Manifa oil and gas

By Richard High24 October 2008

It's not just on land that contractors are moving huge quantities of sand, rock and earth however. The Manifa Field Causeway and Island Project is one of the world's biggest dredging projects.

When complete in 2011 it will increase Saudi Aramco Arabian Heavy crude production capacity by 900000 barrels per day.

Belgium's Jan de Nul was awarded the US$ 1 billion contract for the design and construction of the project. Dredged sand will be used to construct a 41 km-long main causeway and several secondary causeways up to 3 km out into the Gulf.

The causeway is the critical first step for the project, as a significant number of the Manifa development's wells are in shallow offshore areas (less than 12 m deep) that are not suitable for ocean-going vessels to set up the jackets and platforms.

It will consist of a 21-km main artery, plus another 20 km of offshoots that lead to 27 shallow-water drilling islands. The project includes construction of a 2.4 km bridge, berthing areas and a roll on/roll off facility adjacent to the main causeway.

Such massive earth moving projects are dominated by heavy equipment. Belgian John Hamilton is Jan de Nul's man in charge of a fleet of over 60 machines, including 20 Volvo A40D articulated haulers, six Volvo L220E wheel loaders and a brace of Volvo EC290BLC excavators. Despite the size of the task, it has to be completed by December 2009, so machine reliability and productivity are paramount considerations.

The process is run like a production line. While the large dredgers out to sea ship in marine sand the Volvo haulers take rock armour to waiting barges. Then a second team of haulers ferry the rocks to be placed into position. A third team of haulers dump sand onto the causeway, fed by three Volvo L220E wheel loaders. The remaining loaders are being used for stockpiling rock and sand. The excavators meanwhile are mainly occupied in scalping the sand that builds up from the dredger feed pipes.

Working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, time is short on the Manifa Field Causeway and Island Project. "We need reliable machines," comments the friendly and indefatigable Hamilton. "The Volvos are holding up well despite temperatures up to 50oC, continuously having the maximum weight on board and working in soft sand. We look very closely at each machine, have a full service agreement with Volvo dealer Al Rehab and basically do everything possible to maximize uptime. We just can't stop and can't afford for our machines to either."

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