In a first for rope-access specialist Skyriders, ultra high-pressure blasting was used to systematically remove a layer of cementitious fireproofing and insulating material from a 19-m-diameter, 22-m-high spherical gas storage tank at a major petrochemical producer in Mpumalanga.
The complete scope of work for Skyriders was, firstly, to remove the deluge fire sprinkler and piping system before the cementitious fireproofing insulation material could be accessed from the top of the structure downwards, Marketing Manager Mike Zinn explains.
The pressurised gas storage tank requires statutory inspection and testing every couple of years, in addition to replacing the fireproofing and insulating material to ensure the ongoing integrity of the structure. Skyriders was tasked to devise a safe and efficient means of achieving this, in order to allow for third-party contractors to carry out their own scope of work.
An eight-person team from Skyriders took 18 days to complete the project, at the end of which the deluge fire sprinkler and piping system had to be put back in place. The major challenge was carrying out high-pressure blasting at height. Hence this process was monitored closely by the client and its safety team.
Zinn reveals that, during a similar project, the client had opted for scaffolding, which does make for easier access. However, this approach took two months to finally complete the scope of work, with Skyriders’ approach reducing the downtime dramatically.
The successful completion of the project paves the way for Skyriders to become involved with additional work for the client, especially due to the statutory requirement for testing and maintenance of these gas storage tanks.
Major industrial customers such as petchem and chemical plants and refineries, among others, often have separate budgets for both maintenance and access. The key differentiator for Skyriders here is that it can offer a per-square-metre rate that represents a 20% to 35% budget saving, in addition to benefits such as enhanced health and safety and guaranteed quality of any work undertaken.