The thyssenkrupp Uhde (TK Uhde) management team explains how laser scanning technologies and the company’s renowned plant engineering know-how are being combined to enhance the company’s brownfield plant modularisation offering.

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Laser scanning enhances TK Udhe modularisation offeringLaser scanning forms part of thyssenkrupp Uhde’s EPC offering for plant conversions, revamps and modification projects. “We use laser scanning for indoor applications and where higher accuracy is required,” explains Ranka Sofijanic, manager of Plant Layout and Piping at TK Uhde SA. Six years ago, she says, TK Uhde also started using drones fitted with laser and thermal scanning technologies for external applications where an accuracy of within 10 mm is acceptable, which further enhances the company’s scanning services.

“Drones provide easy, safe access to difficult-to-reach areas and hazardous environments. This makes them a valuable tool for outdoor monitoring, bigger inspection jobs and scanning of existing plant environments. They are ideal for jobs where a piping system needs to be connected between an existing plant and a new extension, for example,” she says.

Scanning results are directly transferred into the company’s E3D plant modelling software from Aviva to serve as an ideal basis for planning work at specific sites.

“TK Uhde specialists know which areas have to be scanned with which sensors, which enables us to accurately and safely guide drones to important areas,” notes Sofijanic. Recent examples include the scanning for condition assessment and rebuilding of towers up to 80 m high, as well as for build and work planning in a congested refinery environment. “We have successfully applied laser scanning technology on numerous brownfield projects for the petrochemical, energy and mining industries across the African continent,” she says.

Plant modularisation

“Most of our work still comes from traditional brown-field sites, which are some of the toughest environments to work in, particularly in Africa,” continues Rajend Govender, CEO of TK Uhde SA. “This opens up the opportunity to adopt the modular plant approach, which is not new to us,” says the CEO, a chemical process technology specialist with 20 years of experience with the company.

“We have long been designing and building complete modular plants or sections of plant off-site under controlled conditions that are not subject to the congested and risky environment of a typical operational plant. Much of our current work involves installing purpose designed and manufactured modular replacement units,” he tells MechChem Africa.

Sofijanic continues: “We are typically working on congested petrochemical plants that were originally stick-built, onsite. Upgrading such sites means that work has to be done between the surrounding units, often while the plant is still live, which makes safety aspects critical.

“By taking the modular approach, a whole plant upgrade can be built offsite on a skid, in an open and far safer environment. No hot work permits are required, there is no congestion and no live plant to work around, and no additional man-hours need to be added to guarantee meeting deadlines,” she argues.

She describes the success of a modular plant upgrade for a coal tar filtration (CTFE) plant. “This project comprised 25 modules weighing up to 250 t. Modules involved multi-disciplinary pre-installation, which included all piping, mechanical, instrumentation, electrical and structural needs, and these were all built off-site, transported and installed in the live plant before being connected up,” she recalls.

Yurisha Singh, senior proposals engineer for the company, continues: “We have also just completed a 65 t module for Natref, which was built and tested off-site before being shifted into place by a self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT), while observing all COVID restrictions and without any delivery time delays.” she says. “A modular plant is much more than a replica of a stick-build onsite construction that is built offsite, though. Modular plant has to be purpose designed with structural integrity so that it can be safely and easily transported, placed and connected-up onsite in a ‘plug-and-play’ manner. Our design skills and experience in doing this routinely give us a competitive advantage,” notes Singh.

According to Govender, complementary skills sets such as laser scanning expertise are important. “We have the modern resources and capability to scan an existing site in 3D before we start. This enables us to identify the exact space available and the exact positions for interconnection with the existing on-site plant. This allows us to design and build a perfectly customised module off-site that not only meets the upgrade requirements of the plant but, on installation, the unit will plug into the existing plant like a block of Lego,” he explains.

“Through our ability to professionally integrate laser scanning and drone technologies into our modularisation offering, we are extending our service portfolio, enhancing our long-term customer relationships and opening up new business opportunities,” concludes Sofijanic.


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