With ceilings as high as 85 feet in spots, the High Desert Milk plant required large amounts of piping.

High Desert Milk Inc.’s name pretty much spells out what the business is about and where it’s located. High Desert Milk (HDM) was formed in Burley, Idaho, in 2001 by a group of dairymen seeking to increase their return per hundredweight (a unit of weight equal to 100 pounds) of milk and provide a stable market for their product.

These co-operative owners milk 26,000 cows and farm 30,000 acres. HDM’s 2007 sales exceeded $75 million. Due to continued growth, the company needed to build a plant in Burley to process over 2 million pounds of milk per day into 65 million pounds of powdered milk per year.

HDM set out to build a 100,000-square-foot facility with durability and functionality at its core. Obviously, the facility, which is 85 feet high in spots, would have a tremendous amount of piping running through it.


Scott Palmer, president of A.H. Palmer & Sons, the plumbing and mechanical contractor on the project, said that with over a mile of piping running through the facility, selecting the right piping options for the job was critical. Copper, which would have been the traditional option for many portions of the job, was selling at all time high rates when the job was being specified in spring 2007.

A.H. Palmer had used Aquatherm polypropylene-random (PP-R) piping for a cooling water loop at the Utah State University (USU) computer room in Logan, Utah, and Palmer suggested using the product on the HDM project. At first, the plant owners were a bit leery of using such a new to them piping product, but after some research, they warmed to the idea.

Plant Manager Ralph Hansen followed up with USU officials about the product and also talked with Aquatherm officials to learn as much as possible about the product. Aquatherm and A.H. Palmer gave HDM personnel a training session covering the ins and outs of polypropylene.

“Other metals were considered, but after checking on some Aquatherm installations and considering the cost of metals at the time of construction, it was decided to use the product,” said Hansen.

The Aquatherm aspect of the HDM project consisted of about 4,000 lineal feet of Greenpipe and Climatherm, including thousands of fittings including sockets, tees, saddles, 90s, 45s, stainless steel adapters, and socket-weld-to-stainless-steel-adapters.


“The material labor costs, ease-of-maintenance, and guarantee were all important, but the installation speed was the biggest thing,” said Palmer. “We can put this in quicker than we can put anything else in. One guy can do a 3-inch Aquatherm installation when you would need three installers to put in a similar steel pipe. It was a push job and we were doing everything we could to save an hour.”

The A.H. Palmer staff consisted of roughly 20 installers working on this project. While Palmer says his welders were initially skeptical of the fusion welding process, they accepted it pretty quickly.

“It’s like any new product - a guy in the field or a guy in the office selling it is a big factor. The guys didn’t complain about it, and the plumbers loved it. They found it to be very simple, and if you follow the procedures, it’s an easy product to work with,” Palmer said.

An additional benefit that helped convince HDM to select the product was its ease of maintenance. Palmer explained that on a 4-inch compressed air line, a maintenance person can “drill a hole, slap his iron in there, and then he can put a branch line in instead of torching a hole in and welding into the 3-inch line. Additionally, if you want to add a line and valve it off, you can do it and get the system back online quickly,” he said.

Hansen added that the product was approved by the state building inspector for use on non-potable water and compressed air.


While Palmer recommended Aquatherm for many plant systems, the owners opted for stainless steel in some spots due to aesthetics - its metallic appearance. However, Aquatherm Greenpipe® was used for compressed air, cow water, and door and foot foamers, with over 4,000 lineal feet installed throughout the plant.

Greenpipe is designed specifically for potable water applications. The majority of the PP-R on the project was Greenpipe, but Aquatherm Climatherm - which doesn’t have the potable water characteristics and is more suitable for HVAC, compressed air, and industrial applications - was also employed.

When milk is brought into the facility, it is processed through separators. Each gallon of milk is actually about 40 percent water, so instead of wasting that water (called “cow water”) and letting it go down the drain, it is captured and heated for use in wash down systems.

Aquatherm was used because it is NSF-approved and doesn’t need insulation. The cow water, which is heated to 140-160°F by a water heater and used for spray downs and cleaning, can also be used in the plant’s 800-hp steam boilers.

The compressed air system runs at 120 psi and serves the door foamers and foot foamers. The air is used to increase the pressure on the sprayers, which are used like a steam cleaner for spraying.


The Aquatherm aspect of the HDM project consisted of about 4,000 lineal feet of Greenpipe and Climatherm, including thousands of fittings including sockets, tees, saddles, 90s, 45s, stainless steel adapters, and socket-weld-to-stainless-steel-adapters. The heat fusion process used to join the pipe bonds both sides of a joint into a single, homogenous material, without the use of flames, chemicals, or mechanical connections. Once fused, pipes and fittings have the same physical properties, thus eliminating systematic weaknesses that can be caused by introducing different materials into the joint, officials said.

For the HDM job, A.H. Palmer used the heat fusion tools it already owned, but also rented some. HDM also purchased the tools necessary to maintain all installed sizes of piping.

Out of 500 or so connections, A.H. Palmer had a total of four leaks. Two of the four resulted from a piece of cracked pipe, and the others were due to operator error.


The job, which was started in August 2007, was completed in September 2008. A.H. Palmer had roughly 60 employees working seven days a week in the last four to five months of the project and about 15 installers were exclusively working with Aquatherm.

With the facility up and running and everything going smoothly, Hansen said Aquatherm’s PP-R piping has, “lived up to its claims.” He said he expects to use the product in future jobs.

For more information, visit www.aquathermpipe.com.

Publication date:04/05/2010