Need for advanced transportation solutions
Says Mr. Rahul Patil, Site In charge, Suzlon India, which is developing a 29.4 mw wind power project for Oil India at Agar in Madhya Pradesh, “As the project completion schedule is very tight, our prime objective is to have advanced customized transportation solutions, and higher availability of equipment for timely transportation of blades, turbines, nacelles, etc to the site, without damage.”
For its client Oil India, Suzlon India is erecting 12 towers of 120-meter hub height, with each tower having a power generation capacity of 2.1 mw. There are plans to erect 10 more towers adding up to 20 mw. Due to the numerous curves from Suzlon’s plants to the base depot and onward to the project site, the blades are being transported through Goldhofer extendable telescopic trailers. Informs Mr. Rahul, “It is vital that the long and costly blades are transported to the sites safely without damage. This has to be ensured by the transporters who must carry out thorough route surveys with their telescopic hydraulic trailers before transporting begins.”
He adds, “The cost of hiring a telescopic trailer is less per blade, and the requirement for a skilled crew is also modest. The turning radius required at site is minimal, besides which, extendable trailers come with many new features like steering axles, so overall, the transit time and cost are less when compared to mechanical trailers.”
Agreeing to this ,Mr. Bipin Lunavia, CTO, Enercon, says, “Generally, we undertake three heavy lifts with crawler cranes for lifting 45-70-ton nacelles, generators and the hub and blades at hub heights of 56 and 75 meters. The nose cone to be fitted in front of the blades is lifted separately to avoid damage. Since the lifting plan is quite concise, it requires timely and safe transportation of the tower parts to the site through specialized transportation.”
Mr. Muthukrishnan Bagavathi, Manager - Site Support & Cranes Procurement, at Vestas Wind Technology India, says, “Our previous lifting plan was individual lifting of nacelles weighing 50 tons, followed by single lifting of rotor hub along blades. The present practice is lifting of the nacelles, followed by lifting of rotor hubs and the blades separately. This is to ensure safety as the towers are becoming taller. This leaves much room for coordination between transporters and erectors, since the lifting plan has to be organized accordingly.”
Design improvisations in transportation will help
While there is a requirement for making design improvisations in the transportation of blades and other heavy-duty elements, design innovations are becoming equally important for transporting the crawler and mobile cranes as well, that is, the car body, the counterweights and the longer lattice booms being developed by crane OEMs for lifting sections of the higher hub height wind power projects, and the bigger industrial projects requiring heavy lifts, sometimes at shorter radius.
There have been remarkable developments globally in this regard, jointly undertaken by crane OEMs and specialized transporters, in recent years. In Europe, adapters have been developed for transporting blades and other specialized transportation arrangements on the trailer itself for transporting nacelles sections. However, given the higher costs involved in making specialized or customized transport arrangements, transporters in India have made little efforts towards this.
Customization has been even more less both on the flatbed and low bed conventional trailers for transporting cranes. However, thanks to the increasing modular design of the car body and the main and auxiliary booms by crawler crane manufacturers, the issue has been addressed to some extent, though far from being satisfactory, especially when undertaking critical load calculations for transporting engineering and industrial over dimensional consignments. Inadequate load calculations and improper route surveys cause a large number of fatal accidents, besides delayed cost of transportation for time-bound projects.
A top official at Sarens India, a heavy lift specialist and transporter, informs, on condition of anonymity, that there is a strong lobby amongst the unorganized transporters, who are not adhering to the operational safety requirements for transporting heavy consignments.
R&D for local manufacturing will reduce cost
Use of extendable trailers of 42-55 meters is relatively new in India for moving blades of 24.5, 36 and 45 meters. These were moved by locally made conventional tractor trailers six years ago. However, with the entry of foreign turbine manufacturers in India, and their high standards for safe transportation of the sensitive blade sections, transporters in India have been acquiring extendable trailers in sizeable numbers.
But affordability is an issue for procuring foreign make of extendable and hydraulic modular trailers. To provide cost competitive indigenous transport solutions, local manufacturers should invest in manufacturing prototypes of hydraulic axle modular trailers, and subsequently, make modifications based on customer feedback. Even conventional trailers can be worked upon to ensure stability for safe cargo movement on both uniform and undulated roads.
Unfortunately, R&D has been miniscule by the local transportation manufacturers, making them slow in bringing specialization to their entire service line for facilitating movement of ODCs. The OEMs too have given them little inputs on the necessary changes required. Rather, it’s the project owners and developers who have taken the onus of generating data and accessing the required transportation needs, to suggest cutomised solutions.
Need for specialized solutions
Transporters and local trailer manufacturers need to pay greater attention to the changing market dynamics and the trend of higher ODC load transportation requirements. Else, they will only be making way for foreign companies and highly specialized transport agencies to encash the opportunities, especially in refinery and petrochemical projects.
Citing a challenging case, Mr.V.V Kurup, Dy. GM (Project-Units) and Mr. Giridharan S, Chief Manager (Projects) at BPCL Kochi refinery, inform, “Transportation of ODCs to the refinery site from the manufacturing facility was a major feat. The specialized transporters engaged by us had the capital and executional prowess to undertake our ‘Integrated Refinery Expansion’ jobs through sufficient machinery and manpower deployment.”
The transporter moved its 32 Goldhofer hydraulic axles and 3 Volvo heavy-duty prime movers to Kochi with its operation team. Following the arrival of the barges, the consignment was unloaded at Kochi Port, and the ODC was transported to the refinery project site on Goldhofer multi axle hydraulic trailers.
According to the BPCL officials, there were numerous hindrances from the port to the project site. A major obstacle was the road toll booth structure at Kochi, the roof of which was too low to allow the trailers to pass, so it was removed using two telescopic cranes. Other challenges were the narrow roads running alongside commercial and residential buildings at Kochi, cables and high-tension wires that had to be dismantled leading to a power shutdown, and permission for movement of the ODC was restricted to Saturdays and Sundays from midnight till eight in the morning. 250 consignments had to be moved to the site through multimodal transportation arrangements. The first operation was undertaken by the transporter in 55 days and the second job was completed in a shorter span of 40 days.
For safe transportation of blades and other windmill parts, Industrie Cometto India in technical tie-up with Chennai-based Sneritc Engineering is designing and making jigs and fixtures, as per requirement, to transport single or twin blades on extendable trailers. It is also providing technical support to transporters for selection of loading position based on the centre of gravity, and other services. Cometto India has sold a fair number of extendable trailers in recent years to windmill transporters, who have to contend with undulated road conditions and shorter turning radius at sites.
With commissioning of wind power and refinery expansion projects is on the rise, there will be demand for more value-based erection and transportation solutions, backed by product support. Local manufacturers and providers of transportation solutions need to be more deeply involved with the transportation needs of projects through closer engagement with the project owners and developers if they are to provide the desired solutions so that the projects can be completed sooner and more economically.