Volvo makes ties with OCP in Morocco

Morocco Pipeline
L’Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), one of the world’s leading exporters of phosphates, phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizers, began constructing a phosphate pipeline in 2010, designed to deliver several grades of phosphate slurry to Jorf Lasfar’s terminal –  a deep water commercial port located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.  

The project, near Khouribga 200 km North West of Marrakech, consists of a 187 km 36” transportation pipeline, plus 37 km of 18” and 20” feeder lines, running to Jorf Lasfar’s terminal as well as Doui Pump Station, MEA Head Station, and Halasaa Pump Station, representing an investment of US$ 433 million.

Volvo rotating pipelayers are being used to perform the tie-ins (fusing two sections of pipe together), which are completed every 500 metres, as well as lowering the entire pipeline into the trench. The pipelayers’ long booms make them the perfect candidate to accurately align the pieces so that they can be bolted together.  

The completion of this project will reduce OCP’s transportation costs considerably from the mine in Khouribga to the port off Morocco’s Atlantic coast. It will also reduce energy costs and the environmental impact associated with previous transportation handled by the region’s railway line.   

The feeder pipelines from each wash plant pump station will deliver sequential batches of slurry to segregated tanks at MEA’s Head Station. From there, successive phosphate loads will be pumped through the main pipeline into storage tanks at the port’s terminal. One slurry grade will be supplied to local acid plants but all of the grades will be supplied for export purposes. The facilities are currently designed to handle a total of 38 Mt/y with the possibility to increase it to 44 Mt/y in the future.   

Safety comes first
The pipeline project was contracted to Turkish company, Tekfen Construction and Installation Co. Tekfen’s wide span of activities range from heavy civil works, refineries and petrochemical plants, satellite towns, major industrial processing plants, pipelines, marine structures, power plants and electrical, communication works.   

For this project, the company assembled a team of 2,900 people comprising both experienced, permanent staff from Turkey and local workers. All employees have received onsite training from Tekfen or from Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE) professional trainers. The company supplied its innovative pipelayers and crawler excavators to complete the job and operators using the lifting equipment on site were also certified by a third party to keep the site running safely.  

On site Tekfen is using Volvo PL4608 pipe layers and Volvo EC210B excavators. “We’ve been very pleased with the condition and performance of machines supplied by Volvo Construction Equipment Morocco,” says Zihni Akyol, Machinery & Equipment Manager for Tekfen Construction. “This is helping us to keep the job site up and running and not lose any valuable working days. As an ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certified company; we are dedicated to higher quality standards, aiming for excellence through continual improvements and a strict belief in teamwork.”   

“Volvo Construction Equipment Morocco responds quickly to every call or request, which underlines the organization’s customer focus”, continues Zihni. “Volvo’s CareTrack telematics system is another fantastic feature because it enables the machine’s performance to be monitored continuously so any service or maintenance interventions can be planned in advance, minimising site disruption by reducing costly machine down time.”  

The first job of the Volvo EC210B excavators was to hold and supply hydraulic flow to the pipe facing machines in preparation for welding. As phosphates are both corrosive and abrasive in nature, Tekfen have sub-contracted UPS-APTec, a joint venture between United Pipeline Systems® and Allied Pipeline Technologies, two specialized pipeline contractors, to install a high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe liner system to avoid what could otherwise result in costly damage to the steel pipe, shortening its life span. A technology being used since 1985, over 14,400 km (9,000 miles) of pipeline across six continents has since been lined and protected with this pipe lining system. The liner installation process begins once the length of pipe is buried in the ground.   

The science  
Sections of the high-density, polyethylene (HDPE) pipe are joined by heat fusion to create a continuous length of liner. A blow down pig with a gauge plate attached to a steel cable is then sent through the pipe to ensure there are no obstructions inside the line. Then the cable is carried through a roller reduction box to a pole head on the fused liner section. As the external dimensions of the liner are greater than the internal dimensions of the pipe, the liner is first pulled through a series of hydraulic rollers in the reduction box, positioned in front of the steel pipe. This system temporarily reduces the liner pipe’s diameter as it is pulled back though the host pipe and, once installed, the memory of the polyethylene material allows it to expand to fit tightly against the wall of the host pipe.    

Morocco Pipeline

On this type of pipeline the strings are bolted together rather than welded. Usually, two larger excavators and a trailer working together are used to do this.   

On this occasion, Volvo excavators are used to raise the pipe from the ground into the trench and another one is used to handle and hold the special tool, which is needed to clamp and stretch the HDPE pipe to an exact length where it’s cut and the liner is effectively sucked back inside the host pipe. Finally, a polyethylene stub end is fused to the edge of each section and the flanges can then be bolted together. On completion an air test can be conducted to confirm a leak free, sealed system. 

The professors of tie-ins
Volvo CE’s intelligent pipelayers have been well received by the operators on the site. “The Volvo PL4608 pipe layers are the professors of tie-ins,” says Turkish operator, Mehmet Koca Kaya. Kaya is especially impressed by the PL4608’s 360 degree upper structure swing as this enables the machine to re-position its boom, necessary to facilitate the tie-in process – something which is not possible with a traditional side boom pipe layer. 

“It’s so easy”, continues Kaya. “You cut off one piece of the pipe during the tie-in and then you can take the remaining piece of pipe out of the trench and load it onto a trailer for disposal, thanks to the machine’s swing capability. I also use the swing when I have to align the flash for clamping and welding.”   

During the winter period one tie-in crew can finalize one to two tie-ins a day compared with up to four during the summer period. The main reason for this winter slowdown is the longer time needed to pre-heat the pipe. It’s not only the 360 degree swing that the operators appreciate. The fully enclosed, comfortable and air conditioned cab is another benefit of the Volvo pipelayer concept.  

“The cab can be hydraulically elevated, which significantly increases visibility into the trench and to the site in general,” says Kaya. “Together with the side and rear view cameras you can see everything. And the load management system is a great help too during the tie-ins where you have to push or pull the pipes.”  

The 360 degree swing is the reason why UPS APTec is renting a large number of excavators in different sizes from Volvo Construction Equipment Morocco.

The excavators are not used as digging machines, but are equipped with a vacuum shoe to handle pipe sections, hold the HDPE pipe for the alignment and connection process as well as for pulling the HDPE pipe strings once they are welded together.    

OCP started extracting, treating and transporting phosphates back in 1921 when it opened its first mine in the Khouribga region, home of the world’s richest phosphate deposits. Today, it employs 20,000 people, mainly around four mining sites and two chemical complexes in Morocco, but also across other international locations. The project is scheduled to complete in November, 2013.

Morocco Pipeline


February 2013

Text: Chloe Doyle

Photo caption 1: Volvo EC210B excavators are used to hold and power the pipe facing machines in preparation for welding.
Photo caption 2: Standing side by side
Photo caption 3: Strong, steady and smooth 

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