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Altogas builds transfer terminal with impressive capabilities

February 26, 2014 By    

One thousand gallons per minute? No one could achieve an LP gas throughput rate that efficient, could they?

That was the sentiment Scott Tonkin, operations and business development manager at Altogas, heard as he continuously discussed his 1,000-gallon flow rate plan two years ago at the company’s then-developing Red Arrow Transfer Terminal in Benton Harbor, Mich.


Jim Becker, left, Blackmer/PSG regional manager, and Altogas’ Scott Tonkin. Photo Courtesy of Blackmer

“When [Tonkin] first called me, I was hesitant we couldn’t achieve his goals,” says Kevin Pruitt, director of integrated systems at Gas Equipment Co., which supplied Altogas with pumps and other equipment for Red Arrow. “But in working together with him, we said we could do this if we did some things we had not done before.”

According to Pruitt, Altogas was Gas Equipment’s first customer to use Turbine meters for propane. The meters gave Altogas the ability to decrease pressure across its system, but it was one of several components chosen to move toward the 1,000-gallon mark.

Tonkin incorporated as many straight pipes in the layout as he could to maximize flow. Hoses and meters were key components, too, as Tonkin envisioned propane flowing through two hoses and meters capable of handling 500 gallons per minute (gpm).

Blackmer LGL Series sliding vane pumps were critical to the project, as well. Altogas’ pumps were designed with 4-inch inlets and 3-inch outlets to achieve the flow Tonkin sought.

“[Tonkin] was the first customer I have been around where I put pumps running in parallel,” Pruitt says. “He basically took the knowledge he had with the knowledge he asked me for, and we put it all together, saying if a single pump will do 250 gpm with these piping conditions, if we double the pump and the piping conditions, then in theory we should get [to 1,000]. The theories proved to be true.”

Ultimately, Altogas surpassed the 1,000-gpm mark. Tonkin says the terminal has achieved 1,140 gpm, and it averages about 1,000 gpm.

Altogas embarked on building the Red Arrow Transfer Terminal, located 100 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, because the company saw an opportunity to overcome the different laws enforced in Michigan and Indiana.

“Michigan allows larger loads – basically double,” says David Hast, Altogas general manager. “You can put a 160,000-pound truck on the road in Michigan. Max loads in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are 80,000 pounds. What that means is when a company buys a jumbo transport to run into Michigan, they’re pretty much trapped in Michigan, with a few minor exceptions.”

The facility is a good alternative to the Chicago market, Hast adds, because jumbos cannot operate within the market. Now, smaller transports can move propane from Chicago to Red Arrow and jumbos in Michigan can take the product anywhere within the state.

Of course, Altogas is a proponent of having additional storage to meet its own retail needs. The Red Arrow facility, which offers 180,000 gallons of storage, now meets those needs, as it does those of other wanting retailers.

“We fill jumbos in under 30 minutes all the time,” Tonkin says. “If I turn it up, I can fill a 14,000-gallon jumbo in 14 minutes; sometimes 17 depending on head pressure.”

LOCATIONS: Headquartered in Alto, Mich., with additional locations in Edmore, Charlotte and Zeeland, Mich.
PROPANE SALES: 8 million annual gallons

Photo: Alto Gas

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3724.

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