The energy sector poses a number of challenges for end users. Laura Hatton looks at how companies overcome these difficulties and what equipment they use.
The three main fields in the energy sector are wind power, conventional power generating stations and the oil and gas extraction and refinery industry. Each of these sectors has its own challenges, as a spokesperson from Terex explains, “In the oil and gas industry you have to take notice of specific factors, especially when it comes to safety. To give an example: In a refinery, there are special fire-extinguishing systems for cranes that are required to prevent the spread of fire. Besides this, the engines of the cranes used in there need an overwind protection.
“The building of power stations also has its difficulties. You need machines which are able to lift reactors or convertors into the stations without getting problems with the ground pressure that’s coming up while lifting. The distribution of ground pressures is a very important fact that should always be considered.”
To help overcome these challenges, manufacturers offer cranes with cold weather packages, lighting packages, ESTOP and disconnect switches and external audio and visual indication of the crane’s working capacity. For the end user, these additions are vital, as Frank Bardonaro, Maxim Crane Works president, explains, “Crane manufacturers don't really design a crane specifically for a single application. Therefore, any crane today has the ability to be fitted with whatever specialty needs a particular project may require.
“We spend a lot of time partnering with the crane manufacturers to ensure that we are flexible in retrofitting or ordering new whatever attachments or accessories are needed to perform the project safely. Certain types of applications, for example, prohibit gasoline, propane etc, while others may require diesel scrubbers, exhaust lines, etc. Regardless of the actual applications, the crane manufacturers offer a complete product range that has kept pace with all of the customer demands,” Bardonaro adds.
Safety is one of the primary concerns for companies working in the energy sector and manufacturers are using advanced technology to help end users. Justin Pilgrim, Manitowoc global product director, boom trucks and industrial cranes, explains, “Technology is allowing for more utilisation and uptime on machines as features such as real-time diagnostics, fault monitoring and telematics are integrated.”
“We also offer options, such as engine shut down valves, spark arrestors and working range limiters that are frequently requested by our customers working in refineries and oil and gas fields. We have also had requests for explosion proof lights and fire-suppression systems for an engine, which were handled by our Lift Solution teams,” Pilgrim adds.
In addition, Manitowoc offers cold weather packages for its National Crane models and rough terrain cranes. Engine shut down valves and certified spark arrestor mufflers are also offered through the Lift Solutions team.
Keeping the cranes in line with safety requirements is just one aspect of working in the energy sector. In addition, workers also have to meet training requirements. A spokesperson from Terex explains, “Everybody who is working on a jobsite has to run through specific training for exactly the jobsite they are working on. Of course, the level of training of our employees depends on what they are supposed to do at the jobsite. Our service technicians have to be trained for the specific cranes that are used and know exactly how they work. Besides this, our company’s service team also offers training for our whole current crane range and the used techniques, as well as, for example, training for crane operators or trainings for our IC-1 software.”
Kate Lampson, Lampson International adds, “In order to work on an energy project, our employees typically have to undergo some sort of site-specific training that is unique to each site. When working on an energy project we plan ahead and send our crews to site early to complete the training. What this means from a business perspective is that we are required to build this training into our project bid. If we are awarded the project and the time required to train our people is extensive, the training and its cost is usually provided by the owner. We look at this as a fundamental way to help ensure a safe project and overall project success.”
Work in the energy sector can comprise a variety of tasks, from installing reactor units to carrying out maintenance at a power station. As a result, all types of crane can be found in the sector. Lampson International, for example, continues to see a demand for the Lampson Transi-Lift, the Lampson Millennium 4100, Manitowoc 4600 with Ring attachment and the Manitowoc 16000 and 18000 crawler cranes.
“When faced with a job with a small working area, we use our Lampson Transi-Lift, which is designed to lift in environments where there is very little space,” Kate Lampson, Lampson International says. “Due to its unique structural design, the Transi-Lift is able to manoeuvre forward, backward and sideways in a crab like configuration allowing us to access areas where our competition cannot. The Transi-Lift also allows us to make lifts from one location rather than having to relocate the crane several times. We have found that most power plants and refineries have confined spaces for heavy lift cranes to manoeuvre in, however, with the smaller footprint of the Lampson Transi-Lift and its ability to pick, swing and manoeuvre under load, our product has an advantage.”
All terrains are another popular crane type in this sector, Andreas Cremer, Manitowoc global product director, all terrain and truck mounted cranes, says “In the oil and gas fields we see a lot of mid-sized all terrains, such as the GMK5110-1 and GMK5130-2 but also large truck mounted cranes. Refineries are looking for high lifting heights, so our long boom machines are popular, like the GMK6300L. Also, if more capacity is needed, they choose GMK6400 with the long jib system and the GMK7450. For power plants and the wind industry we do see more crawlers used, such as the Manitowoc 11000-1 or Manitowoc 2250 and, also, larger all-terrain cranes for maintenance or smaller wind turbines, such as the GMK6300L, GMK6400 and GMK7450.”
National Crane boom trucks, specifically those larger than 40 US ton capacity including the NBT40, NBT50 and NBT60, are also in high demand in the energy sector, mainly for oil wellhead work in support of wire line, coil tubing and fracking. The models are also popular in utility and power line construction projects.
“Grove and Shuttlelift carry deck cranes are used in the Gulf Coast region for work in refinery service and maintenance,” Pilgrim adds. “The 20 US ton capacity CD5520 and the 25 US ton CD7725 models are of interest due to their rough-terrain capabilities, pick and carry capacities, and small footprints when compared with a small rough terrain crane. Rough terrain cranes are extremely popular in refineries and power plants for day-to-day maintenance and complete facility turnovers. Larger capacity models allow users to reach higher and move loads farther.”
For power station construction Terex introduced the Terex Boom Booster, which increases a cranes lifting capacity and enables it to place vessels or reactors where higher capacity cranes were typically needed. The Boom Booster is designed to combat the limiting factor of lateral deflection in a crane’s boom. It widens the load bearing chords of the boom to increase the limit given by lateral deflection. It gives its greatest advantage at steep boom angle configurations with a luffing jib.
The Terex 72 Boom Booster Kit, for example, is a set of components to build a 72 m system. Other length kits will be available. The 72 kit is upper and lower 11 m adaptors and five 10 x 10 x 3.2 m intermediate sections. It is pinned together rather than bolted for faster assembly and dismantling.
Work throughout the energy sector is expected to continue to grow, although, as Bill Lampson, Lampson International president and CEO points out, it won’t be without its challenges. “As a whole, the energy sector in the United States is still struggling and probably will continue to struggle until the current administration begins to embrace the benefits of natural gas, coal, power plants, the Keystone Pipeline and enhance opportunities for fracking,” Lampson says. “In addition, until this administration reduces the regulations and tax burdens on those of us in the construction industry, we will continue to experience a stagnant market.”
Frank Bardonaro adds, “This sector helps lead the way as it pertains to developing safety standards in the crane and rigging industry. The larger contractors require newer fleets, higher insurance requirements and more training and certification for the personnel. As long as the new entries into this space look to the global leaders to set the bar high in regards to safety, this should ensure that the industry remains focused on people, not just profits.”