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Adding liquids to your operations

  • Dale Keep
- Posted: August 1, 2014
At the recent SIMA Symposium, a hot topic was last winter’s salt supply shortage and how to adjust ice management procedures to deal with that challenge should it occur again. This quickly led to discussions on the use of liquid deicers and even pre-wetting sand. It was obvious that attendees realized that using liquids is key to reducing deicer consumption. Many wanted to know what it takes to include liquids into their operations and how to build a good liquids program. 

The answer to this involves a number of steps, but the most important first step is deciding to do it. There is much data available that shows using liquids is beneficial to reducing overall deicer use. Knowing this, what it all comes down to is whether you’re willing to make the investment in time, effort and resources to learn how to use liquid deicers, and to include them in your operations from the start of winter to appreciate the benefits of their use. Once that decision is made, then a number of additional considerations must be taken into account:

Review your current and future contracts for their scope of work and how your company is paid. The purpose of this is to consider how you are going to use liquids and then get paid. Since the use of liquids is flexible, their proper use prior to, during and after a storm event can be very beneficial. Your contract language needs to reflect that flexibility. Some simple modifications in wording on future contracts and talking to current customers can be helpful.

Liquid use
Since liquids can be used in a number of ways, it’s important to consider how you intend to use them and what equipment is required. Common uses of liquid deicers include:

Anti-icing. Applying liquid to a surface ahead of a storm event is done to prevent or minimize the bonding of the expected snow & ice to the pavement surface. This requires a liquid tank mounted on a vehicle and the pumps and nozzles necessary to apply the amount and application pattern desired. 

Pre-wetting. Applying a liquid deicer to a solid material as it is applied jump-starts the solid deicer and/or allows it to be used at lower temperatures. It is easy to do and yields high returns when done correctly.

Stockpile treatments. Treating a solid material as it is placed into storage for future use is done to increase performance of the solid material and/or to reduce the corrosion value. This requires the application of liquid deicer material to the solid material in the desired quantity and then thoroughly mixing it before building the stockpile. This can be accomplished a number of ways, but without the correct mixing equipment, the process can be slow and labor intensive.

Liquid selection
Another consideration is what liquid deicer do you need for your area of operation? Are you going to buy a liquid ready for use as delivered, or are you going to make salt brine? Much consideration should be given to this, since either option could be viable depending on where you’re located. If you choose to make your own salt brine, or even salt brine plus some additives, consider how it’s going to be made, stored and used. Remember that when selecting a brine maker, there are many available with different abilities and at various price points. You need to select the one that best fits your needs and budget. Don’t get sucked into the 3,000-gallon-per-hour or more production ratings if you only have 20 gallons per minute or less of water to work with.

Once those questions have been answered it’s time to put together a budget and move forward. One big mistake often made with budgets is the all-or-nothing approach. Starting small, learning as you go and planning for expansion is a good approach.

Liquids are growing in popularity since they allow users to do an equally good or better job with less material. “Less is best” is what I always teach. Taking the steps to implement liquid deicers into a snow & ice control program requires an investment, but one that pays off once it is implemented. This is best done with training to shorten the timeline between just starting to use it and using it regularly. 

  • Using liquids in ice management can help reduce costs and product use with a properly constructed operations program.
  • When deciding whether to add liquids, you must look at your contracts, how you plan to use the materials, and what types would work best for your location and situation.
  • It’s best to start small and plan for expansion as you adapt to the liquid learning curve.
Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies, a training and consulting company based in Walla Walla, WA.
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