Work in the oil and gas sector continues but uncertainty about prices is affecting future project starts and demand is growing for greater efficiency on site, reports Katherine Weir
Uncertainty in the oil and gas sector - due to low oil and gas prices - is having a major impact on all of the supply chain in this industry, making forward planning a big challenge. International engineering and project management company Amec Foster Wheeler talks about the worry this is causing companies.
Doug Lee, chief engineer at Amec Foster Wheeler, says, “The market is very quiet as the oil and gas prices are depressed so a number of projects are on hold or being cancelled. A lack of current investment by the main oil companies is having a major impact on EPC [Engineering, Procurement and Construction] contractors like ourselves and it is also affecting the transport and lifting contractors within this market.”
Lee continues, “We have been heavily involved in replacing regenerator and reactor heads and cyclones on various FCC [fluid catalytic cracking] projects. These jobs generally require high capacity cranes so that site work is minimised during a shutdown. Typically, we would consider large ringer cranes: for example Mammoet’s PTC cranes of 1,600 to 2,000 tonne capacity, or a large 1,600 tonne crawler crane.”
For general refinery projects, Amec Foster Wheeler uses telescopic wheeled mobile cranes in the 200 to 800 tonne capacity range and crawler cranes between 400 and 800 tonnes, depending on equipment weights.
Crane manufacturer Terex offers equipment tailored for this application. For wind park construction the company has the Demag CC 3800-1 crawler crane which, with a Boom Booster kit, provides the extra capacity required for the latest and heavier wind turbine components to be placed at ever increasing heights, the company explains.
A Terex spokesperson says, “Larger crawler crane units like the CC 6800-1, CC 8800-1, with or without the Boom Booster kit, and CC 8800-1 Twin are often used in large refinery construction projects; typically lifting oil cracking vessels weighing up to 1,300-plus tonnes. Also for power plant construction: these are increasingly made of pre-built modules, weighing over 1,000 tonnes.”
For Terex, all terrain cranes are also a key tool in the energy sector for wind turbines, where they put their manoeuvrability and versatility to good use. The machines are also used in smaller refinery erection or maintenance projects, the company says.
International heavy lift and transport specialist Mammoet deploys a wide array of equipment globally for the energy, oil and gas sector including cranes, gantries, strand jacks, specialized transport and other special equipment.
Peter van Oostrom, director of global equipment at Mammoet, says, “There is a constant push towards greater efficiency in energy, oil and gas as components, modules and installations steadily increase in size, weight and height. There is also a need for equipment that can reach and operate in harsh climates and difficult to reach locations. This increases the need for innovative and smarter approaches in engineered heavy lifting and transport.”
USA-based heavy lift and transport company Lampson International has seen a demand for higher capacity cranes in this industry because of a need to lift heavier components at power plants and refineries. Bill Lampson, Lampson International president and CEO, says, “Right now we are seeing a demand for the Manitowoc 4600s, Manitowoc 2250s and high capacity heavy lift cranes such as our Lampson Transi-Lift. The demand for our heavy lift cranes is steady both in the USA and abroad. Most of these projects focus on large power plant construction, including nuclear, gas and electric power plants, deconstruction of manufacturing plants and refinery work. With regard to transport gear, we tend to use our Goldhofer and Scheuerle modular trailers as well as our Lampson crawler transporters the most.”
Safety and training
ALE says that the oil and gas sector has long been known to set high standards in risk management due to the critical environments that they operate in. Pierre de Villiers, global HSQE manager at ALE, says, “For ALE, the main difference when working in the oil and gas sector is that if a crane is required to go to a zone 0, 1 or 2, it would require a spark arrestor to be fitted to the engine exhaust system and electrical systems. The ‘fire suppressant’ would also be fitted to ancillary equipment and also diesel generators. Diesel engines may be required to have an automatic positive air shut off.”
He adds, “In addition, fly jibs would not be required as standard. They are a contract-specific requirement based on the activity, what is to be lifted, the capacity and the safety factor required.”
Regarding the training required for the energy, oil and gas sector, ALE explains that there is little in the way of ‘off the shelf’ training. This is why the company set up the in-house Standard Schemes of Training (SSOTs) five years ago with 10 vocational training schemes.
Kay Sproulle, global training specialist, learning and development, at ALE, says, “It is compulsory for all equipment operators to enrol on the scheme and they can progress through the different levels. In preparation for oil and gas work specifically, our operators are required to undertake any training required by our clients and the host site, which often includes subjects such as offshore survival, marine working, emergency response, H2S [hydrogen sulphide] and blood borne pathogens, to name but a few.”
Lampson plans ahead by sending crews to site early to compete the training required. Lampson says, “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.”
Marcel Schets, SHE-Q manager at Mammoet Europe, says, “Safety requirements vary from project to project, from client to client and from country to country and are often worded in the contracts. Some clients’ demands are related to the environment such as CO2 and soot emission. They demand cleaner engines.”
At Tadano, key to a high level of safety comes from the production of high quality cranes. A spokesperson says, “The universal needs of a mobile crane in the energy sector are the possibility to work in an emergency, with fewer repairs and less downtime, no oil leaking, and for the cranes to be easy to handle. Our cranes are called ‘dry cranes’ due to much less oil leakage. In addition, Tadano also makes sure that every operator has the basic handling of all types of rough terrain crane in case of emergency.”
Lampson at Lampson International concludes, “As a whole, the energy sector in the USA is still struggling and probably will continue to struggle for some time. Our hope is that with a new administration in the White House in November, we will see an embracing of the benefits of natural gas, coal, power plants, the Keystone Pipeline and an enhancement of our opportunities for fracking. In addition, we hope to see a reduction on regulations and tax burdens on those of us in the construction industry.”
This feature was taken from the July issue of International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine