Big River Resources- Prairie Gold “First of its kind”

In 2015, Shaw Electric was approached by a customer, Big River Resources (ethanol plants/ grain elevators) about a design and construction of a “First of its Kind” Facility, Prairie Gold.

The 18,500 sq ft processing plant was designed to take ground corn from an ethanol plant run it through a process, dry it and return it, while the facility would use IPA (Isopropyl Alchohol) water as other inputs to their process. The plants’ process would extract the Zein protein to be use in biodegradable plastics, antioxidants, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics.

The process area was by far the most complex part of this project, utilizing flex I/O for control of flow and monitoring of the product as it went through the process. However, this project was much more than a process plant. Part of this building also included a commercial aspect. Attached to the main production plant is an office area that has three offices, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a reception area, cafeteria, laboratory, control room and warehouse space. The amount of different systems in the building kept everyone on their toes. Whether it was the fiber optic tie-ins, the Italian made Centrifuges, or Canadian made air handlers, Shaw Electric was constantly being challenged with something different. 

As any project has its obstacles. There were some that stood out from this 17 month long project that Shaw Electric had to overcome, but it shows their commitment to excellence.

With the nature of the final product, the presence of Isopropyl Alcohol throughout the entirety of their process caused the area classification to be hazardous. The constant presence of fumes and potential for flammable liquid spills requires very specific installation practices for the plant to operate safely. Shaw Electric began doing site specific training early on in the project to teach apprentices and journeyman who had not been a part of hazardous location installs in the past.

Prevailing wage ended up surfacing as another challenge. The cost per electrician during the main scope was shocking. When labor costs were high, it would have been easy to cut corners to try and prevent major losses, but the values that drive Shaw Electric, and the merit shop philosophy drove management to give the customer the best finished product they possibly could.

Another major obstacle was the specialty equipment the owners brought in from all over the globe. Hardly any of the equipment specs were available at the time of design. For those in the field, they had to figure a way to integrate the controls on the pieces of equipment with the control system that were already in place for the plant.

Even through the scale of the project was not enormous, with so many systems and having to make them all work together, it was one of the most complex systems Shaw Electric has put together.

Prairie Gold was a special project for Shaw Electric that came from a good relationship with Big River Resources. The craftsmanship in the plant is a true representation of the quality work Shaw Electric can produce while working in complex environments.


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