Extreme power: working in the energy sector

15 August 2014

A Lampson Crawler Transporter

A Lampson Crawler Transporter

Companies need to adhere to strict safety and training programmes to work in the energy sector. Laura Hatton reports

Work sites on energy related projects are some of the most demanding and hazardous environments in the industry. Some sites have explosive risks while others pose a radioactive threat; these hazards, along with space and time constraints, influence what cranes are used on site.

“Usually with petrochemical projects there are around 20,000 people working on site, with multiple contractors and people working in one area,” a spokesperson from Terex explains. “The dynamics of working in such conditions are difficult. For example, one sub contractor may need to close an area where another contractor is working; this can have a domino effect on contactors down the line. So the ability of being able to get to the job site, use the minimum amount of space, and assemble things quickly, do the job and leave is very important.”

Matt Rushton, ALE senior sales manager, says, “Each sector of the energy market is unique in its requirements for the use of cranes. Petrochemical as well as oil and gas will largely involve the use of larger cranes, such as the AL.SK crane.”

Kate Lampson, Lampson International, says, “Right now it seems that the Manitowoc 4600 (both with and without ring attachments), Manitowoc 2250 and high capacity heavy lift cranes, such as our Lampson Transi-Lift, are the most popular cranes. With regard to transport gear, we tend to use Goldhofer and Scheuerle modular trailers as well as our Lampson Crawler Transporters.”

A spokesperson from heavy lift and transport specialist Sarens adds, “For coal power plants there is the demand for a mix of equipment, including tower cranes and crawler cranes. For thermal plants there tend to be more hydraulic cranes at work and mid size crawlers. Nuclear new builds tend to need super heavy lift cranes with capacities up to 4,000 tonnes.”

The latest nuclear project worked on by Sarens was the New Safe Confinement Project at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine. The project was to help contain a damaged nuclear reactor building and prevent the reactor from leaking further radioactive material into the environment. Sarens used a Terex CC8800-1. Tasks for the crawler included removing an old chimney. For the task the crawler was configured with SWSL 102 to 108 metres, 50 m SL boom, 235 tonnes of counterweight and 640 tonne SL-tray. In total, seven sections of the chimney, each weighing around 55 tonnes were stabilised and dismantled. Any miscalculations of the lift could have caused a cloud of radioactive dust.

For nuclear work specific training is needed, which can take several days,” a Sarens spokesperson adds. “This is completed before employees can enter the plant. In addition, radiation evaluations have to be done every day.”

Safety standards
Due to the nature of work in the energy sector, safety is extremely important. A spokesperson from Terex explains, “Companies are very strict with safety. The more critical the lift the more important this is. Some safety features, such as fall protection systems, started out as requests from refineries then they become standard.”

Operator training is another area that is tailored to suit individual sites. Matt Rushton, ALE senior sales manager, says, “Employee training at ALE is sector- and equipment-specific, depending on the requirements of a contract.”

A spokesperson from Terex adds, “Training on working at height, working with heat, job site details (how it’s laid out) all depends on the project. Energy and petrochemical projects are the strictest in the industry. Depending on the location of the construction site and company additional certification and training can be required.”

Kate Lampson explains, “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.”

Companies such as Guay, based in Canada, have their own health and safety programmes. “On site, these programmes can last up to three days, depending on the site and the type of work that has to be done,” a spokesperson from Guay says. “Health and safety is one the most important values for our company so we invest a lot of money in training. For example, for training on our new Liebherr LTM 11200, we sent our crane operators and mechanics to Germany for special training with Liebherr.”

Future prospects
As a whole, the energy sector is making way for new trends and developments, especially in safety and technology. Recently popular industry sectors, such as shale gas, are also expected to cause some significant changes throughout the industry; however it may take some time for these projects to take a firm place in the sector, as Bill Lampson, Lampson International president and CEO, says, “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. In addition, until this administration reduces the regulations and tax burdens on those of us in the construction industry will mean that we will continue to experience a stagnant market.”

Restricted spaces
To overcome space restrictions in areas such as electrical substations, compact cranes are a popular choice, as they can get closer to substation lifting locations for precision operations, such as the removal and replacement of machinery parts. “This is a quicker, simpler and safer alternative to using a larger city crane with a big working radius and operating it from the roadside,” Michael Heneghan, GGR Group sales director, explains.

One of the latest tricky lifting projects carried out by GGR was the removal and replacement of transformers at two substations in the UK. For the tasks a MCC805 mini telescopic crawler crane and a Galizia F200E Plus pick and carry crane were used. The battery powered F200E Plus was used at a substation in Leicester, UK, to uninstall six 2.9 tonne transformers and replace them with new ones. The model has a 2.3 m wide chassis, front wheel drive and 180 degrees hydraulic steering to help manoeuvre around obstacles and through narrow access points on the site. The 20 tonne capacity zero-emissions F200E has a 12 m maximum lifting height and removable counterweight. The MCC805 crawler crane helped replace another six transformers at a substation in Loughborough, UK. The 8 tonne capacity compact crane was used to lift the 3.5 tonne transformers to a height of 4.8 m.

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