Super heavy lift cranes perform huge feats and they often are the star of impressive YouTube videos. They are dispatched around the world to lift and install gigantic equipment, components and vessels at power plants, refineries, wind farms and sports stadiums. Sometimes it takes more effort to transport, set up and test these machines than it does to make the lifts they were sent to make.
Cranes in the super heavy lift category generally fall into the 1,000 to 5,000-ton capacity class. Within this class are two types of heavy lift machines: conventional crawler types that can pick and carry and ringer cranes that make lifts from one place.
Lampson International, Liebherr, Manitowoc and Terex produce super lift cranes that are of the crawler variety. ALE, Deep South Crane & Rigging, Bigge Crane & Rigging, Mammoet and Sarens produce heavy lift machines that fall into the ringer category.
All of these machines represent design superiority, a huge commitment by the manufacturers and a substantial investment by the owners. Such is the case for Maxim CraneWorks, owner of the only Manitowoc 31000 in the United States.
“It is very difficult to justify the purchase price of a 1,000-ton capacity or larger crane,” said Frank Bardonaro, Maxim’s chief operating officer. “These cranes are usually purchased for a specific, long-term job with the goal of securing similar projects with very little gap in between the jobs.”
However, the reality is that such projects and their start dates are rarely cooperative, Bardonaro said.
“There could be significant gaps of revenue between rentals, which means the owner has to deal with a very capital-intensive investment that could generate little or no revenue over extended periods,” he said.
According to Bardonaro, manufacturers and customers neglect to mention that purchasing the crane is only a piece of the equation. These large cranes require services that could add millions of dollars in costs to the business. It makes sense that owners of these large units need to have a “significant geographic footprint” to be able to maximize utilization.
“As long as they can work together with companies like Maxim to supply these specialty cranes of 1,000 tons or greater, then everyone can work together to ensure maximum returns for all parties involved,” said Bardonaro.
Just two 2,535-ton Manitowoc 31000s exist in the world. The one owned by Maxim just completed working at the new Atlanta Falcons football stadium.
“This crane exceeded our expectations on the new stadium,” said Maxim’s Alan Ashlock. “By using this crane, they were able to get the project back on track. It has been an amazing machine and we look forward to utilizing it on projects in the near future. The VPC system was a major reason this was the crane of choice for the stadium project.”
Fewer picks required
The VPC allows the counterweights to adjust to an optimum position depending on the load, Ashlock said. Fewer picks were required because the roof sections could be assembled on the ground in large pieces rather than picking them individually.
In North America, 600 to 700 tons is the “sweet spot” capacity for crane-owning companies, according to Ingo Noeske, director of product management, crawler cranes, Terex Cranes. The reason few companies own mega cranes – 1,000 tons capacity and above – is because of the expertise required in terms of assembly, handling and operation. “The large capacity cranes require more knowledge in how to handle the crane,” Noeske said. “You need very educated people who have experience with these cranes and who have experience working in these more difficult job sites such as power plants and refineries. Plus there are heightened safety requirements at these job sites.”
It may take 100 to 150 truckloads to mobilize one of these cranes, and it’s an expensive endeavor to move one globally. However, the market for super heavy lift cranes is expected to see growth.
“Right now, the population of 600 and 700-ton capacity cranes is very high and we think that in the future, there may be an even higher demand for the 1,000 to 1,200-ton capacity class,” said Noeske. “We are certainly seeing this demand in wind work in Europe. We need to be prepared that this is the next growing class of cranes. We don’t think it will destroy the 600-ton class but we do anticipate a higher need for the larger capacity class.”
Terex Cranes produces the Demag CC 8800-1 TWIN, which has a capacity of 3,200 tons, and was first introduced in 2007. Four of these cranes are working in the world.
“When you look at the design of a crane in this class, we have a safety first approach,” said Noeske. “You have to design the safety features – the handrails, harnesses and working at height – into the crane from the beginning and simultaneously with all the components.”
At 3,300-tons capacity, the Liebherr LR 13000 is the largest conventional crawler crane on the market in the world. The first LR 13000 to work in the United States was in 2013 at the Whiting Refinery in Illinois.
Owned by Mammoet, that crane is now in Dubai building the largest Ferris wheel in the world, the Ain Dubai (translated means Dubai Eye). According to news reports the observation wheel’s assembled hub and spindle is about 131 feet long (40 meters), 65 feet tall (20 meters) and weighs 1,990 tons (1,805 metric tons). Working with the LR 13000 is Mammoet’s PTC DS-200 ringer crane, which has a capacity of 5,000 tons.
Another LR 13000 is working in Pakistan, and another is being assembled for work in Mexico by Eseasa Construction.
The LR 13000 is enormously powerful, yet extremely flexible in how it can be configured, according to Liebherr’s Klaus Huberle, general manager of crawler cranes at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen GmbH. In addition to its capacity and strength, the LR 13000 is also easier to transport.
“The good thing about the Liebherr LR 13000 is that the design is the same as our LR 1100 or LR 1300, just on a larger scale,” said Huberle. “Owners who are familiar with our smaller capacity cranes can run this one, too.”
Inquiries are up
To prepare for demand for the LR 13000, Liebherr always keeps one in a standard delivery scope in stock, Huberle said. While it typically takes 18 months to build one of these units, if this crane was ordered today Huberle said Liebherr could deliver the crane in less than a year.
Inquiries about the 1,000-ton plus crane class are up, according to Harley Smith, global product director for crawler cranes for Manitowoc.
“While these are not production volume machines, you do have quite a few players in the global market,” said Smith. “For a company to be interested in this size machine, the first item is utilization. Do they have the infrastructure to support it, the transport arm to help move it and can they get the work and the rental rates to make the return on investment? Maxim CraneWorks has the bandwidth to support the Manitowoc 31000. Not many crane companies have those resources.”
Still, Smith said the demand for this type of heavy lifter will increase. But it’s difficult for a crane owner to invest in speculation.
“They have to have the confidence that there is enough work available,” said Smith. “Ultimately I think we will see this sector blossom into a larger market.”
Maxim’s Bardonaro agreed that the market will continue to migrate to larger capacity lifting cranes.
“However it seems to us that there are enough cranes of 1,000 ton and greater available in the market today to cover the projected work for the next several years,” he said. “Manufacturers made the mistake of over-supplying the market with tower cranes, large rough terrain and truck cranes during the last economic recovery, which caused a surplus of cranes that are still under-utilized today. Although we feel confident that the large crane market will remain strong, we believe that the companies that own these cranes today can work together with other contractors and rental customers to ensure that all of the projects scheduled between now and 2018 and beyond can be covered with the current supply. We all want to see the demand increase, but until rates are able to increase at the levels needed to justify these huge capital outlays, it seems like the deliveries of additional large cranes will remain relatively flat.”
Each tool has its value
As the OEMs approach product development in this class of crane they will all look at the same elements: transportability, ease of assembly and disassembly, commonality of components between similar models, technical features, multiple configurations and safe operating ability.
As far as which heavy lift crane design is best, that depends on the job and the owner.
“Each tool has its value,” said Bardonaro. “Of course, the ringers and other fixed derrick cranes have strong lifting capacity but are very limited on mobility once the equipment is onsite. We are quoting the Manitowoc 31000 for a job right now versus a derrick crane, whereby the mobility, footprint, ground-bearing features and versatility of the 31000 will allow the customer to complete the project in a much more compressed time frame with significant site preparation cost savings. Both types of equipment are unique and amazing in their own special way, but we feel the 31000 and VPC counterweight system are best in class at this time.”
Module mania for Mammoet
The Mammoet PTC 200 DS is one of the largest onshore ring cranes in the world. Designed by Mammoet, the PTC 200 DS has a capacity of up to 5,000 tons. With a relatively small footprint of 184 feet (56 meters), the crane has a long reach of up to 735 feet (224 meters) and it can turn 360 degrees without the need for additional space.
Mammoet recently used this crane to successfully complete the process of weighing, transporting and lifting the modules of the P-76 FPSO platform for the Technip-Techint consortium at the Techint Offshore Unit in Pontal do Paraná - Brazil. The consortium was contracted by Petrobras to carry out the construction and integration of the oil and gas processing modules. Mammoet was responsible for the integration part of the project, and the PTC 200 DS crane provided the exact lifting power required for the project.
“This was essential because large and heavy modules needed to be installed with millimeter precision, while there was limited space available for the crane on the quayside,” said Daniel Detoni, project manager, Mammoet Americas.
The crane allowed the positioning of the modules with the required precision within the limited space.
“After assembly of the PTC, Mammoet transported and lifted 30 modules within a very tight schedule and with a good safety record,” said Detoni.
Lifts ranged in weights from 190 to up to 1,979.50 tons. The weight of the rigging totaled 225 tons. Combined the weight of all loads lifted exceeded 23,790 tons. The lifts were made during a 58-day period with two shifts working each day.
“The benefit of the PTC on this project is that operating such a large crane in a fixed spot gave us more stability in handling the cargo, a faster operation and greater accuracy of movements,” said Detoni. “The biggest challenge was installing the modules on a floating vessel that could be affected by wind, weather and sea movement.”
Upon completion of the commissioning process, the platform will have the capacity to produce up to 150,000 barrels of oil and compress 7 million cubic meters of natural gas per day, operating in the Búzios III field (Santos Basin pre-salt).
Lampson: Lifting down under
In Port Pirie in Australia, Nyrstar N.V is constructing a refinery for the production of metals such as lead and zinc. This has required the lifting and transportation expertise of a worldwide player, Lampson International.
Lampson dispatched its Lampson Transi-Lift LTL-2600 as well as a Manitowoc 2250 with MAX-ER, Manitowoc Triple 9 and Triple 7, three Grove RT-9130s and 81 axles of Goldhofer trailer. Lampson’s team has been working at the metals refinery for six months and expect to finish by mid-2017.
“This is the perfect project for Lampson International equipment as it suits the company operated, specialized, over-dimensional trailer as well as the heavy lifting capabilities of the Lampson Transi-Lift LTL-2600,” said John Lee, managing director, Lampson Australia.
Thus far, the heaviest lift was the furnace module that weighed 1,494,200 pounds. “The first challenge of this project is that it is designated as high risk,” said Lee. “Site personnel must change clothes completely when entering, shower before exiting and wear respiration protection and full length overalls along with the normal PPE that is standard across Australian worksites. “
Located in central and southern parts of Australia, the job site is about 1,243 miles (2,000 kilometers) from either of the more populated coasts, making transportation of equipment and personnel expensive. However Lampson was successful at keeping costs down, Lee said. To lift the furnace module and other heavy components in a timely manner, Lampson’s engineering team designed rigging equipment and a spreader bar system to suit lifting the heavy modules.
“It requires precision coordination to assure assembly and operation of construction equipment while minimizing the disruption of normal operations at the smelter site,” said Lee.
The centerpiece crane is the Lampson Transi-Lift LTL-2600, which Lampson said is one of the world’s most versatile heavy lift cranes.
The Transi-Lift System is a patented configuration that combines the heavy lifting capacities of stiff leg derricks and ring-mounted lift equipment with the mobility of a conventional crawler crane. The crane features two fully mobile, individually powered crawler transporters, up to 460 feet of main boom, up to 240 feet of jib and 240 feet of MEC27AB jib.
“The crane is completely mobile under load,” said Lee. “It can be transported by conventional trucks and the counterweights are assembled and filled onsite.”