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Stainless for winemaking success

Stainless for  winemaking success

A growing demand for quality wines in China has seen its third-largest winemaker venture onto Australian soil with a new state-of-the-art winery incorporating over 800t of stainless steel. 

Weilong Wines’ winery in Red Cliffs, Northern Victoria is the first Australian winery development of its magnitude for many years, and the company’s investment in the Murray-Darling region is a testament to the strong reputation and quality of Australian wine. Grape crushing for the export-only wine has already commenced following the completion of the winery’s construction in March 2019 and is expected to have wine bottled before the year-end in time for the Chinese New Year celebration in January 2020.

ASSDA Member and Accredited Fabricator A&G Engineering designed, manufactured, delivered and installed all stainless steel storage and processing vessels for the new winery. The project scope was to achieve a vintage intake of over 26,000t capacity of grapes, equating to 21 million litres of wine.

Stainless steel was selected as the material of choice for the wine production equipment because of its excellent corrosion resistant properties, durability and ease-of-cleaning. Furthermore, the use of stainless steel does not impart additional flavour to the wine, preserving the original palates offered in the grape.

A total of 180 stainless steel tanks in grade 304/304L were delivered - 124 storage vessels ranging from 30kL to 1200kL, 42 fermentation vessels and 14 general processing tanks - plus associated stair towers, platforms, catwalks, support structures and connections.

Over 700t of 2mm-6mm stainless steel coil was supplied for the project by ASSDA Member, Outokumpu. In addition, the A&G Stainless Steel Sales Department was engaged to supply over 15km of primarily 304 grade tube in sizes ranging from 20mm to 300mm, plus all associated fittings.

Two 1200kL storage vessels were manufactured by A&G on site, using their own fully automated Plasma TIG welding process for tank manufacture, Site PAM (Precision Automated Manufacturing). The unique system was designed with a focus on large-capacity stainless steel vessels being constructed in the field, giving A&G the capability to custom build vessels that hold in excess of 5 million litres. 

Site PAM’s automatic planishing system compresses the weld with high pressure to ensure there are no peaks inside or outside of the tank, providing an aesthetically pleasing finish and a flat surface for the automated polishing application. All vessels were passivated for added corrosion resistance.

With safety and logistical considerations managed, 24-hour shifts were undertaken to fabricate the two 1200kL tanks to minimise downtime and maximise the efficiency of the project planners and estimators’ time on site.

The fabrication of the remaining 178 stainless steel storage vessels were spread across A&G’s three workshop premises, including Griffith in New South Wales, Mildura in Victoria and Angaston in South Australia. The extensive logistical challenges were managed with diligent project management, forward planning and transparency across the three sites and different production teams.

Transportation of the larger storage vessels required National Heavy Vehicle Regulator road permits, allowing only small pre-set time windows and significant planning to ensure loading and unloading occurred as planned to meet the scope of the permit. All vessels were delivered on A&G’s specialised tank trailers, and the larger vessels were transported on trailers specifically designed for the operation to comply with road regulations and permit requirements.

A&G was also appointed as the WH&S Principal Contractor for its portion of the works, taking responsibility and liability for all safety aspects on those parts of the site under its control. With the complexity of works being undertaken day-to-day, including the use of cranes up to 100t, heavy materials, working at heights, hot works, traffic management, job safety analysis requirements and standard operating procedures, the breadth of safety considerations were significant. Zero injuries or notifiable incidents were recorded over the duration of the ten-month project on site, a fantastic result given the magnitude of the project.

The end result is a technologically-advanced, modern winery with state-of-the-art stainless steel equipment and infrastructure built to last. With China continuing to drive growth and demand for wine imported from Australia, Weilong Wines plan to expand production each year, with the potential for future capacity to reach 168,000t per annum.

Tina Belesis