Kobelco CKE 250 250 tonne crane involved in the erection by G R Engineering of fluegas duct piping in the reactor regenerator package of the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU)

A major expansion is taking place at Indian state-owned oil upstream company Bharat Petroleum Corporation’s (BPCL’s) refinery in Kochi in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. The project – called the ‘integrated refinery expansion project’
(IREP) – will increase Kochi refinery’s capacity from the current 9.5 million metric tonnes (mmt) annually to 15.5 mmt.

The expansion will enable the refinery to process crude oil with a higher sulphur content. This will allow it to produce auto fuels complying with Euro IV and Euro V specifications for higher profit margins. It will also improve the distillate yield and reduce energy consumption of vehicles using this fuel.

Several new processing units are being installed. These include a crude distillation unit (CDU), which will replace the 40 year-old CDU. The expansion will also involve setting up associated processing units such as a fluid catalytic cracking unit, diesel hydro treater, sulphur recovery unit, tail gas treating unit and hydrogen generating unit. Placing numerous supporting utilities and offsite facilities for the refinery operation is also part of the IREP project.


The 2,000 tonne Mammoet ringer crane and the tailing crane involved in the erection of the delayed coker unit. The package is being executed by Essar Projects

Contractors have engaged several cranes for heavy lift jobs from specialised Indian and foreign companies.

Project contractor Essar Projects is involved in engineering, procuring, fabricating and erecting the new delayed coker unit (DCU) to process the high sulphur content and low value crude.

It has engaged Mammoet to help with the erection of four coke drums for the DCU. This consists of 10 shell assemblies of low alloyed steel and two skirt assemblies, top dished end and a bottom cone assembly with a diameter of 9.6 metres, length of 42.66 m and weight of 550 tonnes. A 2,000 tonne ringer crawler crane from Mammoet, supported by a 450 tonne tailing crawler crane from Indian crane rental company Sangvi Movers, helped lift the coke drums to a height of 35 m.

Reactor pair

Another critical lift involved the erection of two reactors, each weighing 650 tonnes. Indian heavy lift company All Cargo partnered with Tat Hong Plant Leasing Pte of Singapore for this job, which was executed by Albanna Engineering India.

A 1,200 tonne capacity Demag CC 6800 crawler crane and a 550 tonne tailing crawler crane from Tat Hong completed the job. The main crane’s boom was kept at 66 m (36 m for the tailing crane) to erect the 48 m-long reactors. A 400 tonne super lift counterweight and 250 tonne car body counterweight were used on the main crane.


The author with Mr. Rathi, vice president of G R Engineering – Kochi Refinery Project (right) with 1,600 tonne capacity Terex crane at the FCCU in Kochi refinery expansion project

Ground pressure for the main crane was kept at 69 tonnes per square metre under the crawler and 59 tonnes/m2 below the mat.

Erection of columns in the fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) was also a critical heavy lift. Contractor Fabtech Projects hired a 1,000 tonne Demag CC 6400 crawler and a 550 tonne Demag CC 2600 tailing crane to lift four stripper columns with weights between 180 and 696 tonnes, four rectifier columns weighing between 181 and 661 tonnes, and the main fractionater at 570 tonnes.

To erect the four sections of stripper and rectifier columns, the boom length of the

CC 6400 was kept at 66 m, 84 m, 108 m and 120 m. The job was performed at a working radius between 20 and 28 m. For the tailing crane, working radius was kept between 9 and 11 m. The 1,000 tonne crane was used with 650 tonnes of super lift counterweight (75 tonnes super lift counterweight for the tailing crane) when erecting the heaviest section of the stripper and rectifier.


Hard standing was prepared for both cranes. For the main crane, ground pressure was kept at 60.8 tonnes/m2 under the crawler and 19.76 tonnes/m2 below mat.

Main lifter

One major attraction in this project is the 1,600 tonne capacity Terex CC 8800-1 crawler crane hired by Indian Engineering firm G R Engineering for 14 months from Tion Woon Projects. G R Engineering is fabricating and erecting the reactor and regenerator in the FCCU in a consortium with Essar Projects. The crane, with a 108 m boom, has erected the 16 m long third-stage separator, 35 m spent hopper A, and spent hopper B at a height of 170 m. Weights of the units erected were 250, 139 and 218 tonnes, respectively. The crane has also erected the 490 tonne reactor.

The heaviest lifting job performed by the crane was erection of the 700 tonne regenerator at 32 m working radius with 96 m boom. A 540 tonne super lift retractable counterweight used with eight falls. The crane was taken earlier by Fabtech for erection of the main fractionater at 36 m height with 108 m boom.

G R Engineering has deputed its own two 200 tonne Link Belt cranes, one 150 tonne, two 80 tonne and one Kobelco CKE-250 250 tonne crawler cranes in the FCCU package. The CKE-250 is placing flue gas duct piping on racks connected to the FCCU. The job was part of the reactor and regenerator erection in the FCCU. The crane was erecting 6 m pipe weighing 38 tonnes at a height of 20 m. A 92 m boom and 70 tonne crane car body counterweight were used.

Pl2 a4005

Shipment belonging to G R Engineering being shifted by Resham Singh’s Goldhofer multi-axle trailers through the narrow roads of Kochi

Contractor Bilfinger Neo Structo used two crawler cranes – a 350 tonne Liebherr LR 1350-1 and a 750 tonne LR 1750 – to erect 213 and 200 tonne vessels in the ongoing expansion project in the earlier phases. It has now deployed a 70 tonne Liebherr LTM 1070 AT crane at the site. The crane is working with a main 50 m telescopic boom and 16 m fly jib, and 36 m boom and 9 m fly jib for erection of tie members weighing between 2 tonnes and 600 kilogrammes.

While heavier crawlers dominate the project, numerous lighter crawler and wheeled mobile cranes are also working on the project. Fuwa cranes between 35 and 250 tonnes, owned by contractors, L&T Hydrocarbon and Petron, erected pipes between 3 and 8 tonnes and 10 to 12 tonne columns. Indian heavy lift major Sangvi Movers deployed Sany crawler cranes between 80 and 150 tonnes to erect alloyed, stainless steel pipes and carbon steel pipes weighing between 6 and 7 tonnes at heights to 50 m.

Meanwhile, at least 35 Indian Action Construction Equipment’s new generation SX and FX series mobile cranes between 12 and 17 tonnes and 15 and 23 tonnes transport smaller equipment. They also erect beams for utility buildings and pipes on pipe racks.

Transportation of over-dimensional consignments to the refinery from the factory was undertaken by Resham Singh & Co, one of India’s leading ODC cargo transporters. The task involved moving the consignments from G R Engineering’s facility in Tarapur to Mumbai and JN Port at Maharashtra in Western India by road on multi-axle hydraulic trailers. This was followed by further movement on barges to Kochi Port and forward movement to the site, again on trailers.

The barges were loaded at Mumbai and JN Port sailed to Kochi Port. Reshamsingh moved its 32 Goldhofer hydraulic axles and three Volvo heavy-duty prime movers to Kochi.

Several challenge had to be overcome as the cargo moved from the port to the project site. One major obstacle was the road toll tax booth structure at Kochi. The roof of the structure was too short to accommodate the trailers with loaded cargo. To make way for the trailers, the roof was removed with two telescopic cranes. Other challenges were extremely narrow roads in Kochi, and large numbers of cables and high tension wires traversing the city.


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