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African Petrochemicals is South Africa’s leading quarterly print and digital trade magazine for the past 15 years. Featuring all the latest petrochemical industry news, special reports, technological advances and much more.

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Full rope-access inspection service deployed at major petchem plant

The full suite of inspection services from Skyriders was on display recently at a maintenance project at a major petrochemical producer in the Free State. “This was definitely a first for us, given the extent of the rope-access services required,” Skyriders Marketing Manager Mike Zinn comments.

The complex four-phase project comprised some elements that overlapped, combined with specific start-and-finish work, which meant that proper planning and logistics was vital. The first phase saw the internal and external inspection of a coal silo, followed by the external inspection of a 150-m-high smokestack for any potential defects.

Both these phases used rope access extensively, with a 12-person team comprising seven rope-access technicians and an inspection manager to oversee the project successfully. “Our major challenge here was definitely the safety focus, as the project was carried out during the windy month of August. When the wind reaches a certain speed, all rope-access work has to be suspended for safety reasons, which placed us under pressure in terms of the timeframe,” Zinn elaborates.

“However, we never, ever compromise on health and safety, especially given the human element involved in rope access. Hence we always ensure that we have all the proper checks and balances and precautions in place prior to commencing with any project.”

Zinn says this stringent attention paid to the health and safety aspect of the project, prior to any work even commencing, convinced an initially nervous client of the viability of rope-access inspection services. “The end result was that we were commended by the client as being one of the most professional suppliers it has ever dealt with on-site, which is largely due to our highly professional and experienced teams and inspection managers.”

The third phase of the project saw Skyriders oversee external core drilling on the smokestack, followed lastly by the installation of stainless-steel sleeves for the insertion of flue gas analytic instrumentation. This final phase was completed successfully in September. It also assisted with the inspection of the common ducting, which extends from the precipitators to the smokestacks.

Skyriders’ extensive experience with silo and boiler inspection and maintenance work for an array of clients, including electricity utility Eskom, stood it in good stead on this major project. “The looming timeframe is always a major challenge with complex work like this, but we not only completed the project on time within the target period, we also experienced no problems or issues during the execution,” Zinn concludes.

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