Machinery

Caterpillar, Al-Bahar and Noble Corp introduce new engine overhauling solution

Cat C175 Support Container a joint effort that eliminates delays and minimises downtime on Cat engines in offshore environments

Equipment giant Caterpillar, along with its GCC dealer Al-Bahar, and Noble Corporation have come up with a new solution for quick and convenient overhauling of Cat C175 engines in offshore environments, such as on oil rigs.

The solution involves housing all the parts and tools needed to perform a top-end or complete overhaul of a Cat C175 engine in a container as a full-size shipping unit. The C175 Support Container, as it’s called, also includes parts that may be required for any “over and above” issues, as well as tooling specially adapted for use on board — enabling service technicians to turn the engine block quickly and safely without any rigging, for example, said Caterpillar, adding that the solution is a first-of-its-kind one.

The C175 Support Container also comes with an inventoried list of parts, so technicians can check off exactly what’s used and the customer can be invoiced accordingly.

According to the three companies, the inspiration for the solution came during a high-level meeting in Dubai involving Noble, Caterpillar and Al-Bahar. Noble’s worldwide maintenance director at the time, the late Ron Swan, saw the potential for a “support container” that could ship everything needed for an engine overhaul offshore. A standardised solution equipped for every contingency made sense to everyone involved.

Overhauling an engine on an offshore rig invariably involves delays. Unexpected issues mean required parts and tooling aren’t available on board, and getting them to remote locations can take days or even weeks. Wasted time leads to lost revenue, which Kevin Milne, regional maintenance manager for Noble, says his company wanted to avoid.

“If we have to wait for a part with a lead time of six weeks, we can’t progress the overhaul any further. That means we have to send the technicians home, wait till the part arrives, then remobilize. The whole time the engine is down, our client is looking at us, wondering why we’re not up and running and making money. There has to be another way,” said Milne.

According to Dennis Hohne, Al-Bahar’s technical support manager for engines, the GCC Cat dealer started looking into it right away. “We started building a solution based on our experience with these overhauls and by anticipating what issues might cause delays. In the end, it was the brainchild of two partners sitting together trying to find a solution,” he said.

Vincent Kondratski, who manages electrical and electronic maintenance for Noble, said: “We were very impressed with how well thought out it was. It’s well-lit inside and out. There’s an overhead trolley system with a hoist that makes it easy to get parts out of the container. Everything we require for the engine is in there, and we’re only billed for what the technicians actually use to complete the overhaul.”

Noble’s first use of the C175 Support Container occurred on a rig that was in port, so the company hasn’t yet seen the full benefits of shipping it offshore for an overhaul — but its maintenance team thinks the time and money saved will be significant.

“Worst-case scenario, if we have a crankshaft failure on a C175, having this container on board could easily save us a month or more,” Kondratski says. “For rigs in the Far East, due to shipping times, it will save us at least a week even for smaller issues. Even in a best-case scenario, where everything goes as planned, it’ll save us a couple of extra days.”

That savings in time can translate into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in revenue, he added.

Al-Bahar also said it will see big savings with the C175 Support Container, given its service technicians are in high demand. Now, when an offshore rig’s engine needs service, it will be able to ship the container to the vessel in advance of the technicians’ arrival. Once the overhaul is complete, the technicians can head off to other jobs, and the dealer will arrange to have the container shipped back on shore.

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