The Volga Records

On December 10, 2014, with the early snow, the last units of outsized heavy equipment were successfully delivered to Lukoil-VolgogradNeftePererabotka for construction of the new deep conversion complex. The delivery took place in the navigation period of 2014.

The most difficult part of this operation fell into last April-August, when Chandler together with their Spanish partner Altius transported the equipment to Volgograd. To deliver the load they used several routes and various modes of transport: crane ships, river-sea vessels, special sea pontoons and different types of specialized motor vehicles. In particular, shipping the equipment involved 5 special crane ships, 7 pontoons/barges which made more than 300 trips with the cargo supplied from Italy, Spain, Korea, India, Japan, Turkey and UAE. The units were transshipped in the ports of Novorossiysk, Rostov-on-Don and in the roads of Port Kavkaz.

The main loads have impressive dimensions and weights, namely the reactors weighed 845 tons (dimensions 32,78 х 8,55 х 7,30 meters) and 1,116 tons (dimensions 37 х 8,5 х 7,3 meters), and the 67 х 7,2 х 7,5-meter column weighed 500 tons. Total weight and volume of the supplied units came up to 9,000 tons and 43,000 cubic meters respectively.

Special attention was paid to preparing transport facilities for overweight load carriage. The works had started almost the year before the shipment took place. The entire land route, Ro-Ro berth on the Volga and the approach way to it were inspected by engineers. Based on the inspection results it was required to reinforce the 160-meter long causeway and build a particularly rigid driveway, more than 1 kilometer long. The real challenge was posed by great water level differences – this value could change by 60 centimeters a day. Therefore, for mitigation purposes Chandler equipped two berths for Ro-Ro handling of the cargoes and fulfilled the entire range of dredging works at the berths.

Still, the weather made its own allowances. In July the water level dropped by 1.5 meters lower than had been anticipated, and unloading the two heaviest reactors on the existing Ro-Ro sites turned out impossible. Having considered all discharging options, the experts, together with Digital Marine design bureau engineers, chose the most acceptable option under given conditions – successive rolling of the reactors from one barge to another afloat using the SPMT (self-propelled module transporters). In the shortest possible time the specialists prepared all necessary calculations for ballasting both pontoons, ensuring stability and rolling them out onto the Ro-Ro berth. It took 4 days to perform rolling of a single reactor and Ro-Ro unloading. Please note that this unique operation of unloading 845-ton and 1,116-ton reactors was completed in CIS countries for the first time.

The land route length from the Ro-Ro berth to the refinery was just 5 kilometers, but it was full of different man-made obstacles limiting both speed and transportation schedule. For example, it was required to pass 17 overhead power lines, including three high voltage 110kV lines and three railway crossings, one of them electrified. Simultaneous disconnection of all three HV lines was out of the question, as these networks power several plants operating on a 24/7 basis in this industrial zone. Given these conditions, it was necessary to draw up a plan of transporting the OOG equipment in three steps which, upon approval of “gaps”, eventually allowed delivery of the heavy units to the refinery as per the schedule of equipment installation.

Ancillary equipment with a unit weight of up to 100 tons was being delivered in parallel with unloading the units on the Ro-Ro berth. A total of 30 items of oversize equipment weighing from 20 to 99 tons were delivered to terminal Tatyanka in Volgograd river port on two river-sea vessels. Maximum length of the columns came up to 39 meters and diameter made 4.16 meters, that is why haulage involved special seven-axle trailers with a 30-meter extension.

Special site for the 350-ton crane and 12,000 square meters of open storage area were provided for unloading the overweight cargoes. Distance to be covered to transport the equipment from the port to the refinery was 7.5 kilometers. The road surface quality was either poor or there was no pavement at all in some places, that is why all the roads had been repaired with expansion of several road surface sections.

It should be noted that the items were delivered to the refinery in accordance with the installation schedule, therefore timely supply of the columns in a strict sequential order enabled uninterruptible installation “right away”. The work was also complicated by extreme weather conditions. Already in May the temperature was as high as 3035°C above zero in the shade. The gnats are one of the distinguishing features of Volgograd climate. It was possible to work in the open air only in special anti-mosquito nets.

But, despite all the hardships, the whole consignment was delivered to the Volgograd Refinery safe and sound and on time, with Chandler acquiring inestimable experience in transporting extra heavy and out-of-gauge cargoes weighing over 1,000 tons.