Volvo pipelayers

Italian contractor Ghizzoni S.p.A puts Volvo’s new pipelayers to the test ahead of the launch of the product in the Middle East

The Equipment

Since the basic design of pipelayer equipment was first pioneered in the 1920s, the industry has been slow to innovate.

Previous versions were unable to swing; making precise load positioning difficult, time consuming and, at times, dangerous.

Volvo’s new pipelayers are designed around the 360° swing excavator concept, a “revolutionary” approach with a swinging upper structure to allow positioning of the load.

“Volvo pipelayers represent a major step forward versus conventional, side-boom, pipelayers,” Frank Schmitt, product manager at Volvo Construction Equipment (CE) Region International, tells The Big Project.

“The 360° approach gives them many advantages, not only in their production capability, but also in safety,” Schmitt adds.

The equipment is available in two models, the PL4608 AND PL4611, both developed around the Volvo EC460C tracked excavator.

The concept was initially presented at the 2007 IPLOCA convention in Sydney, where the PL4611 was recognised for its “significant contribution to innovation”. At the 2009 convention, the PL4608 was named runner up in the technologies category.

The machines also feature an undercarriage for easy directional changes and smooth operations on rough or muddy terrain; when not used for pipelaying they can be converted to excavators or used for other heavy-lift applications, such as truck loading.

The most important difference between a Volvo pipelayer and an alternative pipelayer is the possibility to turn the machine around without any problem through 360°. This is new for the pipeline”

“This was an important consideration in the development to ensure maximum machine utilization, consequently, the best return on a customer’s investment and good second-life opportunities when sold on. The Volvo models exceed global design and safety requirements for pipelayers.”

According to Volvo, the most significant requirements are OSHA regulations, ASME B30.14, ASME B30.5, ISO8813, and DIN 15018 and 15019.

Additional features for the PL4608 include a glazed cab, which rises hydraulically to a height of 760mm. The PL4611 model has a fixed raised cab.

To the test

The PL4611 pipelayers have already been used to build the 60km Bunde-Etzel Pipeline (BEP) in Northern Germany-one of Europe’s major gas pipelines. They were introduced to the Middle East market at Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) last November. A test drive in Saudi Arabia is due to begin soon with further demonstrations planned in the region.

Italian project contractor Ghizzoni S.p.A was commissioned by BEP to complete the pipeline by mid-2011, for a contract worth up to €60 million (US $81 million).

According to Ghizzoni’s onsite project manager, Marco Scazzi, the equipment is “the future for the pipelayer”.

“It is fast, modern and a good choice because the capacity of the machine is higher than any other competitor. We are very satisfied about the load management system as you can control the lowering.

“You have no moment when the machine is not stable, so this is very important. There is no pipelayer with this kind of system. This is the first,” he told The Big Project, last month.

Scazzi says the main benefit is the high capability of the machine, which lends itself to the heavy pipe featured for a powerful output.

However, the most important difference between a Volvo pipelayer and another alternative pipelayer is the possibility to turn the machine around — without any problem — through 360°. This is new for the pipeline, he observes.

“It is also easy to transport the machine because you can remove the chains. You can carry them by lorry and the principal machine by a normal truck without any problems or particular authorization required from the authority. This is very important.”

“When a section is ready to be lowered there is a very heavy string, allowing you to lower materials by one kilometre per day and speed up the process,” adds Scazzi.

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