Fight corrosion with fiberglass

Dec. 15, 2002
In this installment of What Works, a brewery uses fiberglass enclosures to address corrosion problems.

Thirty miles northeast of New Orleans, the oldest craft brewery in the Southeast proudly goes about its time-honored tradition of hand crafting small batches of bear. Abita Brewing Company was founded in 1986 at a natural springs site.

As part of its program to upgrade its facility, the company specified non-metallic enclosures from Belding, Mich.-based Stahlin to help it address the corrosion problems associated with the brewery's aggressive environment.

"Everything here is exposed to many elements constantly," says James Franklin, Abita's plant engineer. "Enclosures are of NEMA4X construction because of the water, caustic, acid and bleach used regularly during cleaning procedures." Another environmental factor in the plant's internal "weather" system. The constant plant moisture actually creates clouds in upper half of building, says Franklin. As a result, "iron corrodes rapidly," he says. "The plant-wide specification is to use non-metallic enclosures."

During the past seven years, Abita replaced metal enclosures with more than 50 Stahlin fiberglass units. "It makes sense to use them up front and forget about it," says Franklin. The non-metallic enclosures cost less than alternative enclosures and weight less, the latter helping the plant save on shipping charges.

A brewery in New Orleans specified non-metallic enclosures to address corrosion problems associated with its aggressive interior environment.

Abita's decision to install non-metallic enclosures is rooted in experience. Franklin notes that the company has had to replace metallic enclosures with finger-sized rust holes in them. On one OEM metallic control enclosures, Franklin had to use a pry bar to open it after the three-point latch mechanism had "frozen. This is a great proving ground for many products, especially electrical enclosures," explains Franklin. "Although longevity and cost are key factors, I am also concerned with ease of workability. Stahlin performs factory modifications to our specs, but we also do a great deal of field modifications to accommodate distribution, starters, drives and other automation. The [non-metallic] enclosures are much easier to modify using conventional tools."