Product Spotlight: Shipping Wax in Bulk Liquid Tanks

Posted on November 05, 2020 by Doug Grills

Waxes are an integral component of a wide array of products such as foods, cosmetics, industrial and commercial products, and – yes – candles. Before they take their final product form, however, waxes generally start out as liquids that are transported in bulk liquid tanks. In this article, we’ll examine the process of transporting waxes and tell you what you as a shipper should know before you book a load.

Wax temperature concerns for bulk liquid tank transport

shipping-wax-bulk-liquid-tanksMost bulk liquid products are just that – liquid. Waxes can be a different story. Purer waxes tend to be thinner liquids that stay in liquid form relatively easily. Thicker waxes tend to be more unwieldy. The more additives, the thicker the wax. The thicker the wax, the higher the temperature needs to be in order to stay in a liquid state. If the temperature drops below that threshold (referred to as the “melt point”), the wax will begin to solidify – possibly resulting in a wide range of problems for the load.

Imagine that you have a lit candle in a jar. After burning the candle for a while, liquid begins to form. If you pour that liquid into another container, the temperature of the liquid will begin to drop and solidify back into a solid wax before long.

The same concept applies to bulk liquid shipping. Let’s say that you have a wax product that has a melt point of 95 degrees (i.e., the liquid wax will solidify at that temperature). You’re going to ship the product in a bulk liquid tank over a two-day journey, and you want it to arrive at the destination at 120 degrees. You need to account for temperature degradation when determining the temperature at which you load the tank.

When you load the product into the bulk tank, the temperature will experience ‘cold shock’ and drop. It will drop 3-5 degrees in summer and about 5-8 degrees during winter (if the tank has been sitting outside for several cold winter days prior to loading, you can plan on the higher end of that spectrum). So, that’s a drop of 3-8 degrees right off the bat.

From there, you need to plan on the wax dropping in temperature every 24-hour period it’s in transit. Of course, the specific temperature drop will vary among different waxes. With this in mind, you’ll need to load your product in the tank at a temperature that is hot enough to withstand temperature drops, while still arriving at the delivery site at its desired temperature. For example, if your product is traveling for two days, has a melt point of 95 degrees and needs to be delivered at 120 degrees, you will want to load at a minimum of 145-150 degrees (if the product can safely reach that temperature).

And what if things go wrong and the temperature drops below the melt point during transit? When that happens, many problems can develop. One of the more serious is a ‘core problem.’ When you load a tank full of a hot liquid and the product settles, the center of the product – known as the core – will be the most insulated. As temperature drops, the outside will begin to crust and harden. Should the core be affected as well, you’re basically dealing with a giant candle inside a bulk liquid tank. This would necessitate warming the tank back up and transloading the product to another tank that is hooked up to steam at a tank wash facility. In short, it’s a very time-consuming headache to deal with.

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Due to the concerns related to temperature degradation, many shippers of wax products give their loads to transportation providers that use liquid tanks with in-transit heating units.

With in-transit heat, a system of coils lines the tank. Powered by the tractor system and engine, heated antifreeze runs through the coils to create a blanket of heat around the product. Importantly, this heating system does not actually make the product hotter but rather preserves the product’s existing heat. And, even with heating in place, you can still expect to lose 3-5 degrees per 24 hours in transit.

What shippers should know when moving wax products

If you’re looking to ship liquid wax products with a bulk carrier or freight broker, there are three pieces of information (in addition to other bulk transport information) that are critical to the success of your load.

Know your product’s melt point. This information will commonly be included on the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), but if it isn’t – or there is no SDS for your product – you will need to inform your provider.

Know your product’s loading temperature. As you can see, there’s a lot of math involved in shipping wax products that need to stay above a certain temperature. But it all starts with the driver having accurate information at the time of loading. A mistake here (e.g., product is loaded at 130 degrees, but the driver is told 140 degrees) can have a major impact on the load’s success. In general, you want to load product at least 25 degrees hotter than the required delivery temperature.

Know your product’s delivery temperature. Your transportation partner will take great care to ensure your load is delivered at the required temperature – just make sure it knows what that temperature is. Although rare, there are times when a driver will arrive for delivery, only to be told the temperature needs to be higher than initially communicated. The driver will then have to leave the unloading site, hook the tank up to steam, and then come back – wasting valuable time and money.

What to look for in a transportation provider

Despite all the best efforts of a transportation provider, the truth is that you’ll never really know how a wax product will behave during transit until it’s hauled multiple times. Because of this, you want to partner with a carrier or freight broker, like Bulk Connection, that has experience shipping your type of product.

A transportation provider with experience moving your product is going to know which tank to use, whether in-transit heat is needed, what equipment is needed, and what needs to happen at the loading and unloading sites.

Such a provider will also have safeguards to ensure the load goes smoothly. For example, due to Bulk Connection’s experience with wax products, we know that the gauge on the outside of the tank is not always reliable when it comes to measuring actual temperature. Because of this, we will often plan for an in-route stop at a tank wash facility where the driver can obtain the actual temperature with a thermal probe and steam the tank if needed. We go to great lengths to ensure that delivery temperature and other load aspects are exactly as requested.

If you are shipping wax products, there’s simply too much that can go wrong to entrust your product to anyone but an expert. For over 30 years, Bulk Connection has helped shippers transport waxes and host of other liquid bulk products safely and efficiently. To learn more about how we can help with your next load, contact us today.


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This entry was posted in Liquid Bulk Transport by Doug Grills