Views: 0 Author: Site Editor Publish Time: 2022-08-04 Origin: Site
Caleb Olson and Hannah Martell, technical writer and
graphic design specialist for Rice Lake Weighing Systems, respectively, visited Kaskaskia Valley Scale Co., southeast of St. Louis, MO.
The following is a recollection of their experience.
There are many automobiles that strike the fancy of the male spirit.
As I waited at the Budget Rental car station in St. Louis, MO., I
wondered which of these amazing chariots the kind professionals
behind the counter would select for us. Eyeing us down, I was certain they had correctly estimated our impressive style and would
make a choice worthy of our emanating desire.
“Mr. Olson, your car is ready,” I heard in a slight southern drawl.
I hopped to my feet, snatched the keys, signed a form I will never
understand, and Hannah and I rushed outside, wondering whether
the Dodge Viper or Corvette was eagerly awaiting its new masters.
We loaded our equipment in the back, climbed in, and turned the
key of our Hyundai Santa Fe. Unsure if it was actually running,
I moved the shifter into “D” and gave it some gas, leaving the
Budget Rental car station. Now on the highway, I had become 80%
sure it was running, despite lack of audible confirmation.
Hannah and I were in the St. Louis area on a mission to capture
video and still footage of Rice Lake’s BCi In-Motion Belt Scale
System. With a combined three years of experience in the scale
industry, and both of us spending the majority of our days in front
of a computer (as a technical writer, I primarily write manuals;
as a graphic design specialist, Hannah spends most of her time
photo and video editing) it would also be an adventure into the
“real world.” We were anxious to see in exactly which applications
the BCi was being used.
Finding ourselves moderately disoriented in an unfamiliar city,
ing fertilizer to barges on the Mississippi
River. The fertilizer raced its way across the
belt and, like a mutant waterfall, dropped
a white river of pellets into each barge
container. Today was to be our fertilizer
and aggregate day
(the following days
would be consumed
by coal). We loaded
our equipment and
traveled to Granite
City Terminal in
Granite City, IL.
Here, Hannah and
I witnessed the BCi
again drenched in fertilizer, only this time
it was loading trucks—lots of trucks. In
fact, there were so many that a traffic jam of
awaiting truckers monopolized the nearby
service road; each eagerly inching their way
toward the facility’s entrance when the first
in line was allowed to enter. The busy terminal was utilizing a wheel loader to dump
ammonium nitrate fertilizer through a floor
grate, landing on
a high-speed belt.
From here, the fertilizer elevated through a covered conveyor
until it reached the end of its relatively
short line, positioned directly above a truck.
In a matter of minutes, the truck was completely full and made its way to the facilities
exit. Granite City Terminal reminded me of
a busy restaurant and I imagined the excitement of the next trucker in line when
notified he could enter. It was akin to waiting for a table and being overjoyed, thinking “Ooh, I’m next!” when seeing someone
had just finished.
Now racing against the setting sun, we
made our final stop of the day at Beelman
Truck Co., also in Granite City. One look at
the facility and it was clear that Beelman
specializes in aggregate. A perfectly timed
coordination of crisscrossing trucks and
wheel loaders navigated the large quarry.
In the distance, a mountain of blast furnace slag was being air-cooled. It looked
like remnants of a volcanic eruption, emitting steam as a nearby wheel loader carefully did its work. Bill Emmendorfer, plant
manager, escorted us to a bird’s-eye view
of the facility. From our perch, we could
see an intricate highway of conveyors
leading aggregate over the BCi. The sun
now dipping below the horizon, Hannah
and I made our way back to the hotel.
After a solid night’s sleep, the next morning
we met Todd at his office in Lenzburg, IL.
From there, we traveled to Peabody Gateway Coal, near Coulterville, IL. According
to Peabody Energy, the mine shipped 2.4
million tons of coal in 2006. Most of the
coal is supplied to Northern Indiana Power
Service Company, Tampa Electric and Archer Daniels Midland. The mine has 20
million tons of recoverable coal reserves,
230 employees, and operates seven days a
week, year-round. The coal travels from
the mine via a 1,200-foot beltline to temporary storage and then travels by overland
belt 1.4 miles to the preparation plant.
Toward the beginning of
more ominous visit.) After watching an instructional video on how to use the respirator we would soon be wearing and learning other safety procedures, we fully clad
ourselves in mining attire, complete with
a hard hat/head lamp combination, safety
goggles, respirator, and what felt like a
10-lb battery hanging off our pants. It is
believed British sailors invented the belt
buckle in the 1600s. I thanked them.
Todd “Ring” Leverton, belt line engineer at
the mine and referred to as “Ring” because
he sports an earring in one ear, joined Todd
Dietrich, Hannah, and me as we made our
gradual descent via service elevator. Two
hundred feet later, the dark mine waited
for us. We flipped on our head lamps, and
quickly learned not to look each other in
the eye. The head lamps were like looking
into the sun on a foggy morning, except
the fog was actually coal dust.
I looked around. The scenery looked like
a post-apocalyptic world—devoid of sunlight; strange-looking vehicles; everyone wearing protective gear and covered
in dust; and catacombs as far as the eye
could see. The only thing missing was
Hannah and I loaded the camera gear in
one of those odd-looking vehicles, a cross
between a miniature Humvee and an oversized golf cart. “Ring” manned the helm
and we were on our way. Periodically, I
would catch a glimpse through an adjacent tunnel and see the massive conveyor.
After a series of turns onto underground
roads that all looked the same to me, we
finally stopped at a dimly lit area of the
conveyor. A 920i, covered in coal dust, was
mounted to a nearby wall. Beneath it ran
a never-ending river of coal, rapidly traveling to escape the mine while the 920i
dutifully displayed the belt speed, current
load and rate per hour.
Todd mentioned, “You see those cables
running along the ceiling through these
tunnels?” We nodded.
“In case something goes wrong, that’s
there so the miners can find their way out.
There are little arrowheads on the cable
pointing toward the exit.”
I didn’t remember that from the video. What
other crucial information had I missed? I
formed my own escape plan.
I was certain I could just hop on the conveyor in case of emergency. Actually, I
wondered if I could hop on the conveyor
just for fun. It would be like a reverse waterslide, I thought.
After capturing enough footage, we made
our way out of the mine. Without “Ring”
driving, Hannah and I would likely still be
down there. It amazed me how he could
navigate the identical tunnels as if there
was a secret system of street signs not told
After exiting the mine, we traveled to
Kinder Morgan, Cora Terminal Facility
in Rockwood, IL. This terminal receives
coal via railway, uses a larger-than-life
machine to tip rail cars upside down to
retrieve the coal, and transports the coal
via conveyor to awaiting Mississippi River
barges. Again, we were surrounded by a
river of coal quickly navigating through a
long, bending belt system until it reached
its desired position and was du
The next morning, I blew my nose to find
a coal-dust-ridden tissue in my hand. Like
the soreness your body feels the morning
after a hard day’s work, Gateway Mine did
not let me forget where I was the day before. But today was a new day.
With one day and one stop left, the next
morning Todd, Hannah and I loaded up
the Hyundai and left on a 500-mile roundtrip visit to Duke Energy Cayuga Station,
on the shores of the Wabash River in Cayuga, IN. This 1100-megawatt power plant
utilizes a twin-920i setup with matching
BCi scales to accurately monitor its coal
use. In addition, the 920i outputs a serial
audit trail of weight, time and date. Alternatively, it can send an analog output
to a chart recorder or communicate to a
Programmable Logic Controller with a
protocol card. Bob Cooper led us around
the plant, currently expanding its size. He
commented that in his industry, it is of
the utmost importance to maintain accuracy. Overcharging a customer can lead to
severe consequences and undercharging
a customer is bad for business. Accuracy
and reliability — that’s Rice Lake’s best
habitat. The BCi scale/920i indicator combination is used throughout the lifecycle
of coal (among other materials), from the
mine, to barge loading, to its final destination at the power plant. Hannah and I
followed this journey and, for us, it was an
eye-opening experience. I’m just glad we
wore safety goggles. n