Larry Trojak


Operations focus: Mammoth structures tumble

Operations Focus

Tervita Corp. tackles a demolition of mammoth proportions in the Alberta oil sands with help from massive processing attachments.

July 9, 2015

While it does not set out to do so, the demolition component of Calgary, Alberta-based Tervita Corp.’s Environmental Services division is used to turning heads.

On a recently completed project in the Alberta oil sands, the division performed an impressive feat, dismantling some truly mammoth structures and equipment and processing the more than 26,000 tons of steel it represented within a tight 110-day window.

To make that happen, they assembled a fleet of mobile hydraulic attachments, including some of the largest Genesis mobile shears at work today. In the process, they further solidified their reputation as one of Canada’s pre-eminent firms for safe, effective and impressive demolition results.

Visit the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, and one is immediately impressed by the sheer scale of the projects taking place. Developments capable of generating anywhere from 50,000 to nearly a half million barrels of oil per day dot the more than 54,000-square-mile Athabasca Sands deposit.

Not surprisingly, the equipment used to extract oil from these oil sands is equally impressive, including everything from bucket-wheel excavators the size of a building to haul trucks with 500-ton payloads. According to Duane Dale, Tervita’s demolition superintendent, on most of the major operations in “the sands,” equipment that has reached the end of its useful life is generally brought down, cut up or crushed, and disposed of accordingly, almost as if it never existed.

“It might not make sense to the layperson, but companies working in the oil sands generally prefer to scrap a component or system rather than reuse or repurpose it and risk any potential liability,” Dale says. “As a result, gigantic shovels and crushers capable of mind-boggling hourly production rates are seemingly in place one week and gone the next.”

A good position

Tervita is one of the few companies well-positioned to tackle a project as formidable as oil sands equipment decommissioning. Originally formed in 1979 as a well-servicing company, Tervita has grown over the years through a series of strategic acquisitions to more than 2,000 employees and now offers a comprehensive array of environmental solutions, including oil and gas demolition. So when one of the major holding companies in the oil sands needed a firm to tackle its massive on-site demolition efforts, Tervita was the logical choice. In late November 2014, crews mobilized to the Fort McMurray, Alberta, site and started work shortly thereafter.

Smaller circumstances

Not all demolitions are of a large scale. Projects that call for tight spaces and even tighter deadlines, such as a recent interior demolition in Philadelphia, need specialized solutions.

Three weeks was all the time allotted for knocking down and clearing out a terrarium in the center or, the NASDAQ OMX PHLX building, formerly known as the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

Delta BJDS Superintendent Pete Punchello was up for the challenge. He says he knew exactly what the Southampton, Pennsylvania-based company needed to get the job done on time. With the bid in front of him, he placed a call to Randy Rich, the mid-Atlantic sales representative for Brokk Inc., Monroe, Washington.

A 30-foot-tall terrarium had to be knocked down. Mounds of dirt, several trees and some waterways had to be torn out. Since several offices surrounded the space, crews would need to work 12 hours each night to avoid disturbing NASDAQ employees. This cut the number of potential working hours from 504 to 252. They also would have to remove all the debris without waking the building’s neighbors. Last, but certainly not the least of the challenges, a small passenger elevator provided the only access to the project. In addition, Delta would not be allowed to use diesel-powered machines because of the exhaust fumes.

Rich recommended the Brokk 100. Not only was it small enough to fit into the elevator, but it also had the power to complete the job quickly. And since the electrically powered machine does not emit any noxious exhaust, it was ideal for the indoor project.

Delta won the bid in August 2014. One operator was able to handle the Brokk 100 and wield an Atlas Copco SB 152 breaker attachment and a 2.1-cubic-foot bucket in turns.

“One of our operators, Danny Kell, was the main user of the Brokk 100,” Punchello says, adding, “It was amazing how quickly he adjusted to using the machinery.”

Punchello was able to repurpose crewmembers who otherwise would have been manhandling handheld tools. Some cut rebar and others used a utility loader to move the debris from the site. They hoisted the excess materials out of the work area, then dropped them onto a loading dock. Another crew transferred the debris to a fork truck for dumping. They filled more than six dumpsters of debris each night for seven nights straight.

Delta met the tight deadline, and the Brokk 100 saved wear and tear on Punchello’s crew in the process. Overall, he says, the remote-controlled demolition machine made for a much more organized, safer and less physically trying project.

“For a number of reasons, we feel we have a distinct advantage over many other demolition companies: we’ve done this type of work for a while now, and we have an enviable safety track record and the broad range of tools needed to get the job done quickly and efficiently,” says Dale.

As work progressed, Tervita was responsible for demolishing and processing using general oil sands production equipment—mammoth crushers, sizers, conveying and separating equipment, some mining tires, heavy-duty conveyor belting and process piping—and shipping it to regional scrap facilities for recycling. Accomplishing that called for a comprehensive range of processing tools, and, with a history of oil sands demolition work already under its belt, Tervita was amply prepared for the challenge.

Tackling the tear-down

Because the scope of work at the Ft. McMurray site was as varied as it was imposing—everything from structural dismantling and processing to concrete crushing—Tervita’s arsenal of tools had to be equally diverse. The company answered that call with a fleet of nine Genesis attachments, each one versatile in its own right, yet still dedicated to a specific application or area.

“The tools ranged from an LXP 200 multijaw processor to a GXP 1200R mobile shear and everything in between,” Dale says. “The LXP was our utility attachment and, for a smaller tool, its impact was huge. We used it for things like processing concrete, as well as shearing items such as handrail, expanded metal grating and some small diameter cable.”

He continues, “Because so many of the areas we were demoing were fairly high, we had three mid-sized shears—a GXP 400R, a GXP 440R and a GXT 445R—mounted third-member, which were primarily responsible for much of our high-angle demolition. The more than 40 feet of reach provided was outstanding in areas such as the mid-drives and some of the conveyors feeding them, which were quite high.”

For structures exceeding 40 feet of reach, Tervita had a Genesis GXP 660R shear third-member mounted on a Cat 365 outfitted with a Jewel hydraulic tilt cab and a 70-foot demo boom. For facets of the demo in which the material was sizeable but easily accessible, Dale’s crews used a trio of GXP 990R mobile shears, each of which offered a jaw opening and depth of 35 inches.

“The 990s were outstanding and, once material was on the ground, responsible for processing it to mill spec,” he says. “In addition, they did the bulk of the work cutting the massive volumes of process pipe removed from the site—material that could be as large as 30 inches in diameter with a wall thickness of greater than half an inch. They were the real workhorses out there.”

Many of the crusher components, as well as much of the other material encountered, were built for the severe-duty nature of oil production and, as a result, were heartier than anything generally encountered in a standard demolition. For those segments of the project, as well as for processing large volumes of dragline cable and 36-inch diameter process piping, Tervita brought in the heavy artillery: a Genesis GXP 1200R mobile shear. According to Dale, despite the oversized nature of the material, there was very little that shear could not cut.

“It literally never stopped impressing us,” he says. “On those crushers, and there were three of them on-site, our operators were skillful at popping welds to access baffle plates, base plates and other material that was 1 1/2-inches thick and thicker — it cut it all.”

The dragline cable was present in large volumes of 3- and 4-inch diameters.

“This material was not just large in diameter, it was also polycoated, which would have made any other type of processing really difficult if not impossible,” Dale says. “Instead, using either the 1200R or any of the 900s, we were able to cut as many as three strands of the cable at a time to manageable lengths.”

Reuse and repurpose

Other material processed at the Ft. McMurray site included a limited number of large mining tires, concrete from the bases of demolished structures and equipment, and a seemingly never-ending supply of conveyor belting.

“We cut more than 10 kilometers of belting,” says Dale. “That’s material that is more than 2 inches thick, has a 3/16-inch steel cable running through it and can be as wide as 90 inches. We used the mobile shears to cut it into 30-foot lengths, then threw it onto flatbed trailers and sent it to a new home where it can be used in everything from industrial areas to dairy barn flooring. Almost everything on the site will have a subsequent life in one way or another.”

On a project such as this, the dollars invested in keeping things moving are staggering. As a result, maintaining production in all facets of the on-site operation, including demolition of the decommissioned equipment, was vital. Dale says they were particularly well-suited to making sure that happened.

“We learned early that if you value your contract, you simply cannot impact your customer’s ability to generate product; and that just makes sense. So we brought the tools needed to ensure the job was done right, safely and in as efficient a manner as possible. Having the range of processing capabilities was not only a nice strength —it also met our customer’s needs and timeline. Not many firms can boast having cut, processed and loaded out more than 25,000 tons of steel in 110 days in a remote setting, let alone in an environment such as that in northeastern Alberta.”


This article was submitted on behalf of Genesis Attachments, Superior, Wisconsin.


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