Working on heights- keeping costs under control

    May 2013 - In the current economic climate, companies in business sectors in which Applus RTD operates are looking more critically at the costs they incur during day-to-day operations in key areas such as maintenance. Dow Terneuzen, in the south west of The Netherlands is one such client, and following a stringent analysis of their maintenance budgets, they came to the conclusion that the costs for scaffolding during NDT&I operations were simply too high. They had to look for ways to reduce expenditure.

    Cost savings without compromise to safety

    To help manage the costs of Dow Terneuzen’s
    maintenance operations, Applus RTD’s regional
    manager Tonny van der Have and his team, together
    with the Dow Maintenance organization, looked
    at ways of eliminating the need for the costly
    scaffolding traditionally used for carrying out
    obligatory examinations of process piping. Applus
    RTD and Dow Maintenance determined that the
    actual checks generally involved straightforward
    inspections for the collection of data, and these
    could be easily, effectively and above all economically
    carried out using rope access techniques.

    Working together with rope access experts and
    Applus RTD Offshore, in the summer of 2012 an
    initial test operation was carried out involving
    wall thickness measurements on spherical tanks,
    using rope access techniques. This test was
    followed in October of that year, by a test using
    ultrasonics testing techniques for the wall thickness
    measurements of hot process piping (up to 178ºC).
    This time, the test involved a comparison. A few
    months prior to this rope access operation, the
    same wall thickness measurements were taken using
    scaffolding. The results of the two tests were then
    compared from different aspects, such as safety,
    efficiency and cost impact.

    According to Dow’s Jack van Bendegem
    (Work Co-ordinator Ethylene 2) the
    collaboration with Applus RTD and Height
    Specialists was excellent, and the speed and
    openness of making all requirements and
    decisions known to all parties made a positive
    impression. “The first steps towards achieving
    a successful partnership between us were
    the way that all aspects, both advantages and
    disadvantages were discussed, together with
    all timescales involved. Applus RTD was also
    very pro-active in the way it worked with Height
    Specialists to train its people so that they could
    always meet our ever increasing demands”.

    “The aim of making these pilot projects a
    success has been achieved. Safety has been
    improved through cutting working and process
    times, there is less material transportation
    in the plant, and no risk of falling scaffolding!
    Costs have been reduced significantly and
    rope access has demonstrated that it fits
    within Dow Terneuzen’s aims of safer and
    more cost-effective work”.

    During the tests, safety played a key role. Not only was
    there a Level 3 IRATA certified rope access operative
    from Height Specialists present at all times, but also,
    before any work was carried out, a comprehensive
    Task Risk Analysis (TRA) was also discussed with
    Operations, EH&S, Dow’s Maintenance Department
    and those involved in the work.

    During the tests in fact, one employee of the Applus
    RTD team actually used the ‘Stop Work Authority’
    process because he felt that he could not get to the
    inspection area safely and without the risk of being
    burned. The people involved from Dow Terneuzen were
    pleased with this professional approach. In addition
    to taking all measures necessary to ensure a safe
    working environment, Dow’s EH&S Department is now
    working on the development of a standardized TRA.

    Big savings assured
    Thanks to the good collaboration between all parties –
    Dow Terneuzen Maintenance, Applus RTD, Height
    Specialists and Kaefer BV (an insulation specialist) –
    the use of rope access techniques has enabled a
    saving of between 50% and 60% when compared to
    traditional scaffolding operations! The success of
    the operation has now led to Applus RTD’s south west
    region having three Level 1 rope access specialists of
    its own who have been trained by Height Specialists.
    At the end of the year, they went into action on a
    further project for Dow Terneuzen! Again, this was a
    small test using guided waves pipeline inspection with
    rope access techniques and a cherry picker, so the
    need for scaffolding was avoided.

    Looking ahead
    Future plans include seeking new ways for rope
    access operators to become even more efficient,
    such as through courses at Applus RTD’s Training
    and Education Department covering Visual
    Inspector Level 2. With this added capability, the
    operators can report direct, thus relieving Dow’s
    inspectors of this work.
    Thanks to the excellent levels of collaboration and
    co-operation, Dow Terneuzen has been able to achieve
    significant savings in its maintenance budget...
    without compromise to safety or the quality of the
    work carried out.


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