyor is designed for maximum safety and stability. Its patented FB® Undercarriage provides increased undercarriage support and greater rigid lateral stability. Andersen says that one of the biggest safety advantages is the guarding placed on the units. “When a Superior conveyor is delivered to us, we don’t have to install any guarding because it’s already been done at the factory. That’s a big thing in this industry as far as meeting MSHA regulations; and it’s a big plus that once we unload this equipment, it’s safe and ready to go,” he says.
Apex Sand & Gravel will soon tackle its third season and has seen growth right from the start. Last season they operated an additional portable washing setup on a Colorado-based site where they processed material for a section of I-80 that runs very close to the Colorado border.
Ongoing success for Apex is likely, especially when focusing on I-80 projects. After all, the total length of the Nebraska section alone is 455 miles, with 82 interchanges, 442 bridges on or over the roadway, and 25 rest areas. That’s a lot of potential for highly-mobile portable washing operations.