Experience with specialist insulation allows innovation to thrive
A solution devised by Hertel allowed work to continue at BP’s new Valhall production platform during a prolonged period of cold weather.
Hertel had been appointed by Heerema Fabrication Group (HFG) in Zwijndrecht, The Netherlands, to install a combination of Rockwall and Ulva Shield insulation across a total of six kilometres of piping.
Hertel began work in January, but as the stainless steel pipes had not been painted with protective coating, it looked as if the cold weather would slow work until warmer weather in the spring.
Ulva Shield, a specialist insulating material, acts as a modular, non-metallic material for protecting pipe work against corrosion from saltwater and wet weather. The material was specified by BP for the insulation project.
In cold weather a typical solution would be to build a tent around the skit and heat the interior with heaters. However the size of the skit, and the number of employees moving around the site, meant a more innovative approach was needed.
Improving efficiency and quality
Hertel realised that the application of aluminium foil to the stainless steel pipes allowed for the Ulva Shield insulation to be applied. With the larger piping the aluminium shield could simply be wound around, which worked better than applying paint.
The innovation by Hertel allowed the project to make good progress ahead of time, and actually improved the quality.
Pieter Gilissen, Subcontract Manager at the Heerema Fabrication Group, was pleased with Hertel’s experience with the specialist material, and how the team worked to deliver the project ahead of schedule.
Pieter said: “We received a very good reference about Hertel’s work with Ulva Shield. Ulva also recognised the Hertel insulation team as a highly-skilled unit in fitting the material.”
Substituting aluminium foil is a good example of Hertel’s confidence with Ulva Shield. The application of Ulva Shield requires precision, as the insulation has to be applied to measurements of less than a millimetre. It requires a high level of expertise to fit correctly.
Pieter said: “The first phase was conducted with our in-house contractor, but they struggled with the Ulva material, even though the pipes were relatively small. It was decided the risks were too great to give it to them on the topside of the platform.
“Hertel impressed us in how they delegated tasks to their teams. Typically, with supplier insulation companies, you give an isometric to a crew and they start insulating the job. Hertel split this, with one group whose only job was to apply the Ulva shield on the pipe, and another group was only to kit the seals. it gave a tidier job and made both teams more efficient.
Kees van der Vlies, Hertel Project Manager, said: “The initial project was the erection and delivery of materials for the insulation of the topsite and the normal skits, but we also managed scaffolding and painting.
“We did a lot of work preparation whilst the temperature was low but we couldn’t apply any Ulva Shield because the adhesive wouldn’t stick in temperatures below zero. Insulation was postponed until March.”
In February, BP asked Hertel to re-insulate the skits sent from England, France and Germany. This involved removing all non-metallic insulation and apply new Ulva Shield, as it hadn’t been sealed properly for saltwater and weather protection. Hertel was able to demonstrate its experience with the application and repair of Ulva Shield.
Safe, reliable and high quality
Kees said: “BP was positive about our safety performance and our way of communicating and adding value. It was very icy on the arc, which had led to injuries around the site, so safety was a big concern. We held toolbox presentations every morning, and we analysed what we had done the previous day on safety to get workers to focus.
Pieter agreed: “Hertel’s approach to safety is very important to us, as we have around 1,200 people on the project.”
Kees concluded: “The client was happy with Hertel’s safety performance, efficiency and added value.”
The end customer BP has since taken charge of the huge Valhall production platform, which is 100 metres long, 50 metres high and 47 metres wide. The platform will operate alongside an existing platform off the Norwegian coast
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