By Tarren Bolton | All images by Jet Demolition
Cold-cutting techniques developed by Jet Demolition introduce a new benchmark for health and safety in the petrochemical industry, which represents a highly volatile and hazardous work environment.
The equipment and methodology pioneered by Jet Demolition has the added ‘green’ benefit of limiting the (generally unavoidable) incidental contamination of natural resources caused by less advanced techniques. This proactive approach has resulted in the demolition specialist having completed more than 100 projects for a leading local petrochemical producer, as well as undertaking work for the bulk of the major players in this sector.
Apart from oil and gas facilities, Jet Demolition’s expertise also encompasses hexane plants, chemical plants, fuel tanks and storage facilities. “Petrochemical demolition forms part of our heavy industrial demolition portfolio. It is critical to pay close attention to every step in the demolition process during petrochemical work, as we normally work in close proximity to live operations with a high degree of danger due to the flammability,” explains Jet Demolition project engineer, Andre Botes.
Botes has worked for Jet Demolition for a decade, and forms part of a close-knit team of engineers. “Most are involved in supporting our site staff on a technical and commercial basis, or after a successful tender, and managing the project itself,” he points out.
The risk of fire means that conventional demolition methods are not always not suited to the petrochemical industry. “We normally make use of large excavators with specialised attachments like shears,” Botes highlights. “We have also developed quite a few specialised attachments to work in these zero-flame areas, where we cannot risk any spark or any emission due to the volatile nature of the surroundings.”
Botes expands on the method involved in creating zero-flame areas, “We have developed cocoon cutting areas with a positive pressure atmosphere to ensure that gases will not be pulled into the cocoon and ignite. Our methods ensure that the risk is kept as low as possible by using cutting torch sets and cutting in a manner that does not allow sparks (ignition sources) to escape the safe working area,” he says.
“We focus on a customer’s needs and develop equipment as required for a specific application. These might be the conversion of current shears, steel-handling equipment for larger equipment, or modification to buckets to ensure zero ignition when excavating highly-contaminated soil,” adds Botes.
The company’s fleet includes a selection of diverse demolition shears and ripping tools of various sizes and weights for added flexibility in flammable environments. The demolition shears, in particular, range from a few hundred kilograms to more than 12t including the largest version in Africa at present.
“We have large range of Hydraulic shears, from a 2.5-ton shear that is carried by a 20-ton carrier to a 12.8-ton shear that is carried by an 80-ton carrier. We also have a few mechanical shears ranging in sizes. These shears are used in areas where the client requires the majority of work to be completed by cold cutting due to the equipment or plant being in a highly volatile area or the equipment / plant may still have product in the lines, or the risk of having any person close to the equipment / plant may be too high. Shears are the future of the demolition industry and we use them not only at the client’s request, but also to have our work areas running at lower risk and be more productive,” explains Botes.
“Our state-of-the-art cold-cutting equipment means we can carry out demolition work in the most volatile environments without impacting our clients’ operational processes, which is critical in terms of downtime and productivity,” says Botes, adding that Jet Demolition has effectively pioneered cold-cutting technology in South Africa.
“We have been in the demolition industry just short of 30 years. The experience and the highly technical approach towards all demolition works is what make us leaders in the demolition industry,” he adds.
Focus on safety
Botes says that Jet Demolition has a fully-fledged safety department that deploys safety officers to all sites, and often more than one depending on the complexity of the project. “In addition, we have developed specific safe work and operating procedures for the petrochemical industry,” Botes stresses.
“Our safety department has developed with our business over the past 30 years and they have been at the forefront of keeping our staff safe and our clients satisfied with our service. Jet Demolition has developed Safe Work Procedures and Safe Operating Procedures over the years with our clients’ specifications in mind,” adds Botes.
Botes says that performing demolition works in confined spaces within large operational facilities (highly flammable areas) is always a challenge. “We overcome these challenges through having an experienced team of employees, state-of-the-art demolition equipment and the support of our clients,” he says.
A typical petrochemical demolition project takes four to eight weeks to carry out, with all the necessary equipment usually moved on-site two weeks’ prior. While Jet Demolition has carried out successful petrochemical demolition work in Africa, Botes comments that there is a lot more scope in the rest of Africa, especially with the oil price on the increase.