October 27


Market: Renewable Energy (Ethanol and USP Grade Alcohol)

Client: Marquis Energy

Location: Hennepin, IL

Timeframe: 9 months


Manhattan Mechanical Services is a unique organization that supports its industrial and commercial customers in multiple areas, including process piping, structural steel, equipment setting, and insulation for heavy industrial facilities.

Manhattan Mechanical provides highly skilled, merit-shop craftsmen, ensuring the highest quality mechanical services to light- and heavy-industrial facilities. Our merit-shop philosophy ensures efficiency at every step of the project — from engineering/planning through startup.

We operate as a low-overhead, high-productivity company to maximize cost savings for our customers. We supply our customers with well-trained, multi-crafted professionals. Our promise is high safety standards, high efficiency, while also maintaining higher quality.

Summary of Scope of Work

Strategically positioned for global distribution, Marquis Energy, based in Hennepin, IL, is the largest dry-mill ethanol facility in the United States, with a daily production capacity of about one million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol.

Marquis Energy is located with direct access to the Illinois River, a Class-I railroad, and numerous state and interstate highways. Producing more than 365 million gallons of ethanol per year, the manufacturer decided to further refine a portion of its ethanol production to make USP grade alcohol for use by the medical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as other applicable fields. In expanding its Hennepin production, Marquis Energy was committed to building the new process unit, Merit Shop.

In the initial steps of the planning process, Marquis Energy contracted with Praj, headquartered in Pune, India, to engineer and then fabricate the entire process unit. As India’s leading expert in the ethanol industry, Praj provides engineering and fabrication services to manufacturers across the globe.

Praj fabricated all the pressure vessels, tanks, piping, and structural steel in India for this particular project. The distillation towers and tanks were loaded on ships and sent as bulk freight to the Port of New Orleans, where it was off-loaded onto barges and shipped up the Mississippi River to the Illinois River, finally arriving at Marquis’ dock in Hennepin, IL. At that point, the bulk freight was then off-loaded and moved to the Marquis construction site in Hennepin.

Prefabricated piping and structural steel were also loaded into twenty shipping containers in India and shipped to the United States. The containers were off-loaded from the ships and onto trucks to be delivered to the Marquis Energy construction site.

Manhattan Mechanical Services — a premier, merit-shop, mechanical-services contractor in the Greater Chicago Area — was contracted to install insulation on the piping, vessels, towers and tanks, as well as handle final erection.

A primary goal set by Marquis Energy and its partner Manhattan Mechanical Services was to incur zero injuries throughout the project.

To reach this goal, Manhattan Mechanical’s safety managers conducted daily safety meetings on site. Meanwhile, periodic safety audits were performed by the safety departments of both Marquis Energy and Manhattan Mechanical Services. In addition, hole watches were utilized for confined space work, and fire watches were used for all hot work. As a result of all these measures, a significant number of man-hours were worked without a single incident.

Manhattan Mechanical spent two months in January and February 2021 unloading the piping and structural steel from the containers and sorting the materials. Essentially, the project was a very large erector set. Manhattan Mechanical’s crew endured extremely cold winter weather while unloading and sorting the materials.

Project erection began in early March 2021, with Praj furnishing a construction manager from India. This manager was on site for the entire erection and-pipe installation portion of the project.

The first task was setting three distillation towers and three reboilers. Weighing 185,000 pounds, the largest tower spanned 15 feet in diameter and 97 feet in height.

Manhattan Mechanical’s crews put in place approximately 100 tons of steel between March and September 2020, plus more than a mile of carbon and stainless steel pipe, varying from 1 inch to 38 inches in diameter. In addition, Manhattan Mechanical’s crew installed various tanks, pumps, heat exchangers, and condensers.

Manhattan Mechanical’s contract included installing all the insulation on the piping, vessels, towers, and tanks. Hence, a merit shop contractor was contracted for this work. All the welders provided by Manhattan Mechanical were certified to ASME Section 8. Work progressed as planned while weekly, sometimes daily, progress meetings were held with the client and other subcontractors.


More than 90 percent of the piping was prefabricated in India, minimizing field installation time while improving productivity. A 3D CAD Model was utilized, greatly enhancing communications with all stakeholders. The 3D CAD Model was a great tool to illustrate the big picture and small details to craftsmen.

Manhattan Mechanical’s Merit Shop workforce contributed to productivity on the project. The flexibility to move craftsmen to various pipe fitting and structural steel tasks on an as-needed basis minimized the number of craftsmen needed on site and drove productivity.

Special Obstacles

Manhattan Mechanical had some special obstacles to overcome to complete the project. In the following section we will detail these challenges.

Cold winter weather: As mentioned earlier, Manhattan Mechanical spent two months in January and February 2021 unloading the piping and structural steel from the containers and sorting the materials. During this time, the crew endured extremely cold winter.

Site constraints: The site’s footprint was very small at 3,200 square feet and had three levels. At one point, more than fifty craftsmen crammed into this area due to Manhattan Mechanical’s activities along with civil, electrical, and fire protection activities.

Language barrier: Manhattan Mechanical’s craftsmen faced another unique challenge; there was a slight language barrier between the Praj team from India and Manhattan Mechanical crew. Over time, we all learned to communicate effectively.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: The pandemic caused some unexpected challenges. During the course of the project, five individuals contracted COVID and, of course, had to quarantine for 14 days. The technicians from India had to quarantine in Mexico for 14 days before coming to the US.

Project relocation: This project was originally designed for the Marquis plant in Wisconsin. Prior to construction, Marquis decided to erect the plant in Hennepin, IL. This required the plan to rotate 180 degrees on site and required all the tie-in points to be relocated in the field. This portion of the project became a design-build.

As a result, Praj had one of the reboilers removed from the process, which involved extensive piping modification in the field.


After all the mechanical work was successfully concluded in early September 2021, the Marquis team brought the unit online. As noted, it will provide high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade alcohol for the medical field and other industries.

Manhattan Mechanical is very proud of the work completed on the Marquis Energy USP Project. Through exceptional safety processes, innovation  and overcoming special obstacles, we made this project a success for both our company and our client while  incurring zero injuries throughout the project. We pride ourselves in devising effective solutions that can benefit all the partners on a project, with our safety culture, quality commitment, and merit-shop productivity being the pillars of our organization’s success.

We are grateful for the opportunity to present one of our projects for the Excellence in Construction Awards in 2021. Manhattan Mechanical submits this project on behalf of a crew who completed the work safely, while also surpassing our client’s expectations despite being faced with many obstacles. We are extremely proud of our whole team.