Update: Innovative approach ensures life extension of pipe tracks

If you look around the Chemelot site, you will see many pipes at height. These are supported by concrete pipe tracks, among other things. Because of the age of the structures and the environment in which they stand, there is an increasing need for maintenance. Therefore, since 2018, a project has been underway to reinforce 750 of those columns so they can last at least another 25 years. What is the status of this mega-project?

In 2018, we physically started extending the service life of these pipe tracks. This after a study of the failure mechanisms, which we conducted together with TNO.
Joep Lemmens, Improvemanager Site Infrastructure

Refinement plan of action
Joep Lemmens, Improvemanager Site Infrastructure: “In 2018, we physically started extending the service life of these pipe tracks. This after a study of the failure mechanisms, which we conducted together with TNO.” Pascal van Montfort, Asset Manager of the pipe tracks, adds: “One of the things that came out of that was that there were problems with chloride ingress close to cooling works, some 750 objects. From that, we made a plan of action to extend the life of the pipe tracks by 25 years. As of 2018, we have already reinforced 300 columns and continued to refine the approach. This is necessary because each section of pipe tracks has its own issues that we encounter.”

Sustainable through reuse
He continues: “A generic solution was not easy to find. In the end, we found a solution in which the beams of the pipe tracks are clamped by applying stainless steel reinforcement on the outside, which can compensate for the existing reinforcement in the concrete. Thus, we partially use the existing concrete, requiring little additional material. With this, we limit the use of new materials, which fits with our sustainability goals.”

By the experience we have now gained, we see sufficient opportunities to accelerate our pace.
Lucien Vievermans, Construction Supervisor Royal HaskoningDHV

Tailor-made building blocks
Lucien Vievermans, Construction Supervisor Royal HaskoningDHV oversees the technical execution of the construction. He explains: “On paper, you assume fixed sizes and values. In practice, however, no column is the same; there are always deviations. To minimize customization, we have divided the reinforcement solutions into three types. For each type, we make ‘building blocks’ that we manufacture in the workshop to then screw them on.”

Flexible and fast switching
These deviations and changing circumstances require flexibility from the project team. Pascal: “Fortunately, we have fairly short lines of communication, which allows us to switch gears relatively quickly and come up with solutions. If we see something strange about a pipe, for example, we immediately switch with the owner in question.” “Because of the experience we have now gained, we see plenty of opportunities to accelerate our pace,” Lucien adds. “With that said, the current shortage of personnel and materials does present another challenge. We are going to make new agreements with executing parties about this together with procurement.”

Proud of safety performance
Despite working at height with product and utility lines in sometimes harsh weather conditions, there have been no safety incidents. “We therefore regularly conduct unannounced safety rounds,” Lucien says. “In addition, we are increasingly building scaffolding together, allowing you to reach more columns at once, and we use ‘lazy’ stairs on the project. That works a lot easier, but is also safer because you don’t have to go up and down the stairs to the scaffolding as often.”

More information?
Interested in learning more about our innovative approach to extend the service life of the pipe tracks at the Chemelot site? Then contact Joep Lemmens at joep.lemmens@sitech.nl.

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