A Weighty Challenge
Developments in heavy lift technology have made it easier to manage
Nadia Khan says Developments in heavy lift technology have made it easier to manage increasingly heavier loads offshore, yet this still remains a complex area for the Middle East’s oil & gas operators.
The sheer size and magnitude of the equipment required to set up an oil and gas field facility can be overwhelming. Transporting, moving and lifting heavy equipment, coupled with the need to ensure stringent safety controls at all times, has proven to be a considerable challenge for the region’s oil & gas operators.
Despite new technology and methods being developed, there is clearly a need to call in the specialists when it comes to heavy lift operations in the region. The heavy lift industry has been enjoying a steady growth in the popularity off the back of growing demand from the oil & gas sectors in the region.
“Along with the large of number of petrochemical plants being built in the Middle East, the need for alternative sources of power is growing and natural gas based projects are on the rise,” agrees Emre Eldener, general manager of Kita Logistics Turkey and president of The Heavy-lift Group (THLG).
As an official group representing specialised heavy lift companies from all corners of the world, THLG’s wide-ranging expertise lies in heavy-lift transport by sea, air and overland, as well as crane operations, rigging, machinery installation, and large-scale project forwarding.
“In the next five years, we believe the equipment will become larger and heavier with the need for even more heavy-lift transport modules,” predicts Eldener.
Heavy lift cranes have been increasingly used for oil and gas fields, serving a dual purpose of both transporting heavy equipment and moving it into position on site. The industry has already witnessed an upsurge in the capacity of equipment to cope with heavier loads, with some cranes now able to lift up to 10000 tonnes.
As a company specialising in the manufacture, supply and service of lifting tools, Konecranes handles a wide range of heavy lift equipment.
This stretches from small overhead cranes with capacity from 500kg up to extremely large ones with capacity of 2000 tons, as well as gantry cranes and heavy mobile forklifts with up to 60 ton capacity. “For the oil & gas industry, we supply explosion proof cranes for all types of heavy lifts,” adds Andreas Falk, sales director for Port Cranes & Lifttrucks at Konecranes Middle East.
“We are also a big supplier of heavy specialised forklifts for pipe handling applications.” In 2011, Konecranes acquired Saudi Arabian manufacturer Saudi Cranes, a leading provider of industrial cranes to the Kingdom’s oil & gas industry.
With clients ranging from British Petroleum (BP) to contractors and suppliers for the oil & gas industry worldwide, Falk recognises that the market places high demand on the safety, reliability and quality of heavy lift equipment.
When it comes to oilfield heavy lift operations in the Middle East, Falk finds that heavy forklifts (weighing in at between 15-60 tons) with pipe clamp attachments, together with the 45 tonne Reachstacker with pipe handling attachment, have proved to be most suitable.
The explosion proof overhead cranes have also been popular, understandably so for this particular market segment, “Konecranes recently supplied numerous heavy forklifts for big oil company in Iraq which were used in their oilfields to move pipes,” says Falk. “In total, they had more than ten units of our machines in operation.”
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Falk’s comments sum up the complexities involved in heavy lift operations at oil and gas fields on ground. But when it comes to moving and managing heavy equipment offshore, it can involve a completely different ball game.
Joerg Roehl, CCO at HANSA Heavy Lift agrees. “As the Middle East area offers one of the largest resources for oil and gas, it is leading in heavy lift projects in terms of oil refineries, gas and power plants,” he says.
“This region tends to import relevant heavy lift cargoes rather than export them but there are some complicated heavy lift cargo movements in the Middle East from big oil & gas companies like Petrofac or Lamprell.”
As a global company, HANSA itself has been involved in some interesting heavy lift projects in the Middle East.
Last year, the company shipped a dismantled oil rig from Sharjah’s Hamriyah to Mariupol in the Ukraine, using two of its vessels. The first shipment included four modules, one spud can, two legs and accessories.
The heaviest piece of the shipment, a 1000 mts super heavy lift on tank deck, was loaded and discharged with HANSA’s on-board cranes from and onto a barge. “Offshore LOC (London Offshore Consultant) regulations in place at this destination required additional safety features to be put in place,” explains Roehl.
“As a consequence the lifting equipment had to be much bigger and heavier to take into account dynamic effects and/or any inaccuracies in weight and centre of gravity positions.”
In this case, the heaviest pieces were loaded with the company’s stability pontoon. The second shipment, carrying a similar load but with the heaviest piece weighing 800 mts, was laden from the pier onto the hatch cover. In Mariupol, the load was discharged onto a barge.
“All operations were undertaken using our on-board cranes,” says Roehl.
“To comply with the offshore regulations we used two Gondola beams (2x SWL 770t) which were connected to a tandem Gondola beam arrangement (1x 1540T SWL).” The total maximum weight at the heel was 927t in tandem lift.
Roehl believes that this project demonstrates the complexity of the heavy lift business in this field.
“Of course such projects are only possible with an experienced and highly qualified team as well as a modern fleet of P-class vessels which can undertake such extraordinary lifts,” he adds.
In other oil-rich parts of the Middle East where port infrastructure is less developed such as Iraq, using a specialist company like HANSA can hold further advantages. “Our heavy lift vessels are equipped with big crane capacities like our P2-Type,” says Roehl.
“They have a combined crane capacity up to 1400 tonnes, which makes them capable of loading or discharging pieces of about 1000 tonnes, for example, independent of the infrastructure at the port.”