Wiley keeps AJ Bush’s biogas project on the boil

I had a quick Q&A with our very own Heath Barker to get the lowdown on his and Arthur’s recent sojourn to South Africa to research boilers for AJ Bush & Son’s Biogas recovery project.

Q: You did what…?

A: AJ Bush will be purchasing 3 boilers as part of their grant-assisted project in Beaudesert.
John Thompson
(JT) is a well-respected brand for boilers but no longer has a presence in Australia. Wiley received a very competitive tender from JT South Africa and after having two representatives present their offer to us in Australia it was decided that visiting their factory and some facilities in South Africa would be valuable before making a commitment.

Right to Left: David Kassulke, Arthur Seiler, Andrew Wagner and Heath Barker

Q: Aha, so who went?

A: Four people went over to South Africa. AJ Bush Queensland Manager David Kassulke and Maintenance Engineer Andrew Wagner, travelled with Arthur Seiler and myself from Wiley.

Q: When did you go?

A: We left at 5:30am on Sunday 10th of March for Sydney, and then flew to Johannesburg (Joburg).  We arrived in Cape Town late Sunday night and because of the 8hr time difference, this was just a bit over 24hrs of travel.

Q: What was the plan of attack?                            

A: The trip allowed for 5 days on the ground: first day was to recover, second day was a factory tour, third was site visits to view JT boilers in action, 4th was meetings with designers and specialists and 5th was a visit to the JT training facility and final negotiations.

Q: What did you learn from the various Site Visits?

John Thompson Factory Tour
A: There is probably nowhere else that you can see a boiler manufacturing process from start to completion. Because JT are making so many boilers at present, we were able to see a boiler at every step of the production process.

We watched as 28mm steel sheets were rolled into giant drums and the ends were cut, drilled and welded. The furnace tubes were then corrugated with near-blinding hot rollers and the fire tubes were spiralled.

Rolling the sheets 
Preparing the ends
Corrugating the furnace tubes

All together now

The Quality Assurance (QA) systems were very thorough. We went into their QA office and were able to go through anything we wished. David suggested that we go through all of the documentation for boiler 74513 (a boiler earmarked for us).

Arthur and I were able to trace every weld to a specific welder, we then found a non-compliant weld that required repair, the repair work was completed and when we checked the credentials of the welder responsible we found that he had been recertified 2 days after the incident (showing a clear response to his mistake).

Chicken Rendering Plant
A: At this site we were shown 2 coal fired boilers, one that was less than 10 years old (young for a boiler) and another that was about 35. We were able to witness for ourselves the longevity of the equipment when it is well maintained.

Less than 10 year old boiler                                  Approx.35 year old boiler

A: This site had 3 boilers of similar size to the coal fired boilers required for AJ Bush. Here we could see how compact an installation could be. There were however, a few areas that wouldn’t meet Australian Standards.

There was an overhead platform (pictured above) that connected all of the boilers and the second floor control room and feedwater tank. This made a lot of sense to me, and I hope to bring some of the ideas into our build.

John Thompson Training Facility
A: The training facility houses a coal fired boiler (5MW) and a small gas fired boiler (0.5MW). We were able to go through all of the control screens and gain a better understanding of how the boiler operated.

Estop Button

We also had a look in the switchboards and realised that JT use Estop buttons as motor isolators. This was a valuable pick-up because making the corrections in Australia would have been quite costly.

Q: How would you sum up the value this trip has gained for Wiley?

A: This trip gave us invaluable access to a supplier’s inner working and product knowledge resulting in:

  • The development of a valuable relationship with John Thompson and confirmation that they can confidently supply to the Wiley standard
  • A greater discount on the original offer, with a spare stoker thrown in!
  • Instigation of changes in the offer to better suit the project’s needs and timelines.

The added bonus was the further development of Wiley’s relationship with AJ Bush, specifically the insights we gained by learning exactly what David wants his boiler house to look like—and here’s a picture…

And here is Arthur’s.

I say Arthur…