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Boiler maintenance time slashed 20%

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An innovative project management company working with Eraring Energy has found a way to perform essential boiler maintenance in 20 per cent of the time it took previously, and to do the job more safely.

New World Projects is using inflatable Pronal flexible lifting cushions from Air Springs Supply to part the pipes of boilers at the Eraring Power Station in New South Wales when the company needs to replace defective components during programmed maintenance to maintain optimum system reliability.

The Pronal technology New World has employed - the result of a 10-year relationship with pneumatic actuation and isolation specialists Air Springs Supply - is broadly applicable to a wide range of splitting and lifting jobs.

New World Projects' Pronal cushion - measuring 1020mm x 320m and exerting up to 24 tonnes of initial force at a maximum of 7 bar - can also be quickly deployed to repair any in-service problems with Eraring's four boilers, which each incorporate extensive piping with 2000 bends.

"During routine maintenance we find about 10 per cent of the bends need replacement, so it is a major undertaking which benefits greatly from the increased efficiency and safety with the Pronal cushions," said New World Projects boiler welding supervisor Brett Howard, who works with Eraring Energy's commercial manager David Woodroff.

Sharing Eraring Energy's priorities on safety and efficiency, Mr Howard said the introduction of the Pronal equipment replaced the previous process in which chains were attached to each side of the boiler pipes, which were braced and pulled apart.

"There was quite a lot of repetitive setup and actuation work previously. Now we just put the Pronal bag in between the bends and inflate them to smoothly open up the gap we need. Once they are inflated, we insert padding to secure the gap, for safety, and go about our work.

"The new operation is now done with more safety and in about 20 per cent of the time required previously," said Mr Howard, who is part of a New World Team of about 250 at Eraring.

The flexible lifting bags involved are manufactured by the same company, Pronal, that produced the enormously strong inflatable bags used to lift sections of the liner Titanic from nearly four kilometres deep in the Atlantic.

Their power, safety and reliability are demonstrated by their use internationally in the safety kits of fire and rescue services, says Air Springs Supply national sales manager Simon Agar.

Manufactured from plastomer and elastomer coated fabrics vulcanised in a vacuum at 140°C, Pronal lifting cushions are designed for loads up to 70 tons to perform mechanical functions such as pushing, pressing, guiding, clamping, blocking, damping, lifting, moving, wedging and materials handling.

The cushions are also easy to integrate into mechanical systems, such as presses, moulds, conveyors, handling robots, lifting tables and other machinery.

Brett Howard says that in addition to allowing a better job to be done for a safety and efficiency conscious client, the cushions are compact when deflated, for easy transport and storage. Their reduced overall dimensions permit use where a small gap (down to 20mm) is required; while their thrust is evenly distributed over a wide area (vs point loads of alternative systems, for example.

Mr Agar says the cushions - weighing just a few kilogrammes each - are very easy to adapt to tasks, requiring minimal setup and no costly additional equipment required where standard factory air or mobile compressed air is available. Because they have no sliding seals, they are ideal for high reliability applications in the latest lightweight process lines or for mobile operations in construction, engineering, mining and maintenance.

Mr Agar says the highly diversified range provides an easily transported and cost-efficient alternative to hydraulic actuation and craneage across a wide range of industries.

Using technology proven worldwide in land and sea operations, Pronal products are available in standard square and rectangular shapes (100 to 1000mm side dimension), one or more stages, and up to 7 bar inflation pressure (12 models). Customised rectangular, tubular or round shapes of diverse sizes are available on order, with multiple accessories available to adapt equipment to different industrial, engineering and physical requirements.

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