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A spirited filling performance

05 January 2010

While it ships most of its products in bottles, bulk packed potable spirit is, nevertheless, an important element in the business of G & J Greenall, one of the UK’s leading distillers of premium quality gin and vodka. Filling containers for bulk shipment was, however, a tedious and time consuming task until fluid handling expert, Permex Systems, devised a convenient and highly automated solution.

A spirited filling performance
A spirited filling performance

In the past, G & J Greenall filled the 1000 litre intermediate bulk containers (IBC) that it uses for bulk shipments of spirit with a manually operated filler. The process was labour intensive and slow as, with this arrangement, accurate control over filling – which is essential for such a valuable product – could only be achieved by using a low flow rate of liquid into the container.

Approached to develop a better solution, Permex Systems had to accommodate three special requirements. The first is that the spirit and its vapour are highly flammable so, to avoid the risk of fire or explosion, the filling system and its controls had to be ATEX compliant. The second is that the system is used out of doors, so it had to be able to withstand the effects of all types of weather, and the third is that very high filling accuracy is essential.

The engineers at Permex knew that the company’s Jumbo weigh filler would be an ideal choice for this application, particularly as the standard version is suitable for use out of doors without modification.

The Jumbo filler is also available as ATEX compliant and this has been achieved over many years of development. Electrical and control systems are readily available for Atex but the Directive covers all elements of the machine which may be a source of ignition. These can be items such as plastic-against-plastic friction and contact between dissimilar metals that might lead to sparking. The Permex machines are designed to take into account all of these aspects and a technical file is produced and lodged with a Notified Body. In this instance, Permex chose to use SIRA Test & Certification. To minimise the risk of generating static electricity by the flow and delivery of the spirit itself, Permex configured the Jumbo system for sub-surface filling, with the fill nozzle staying immersed in the liquid to increase the ‘relaxation’ of any static from the product.

The third objective is achieved using a flameproof high-resolution weigh scale on which the IBC is placed before filling starts. The scale is able to provide 0.1kg measurement right down to the 20kg containers, thus minimising ‘give away’ and ensuring that the machine can meet the Weights and Measures requirements even at high fill rates.

To ensure fast and problem free installation and commissioning of the new filling system on the G & J Greenall site, it was fully assembled and tested at the Permex Systems factory in Essex prior to shipment. In preparation for the delivery of the new machine, G & J Greenall’s own engineering team had also updated the spirit delivery system to the bulk packing area by installing new tanks, pipework and manifolds. These enhancements were a further aid to the rapid installation and commissioning of the new filler.

Operation of the new machine is fast and straightforward. The operator simply places the fill head over the inlet of the IBC, and presses the start button. The remainder of the process – lowering the nozzle into the container, withdrawing it as the fill completes and optimising the flow rate for fast but accurate filling – is completely automatic.      

The new ATEX-compliant filling system developed and supplied by Permex for G & J Greenall has now been in use for several months and is, according to the company, saving a lot of time as well as making the filling of IBCs much more convenient. The system has also proved entirely reliable, and is seen by the G & J Greenall as providing an excellent foundation for future expansion of its business in the bulk-supply sector.

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