GRAND RAPIDS — A West Michigan custom fabricator believes its partnership with a California energy company could fuel revenue growth this year and beyond.
Andy J. Egan Co. Inc. of Grand Rapids won a contract in late November 2015 with Davis, Calif.-based Sierra Energy to assist in building a waste-to-energy gasification plant at the U.S. Army’s Fort Hunter Liggett, about 80 miles south of Monterey.
Executives at Andy Egan are confident that the technology, which is engineered to be modular and easily integrated into existing infrastructure, will drive at least a 10-percent jump in revenue in 2016 alone, said Pat Heffron, director of fabrication at Andy Egan.
“This is a modular system that’s intended for growth nationwide and worldwide,” Heffron said. “As we learn from the results and once it’s proven at this scale at Fort Hunter Liggett, it’s going to be what we anticipate to be a high demand. Our intent is to build many projects with this technology.”
Heffron believes the contract with Sierra Energy has the potential to drive “significant” revenue growth for the company as the technology is implemented elsewhere.
The company that employs 300 workers in West Michigan had annual sales of $55 million last year with approximately 15 percent stemming from its fabrication business.
Andy Egan’s contract with the Army comes as the U.S. military pushes forward with a commitment for on-site electricity production at military bases and a pledge to minimize waste generation.
Specifically, Andy Egan will engineer and manufacture the heating and cooling system that’s used to fire, cool and clean the gas, Heffron said. The system will integrate generic, off-the-shelf air-separation equipment — technology that pulls pure oxygen from ambient air — into the gasification system, allowing it to be constructed anywhere with limited customization required, said Rashael Parker, chief marketing officer at Sierra Energy.
Executives at both Andy Egan and Sierra Energy hope the technology’s flexibility and its ease of integration with existing infrastructure will also yield further military contracts in the years ahead.
BUILDING LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS
Founded in 1919, Andy Egan formed a fabrication shop in 1999 to complement the mechanical contracting and construction side of its business. The company also spun off its custom sheet metal department into a union shop, Walker Custom Sheet Metal LLC, in 2010. However, the owners shut down that company at the end of 2015, citing the retirement of a key project manager.
Over nearly a century in business, Andy Egan has focused on cultivating long-term relationships to drive growth, according to executives.
“Because we’ve been around for so long, we get a lot of opportunities — it’s just deciding which ones are the best fit for our company,” said President Andy Jasper.
That focus on long-term relationships eventually led the company to its current contract with Sierra Energy.
After sending out requests for proposals across the country and internationally, Sierra Energy chose Andy J. Egan Co. to work on the project based on the firm’s reputation and experience in the heating-and-cooling industry, Parker said.
Andy Egan also committed to sending engineering and support staff to California to assist with the equipment-integration process.
Compared to traditional waste-to-energy technology, gasification does not create energy by burning the actual waste, which can include any type of material that is not radioactive. Instead, the process injects a mixture of pure oxygen and steam to heat the material to approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, Parker said.
When the pure oxygen hits the carbon in the waste, it creates a thermochemical reaction that breaks down the material without combusting it and releases burnable gas that is then captured.
Sierra Energy patented how, where, when and the quantity of oxygen and steam it injects under its technology, which is known as FastOx gasification.
The U.S. Army increasingly has adopted waste-to-energy technology into its operations in a bid to reach net-zero status for waste production, energy usage and water consumption, Parker said. Beyond the environmental and cost benefits, the net-zero program could also reduce troop casualties on fuel convoys traveling to forward operating bases as those facilities become energy independent.
The U.S. Department of Defense and California Energy Commission financed the project at Fort Hunter Liggett. The facility will join five other U.S. Army bases around the country with gasification technology.
“Biofuels are being harvested from the earth and that is creating all kinds of environmental issues,” Parker said. “What’s great about gasification is that it’s using materials already here and avoiding the landfill.”