Biggest lifting job in Port of Antwerp in many years by Mammoet

Mammoet has started work for Borealis with the heaviest lifting job in Port of Antwerp in many years. The Schiedam-based crane and transport company will lift a total of 30 columns, the heaviest of them weighing 1,600 tonnes, with a gantry crane.

Borealis is investing 1 billion euros in construction of a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant. When completed this will be the largest of its kind in the world. It is certainly the chemical company's biggest-ever investment in Europe. The new facility is being built alongside the existing plant on the Sint-Jansweg road in Kallo, part of the Antwerp port area. It will have an annual production capacity of 750,000 tonnes of propylene, one of the main raw materials for the chemical industry. Worldwide demand for this material as the starting point for making polypropylene plastic is growing strongly.

Transport and lifting work

Mammoet has been entrusted with transporting a total of 31 parts by land and setting them up on foundations. "All items are ODC (Over-Dimensional Cargo) and must be lifted into place using special equipment. It's a complex operation that requires a great deal of preparation. We have already transported the heaviest item from where it was built in Spain to the construction site in Antwerp," explains Jos Van der Sanden, head of the Petrochemical department for Europe and Russia at Mammoet. The transport and lifting work will take about two years, with the new plant expected to enter production in mid-2022.

It's a complex operation: "The heavy items are coming from all over the world. They arrive on pontoons or heavy-lift ships and are driven off the Herbosch-Kiere quay on the other side of the Sint-Jansweg road. The fences along the roadside have been removed, and we have to be very careful about the trees. A road for heavy transport has been specially laid on the site to take the items to the laydown area. Here the finishing touches are put to the columns before setting them up on the foundations," says Van der Sanden.

The heaviest item is a C3 splitter with a length of 108 m and a weight of 1,600 tonnes. This has already arrived and is being prepared on the laydown area. Lifting it into place will be the biggest operation of its kind for many years in Antwerp, for which Mammoet will make use of its MLS Gantry system. This custom-built structure can do the lifting work without stay cables, so avoiding interference with other activities on the site. The gantry consists of two towers with a crossbeam between them, on which the lifters are mounted. The grantry will be used to raise the largest columns, while the rest of the lifting work will be done with various caterpillar-mounted cranes. In addition Mammoet is supplying the hydraulic cranes being used on the site by the contractors. 

MLS Gantry

"The MLS Gantry is unique in terms of its dimensions. At the moment it's being prepared at our site in Westdorpe. Everything is assembled here in order to make sure we don't run into problems during installation. The structure of the mast components and the dimensions mean that it is very versatile. For this particular job we will use the gantry to set up both the splitter and the depropaniser, although in different configurations. For setting up the depropaniser the tower crane will have to be partly dismantled and then reassembled slightly farther back," Van der Sanden explains.

"A polar crane is more flexible than a gantry, able to lift and place different parts from a single position. But a gantry has a great advantage over a polar crane, namely that it is much quicker to assemble and dismantle. In this particular case it will take around two weeks to assemble, one and a half weeks to reconfigure and just under two weeks to dismantle. For a polar crane you have to allow six or eight weeks just to assemble it, and nearly as long to dismantle it." 

Reaping the benefits of Antwerp location

"The work has been entrusted to Mammoet Belgium which is leading the project. The headquarters in Schiedam (Netherlands) is providing support with among other things the necessary consulting. We have a lot of know-how within the group, even more so with the recent acquisition of the British company ALE-Heavylift, the N° 3 in the world. This company's contribution in terms of equipment and know-how gives Mammoet even greater clout," says Van der Sanden.

"This contract with Borealis is particularly important for our growth," adds Dries Lion, commercial manager at Mammoet Belgium. "It's the result of a strategic decision to establish a solid presence for Mammoet in Antwerp by having a fully-fledged branch here. We opened a new Belgian headquarters at the beginning of 2019 in the Bevrijdings dock in Antwerp. This enables us to react more flexibly."

"The work for Borealis clearly demonstrates the great potential for the future," Van der Sanden adds. "This contract is an important stepping stone towards other projects in the port of Antwerp. There are great prospects in Antwerp, such as the Project ONE for INEOS which has already been announced. This will probably involve even heavier items to be lifted."

With a price ticket of 3 billion euros Project ONE is one of the largest investments in the European petrochemical industry in the past 20 years, consisting of two large installations, namely an ethane cracker and a PDH unit.

Philippe Van Dooren

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