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SHE climbs efficiently along sea legs

© Reprinted from Maritime by Holland, No. 2, March 2011, Publisher: Navingo BV,

New equipment for maintenance of offshore platforms makes the job safer, better done, protects the environment and saves money as the work can be done much more efficient. Following first tests at the Keppel Verolme yard in 2009, the systems are further engineered and now operate at the maintenance job of jack–up rig GSF Magellan at the same yard.

The self-elevating working platforms of Palfinger Systems go up and down along the towering sea legs of jack-up rigs to get technicians to their work spot. Workers of LSB Sky Access, specialised at maintenance work for offshore installations, are used to doing their work while hanging onto a rope. Of course, welding or nut wrenching is much more difficult when one is hanging onto a rope, without solid support like a working underground. Using the working stations that Palfinger Systems developed, technicians can get in virtually any position along the rig to do their work, firmly standing on a platform with a chest-high rail around it. Safety, Health and Environment care (SHE) get a serious upgrade in the new jack-up rig maintenance program offered by co-operation of LSB Sky Access and Palfinger Systems.

Keppel Verolme shipyard maintains an extensive number of jack-up rigs for offshore oil and gas drilling and production annually. Replacing anodes on the towering sea legs of the rigs is usually done by rope access. Building scaffold platforms would take too much time, while the legs, varying in length from 100 up to 160 metres, are too high to be reached with a crane with a one-man working station box at the end. If wind blows more then force five on the Beaufort scale, rope access is no longer considered safe and work will have

to be postponed. All in all, access to jack- up rigs’ sea legs is a challenge for yards that perform maintenance. Not to mention required maintenance offshore.

Hubert Palfinger saw ongoing operations at a rig leg during a visit to the Keppel Verolme yard, with technicians getting to their work spot by rope access. Representing the family company, he was intrigued to come up with a better solution for this work. The solution the company provides makes use of the large ‘teeth’ on the rig legs, that are there for the gear of the rig to lift or lower the legs. The rig electric drives connect to these giant teeth to move up and down along the legs. New jack-up rig leg access systems comprise of JUMP (Jack-Up Maintenance Platform), a platform that totally surrounds the leg and of the RackCrane, a smaller platform that folds around one corner of the leg, as well as the Inspection Platform which also uses the teeth on both ends of a flat side of the leg. Depending on the required workscope the JUMP or a Rackcrane can be configurated with access baskets (working platforms) and cranes.

All three systems are optimised for quick and easy installation. The platforms come in one or several 20 foot containers, depending on the size of the platform. Parts are pre-assembled,



to be connected with large stainless steel pins, fitting the rig legs and get grip on the mounting teeth. As not all jack-up rigs have the same configuration of the legs, different guide plates and gears for the teeth are available. They can be fitted to the platforms to fit specifications of the rig. Legs are often triangular, but sometimes square. Teeth to connect to the lifting gear are sometimes on the outside of the legs, sometimes on the inside. Once connected to electrical power, the platforms move up and down on their own force. Getting the maintenance platform operational onto the rig takes only hours, as opposed to days or even weeks of building up scaffolds. Palfinger Systems also developed the UPA: Under Platform Access for maintenance at sea or at the yard, and the ITP:

the Internal Tank Platform for tasks that need to be done in a tank’s interior. As rope access is not possible under a platform or inside a tank, doing maintenance at these locations always demanded building a scaffold structure.

precision, they can also easily indicate spots and bars in the legs that need repair. When indicated, these repairs can also be carried out quickly from the same platform. This saves days of planning for these extra tasks. During the first operations with the platforms, it is too early

Safety, health and environment care improve when working from a platform

to say whether the possibility to work faster makes it possible to do the maintenance job on a tighter budget, considering the extra cost of renting the access platforms.

Yard operation planners indicate that flexibility is probably the biggest asset of the jack-up rig access systems. Moving up and down along the rig’s legs, firmly standing on a working platform, the maintenance technicians can inspect the state of the structure. Not only will they be able to do the scheduled job with greater ease and

“At Palfinger Systems, we have initially developed the offshore access systems in 2007 and 2008”, says Michel van Wees, managing director sales and marketing. “The line of working stations aims to make necessary maintenance and repair jobs much safer and easier done at sea or at the yard. We notice growing demand from offshore

installation operators for maintenance and repair, as the fleet of offshore rigs is getting of age. We also noticed that operations for work at the rigs have not essentially changed for the last eighty years. When we asked them, yards and rig owners confirmed their wish to have a better access system. Not only have health care demands changed the last eighty years, especially environmental regulations have put restrictions on the way work can be done on such gigantic offshore rigs.” JUMP surrounds the rig legs, and can be closed off when a tent (enclosure) is set up around it. This makes waterjetting (HPU) and painting possible, where the work is protected from the elements, while the environment is protected from dust and paint. When working at the yard, work at other parts of the rig can continue as there is no need for a safety drop zone when work is done in the enclosed JUMP.

“Palfinger Systems manufactures innovative access systems”, Van Wees emphasises. “We do not want to do maintenance jobs ourselves, we have our equipment available for partners like LSB Sky Access to work with it. Palfinger Systems is the more innovative company, searching for new solutions and investing in research and development. This company derives from Palfinger, who produce mostly

cranes for trucks and marine. Apart from LSB in the Netherlands, we are negotiating with offshore service providers in Aberdeen, USA and Singapore. We do believe these systems will mark the next step in offshore maintenance and repair, and are actively seeking partners to start working with them worldwide. We need good partners that understand the potential of our equipment and are willing to make a

A landmark change in offshore maintenance and repair

change. Although very difficult in the oil- and repair industry good project management and planning has become very important. We believe that well trained people will optimize the safety and the efficiency and therefore want to focus on a few strategic partners.”

LSB Sky Access manager Ronny van Baal is enthusiastic about the rig access systems. “Our co-operation with Palfinger Systems started when they ran a test with the first JUMP at one of the legs of jack-up rig GSF Monarch in 2009. At the same time, we were working on the other legs, replacing anodes, with rope access like we always have done. We reckoned: as they are testing JUMP, why don’t we test how it is to work on it? Here, our partnership started. Now we are working with the access systems in a fully operational setting. We provide the craftsmen that replace anodes and that do measurements to monitor the state of the steel piping of the legs. Palfinger Systems delivers the tools we use to get to the elevated working spots.”

Working with these platforms instead of hanging on a rope can save a lot of time on the job and thus save cost, Van Baal claims. “With these access platforms, we work in teams of four technicians. In one hour, they can replace six anodes. When working with rope access, we usually work in teams of three. In a twelve hour shift, these three men replace ten anodes. 36 hours of paid work here results in ten replaced anodes. Working from the moving platforms, 36 hours result in 54 anodes replaced. Speeding up the process five times should easily earn back the cost of platform rental.”


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