LIMA — The largest shipment to ever leave International Tank Service departed the Central Avenue fabrication facility on Tuesday, marking a historic afternoon for the Lima storage tank builder.
At 90,000 pounds, the 60-foot-tall asphalt oxidation tank is the largest and heaviest vessel the Lima company has built in-house, requiring two heavy-duty cranes to lift onto an oversized, 160-foot-long to transport from Lima to the Cleveland area.
Containers this size are typically built on location because they are considered too large to transport, International Tank Service President Everett “Butch” Kirk III explained.
But the company defied its own expectations and shipped the vessel off to the Cleveland area, where the tank will be used to heat asphalt.
“You heat it up to 550 degrees (Fahrenheit) and you blow oxygen through it,” Kirk said. “It raises the melting point, changes the molecular chemistry of the asphalt … and then when the liquid comes up to make shingles, you (spray) a fiberglass mat with this liquid asphalt and you put granules (minerals or sand) on top of it.”
The asphalt oxidation tank was built with two half-inch steel plate walls and is about 12 feet in diameter. The tank was so large, Kirk said, that it had to be built outdoors over a five-to-six-month period.
All told, he estimates the storage tank is capable of holding up to 50,000 gallons of liquid asphalt.
International Tank Service has built storage tanks for companies like Marathon, Husky, General Electric, DuPont, IBM, Honda and General Motors since Kirk and his grandfather, Everett Kirk Sr., founded the company in 1977.
Three generations of the Kirk family have now worked for International Tank Service, with Kirk III’s son, Everett Kirk IV, joining the business as a project manager.
Building storage tanks is competitive. Kirk often competes with four or five companies in a bidding process. When International Tank Service wins a contract, Kirk typically sends out a crew and a building kit, complete with blueprints and assembly instructions, unless the project will be built in-house like the asphalt tank.
“It’s a niche business,” he said.
While the family business has found a niche in the storage tank industry for 42 years, business has been up and down in 2019. Kirk blames a disappointing second quarter on Chinese tariffs, but he said the company has seen strong third and fourth quarters.
The company is now building storage tanks as far away as Panama City, Florida, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, with another project slated to break ground in Canada.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.