T.D. Williamson (TDW) has performed its first STOPPLE® Train pipeline interventions in Belgium. The interventions made it possible for two nitrogen pipelines located in the Albert I Canal in Antwerp to be relocated without shutting them down. This meant that product was able to flow without disruption.
City-wide initiative to ease congestion on land and canal
Antwerp is Europe’s largest port for container traffic. As a result, the traffic on the Antwerp Ring Road is continually congested, especially on the bridges criss-crossing the numerous canals that weave around the city. Further complicating matters is the fact that ships traveling on the canal are limited to just two stories of storage space in order to pass under the bridges. As they approach each bridge, there is a bottleneck while they wait to pass one after another.
TDW carried out the operations for Air Liquide Industries Belgium on behalf of the Flemish Government in conjunction with its Antwerp Masterplan, a major initiative designed to ease traffic congestion on the Antwerp Ring Road. To achieve this, part of its strategy is to divert container traffic from the roads to a central container terminal in Limburg on the Albert I Canal. There, container traffic will board transport ships and travel on the canal, alleviating road congestion. To address the traffic jams on the Ring Road and the bottlenecks on the canal, work has begun on the first of 57 new bridges that offer higher clearance for passing ships. By installing new bridges, ships will be allowed four stories of storage and, therefore, much greater capacity.
Production flows while pipelines moved
To prepare for installing the new bridges, all pipelines located in close proximity to the existing bridges must be relocated. TDW was retained by Air Liquide to provide STOPPLE Train intervention services to ensure that product flow would continue through two industrial gas pipelines near the Bridge Geel-Oevel and the Bridge Grobbendonk while they were relocated.
Air Liquide opted for this method for several reasons. First, the STOPPLE Train system’s higher sealing capacity helps to ensure the safety of technicians welding in close proximity to the plugging heads. Secondly, Air Liquide wanted to ensure that the pipelines could be cut, plugged and safely isolated without shutting them down, which would have resulted in a halt in product flow. This is not necessary with the STOPPLE Train method. The patent pending STOPPLE Train plugging system relies upon field-proven plugging technology to temporarily block sections of active piping systems. It is the only system of its kind that links two plugging heads to form a “train” that provides a double block and bleed function. Traditionally, other methods have been used to achieve double block and bleed, including plugging system is a double-block and bleed design that makes it possible to insert two plugging heads through a single fitting. The method is much preferred because a technican can install two barrier surfaces, including a bleed port for pressure and product evacuation, between work (such as welding or pipe cutting) being performed downstream of the line’s pressurized contents.
STOPPLE Train interventions create safe working environments
With support from the company’s facility in Herentals, Belgium, TDW technicians carried out the intervention operations on the two pipelines near the Bridge Geel-Oevel and the Bridge Grobbendonk. Technicians used a standard 660 tapping machine to hot tap the line, and one six-inch single position STOPPLE Train double-block and bleed plugging system to plug the lines. Each line was isolated, creating a secure environment for relocation of the pipeline, as required for installation of the new bridges. The operations were executed by two teams of two technicians, and were carried out simultaneously over the course of just five working days. At no time was service interrupted.
“We are very pleased that Air Liquide could benefit from the STOPPLE Train intervention method, and that the operations went so smoothly,” said Koen Wezenbeek, Project Manager for Air Liquide. “Looking ahead, we hope to continue to benefit in terms of enhanced safety and efficiency offered by this approach. It is especially meaningful that the affected lines were not shut down, as pipelines are the safest and most reliable way to transport industrial gases,” he added.
“TDW has carried out many standard STOPPLE intervention operations for Air Liquide in Belgium, France and The Netherlands during the past 10 years, so it is extremely satisfying that the first STOPPLE Train interventions in Belgium were successfully executed on their behalf,” said Danny Vreys, Service Center Manager – Wimaco, a subsidiary of T.D. Williamson. “With the success of these operations, we are confident that we will continue to provide Air Liquide with STOPPLE Train interventions to help them relocate their pipelines safely and cost-effectively, without interrupting supply,” he added.
STOPPLE Train interventions in Europe
TDW has carried out STOPPLE Train intervention operations for nearly every major operator in the United States. It wasn’t until 2010 that the company began to offer this service to customers in Europe. TDW has already carried out successful STOPPLE Train interventions in Italy, and is looking forward to carrying out additional operations for pipeline, refinery and petrochemical plant operators throughout Europe.