Betterect, a South African specialist in the fabrication and erection of large steel structures within the mining, petrochemical and other industries, both locally and internationally, recently won the Industry category of the prestigious annual Steel Awards 2020.
Held each year in recognition of excellence within the built environment, the Steel Awards serves as a platform to showcase originality, technical expertise, innovation, design and jaw-dropping steel structures. The competition is fierce, with nominations from every corner of the country vying for peer recognition within the industry.
Aside from comprising over 1000 fabricated component parts, Betterect’s winning entry – the Vamosem Semi-Mobile Crushing Plant (SMCP) – was a truly big project on many levels, including volume, weight and intensity of labour required.
“The SMCP was commissioned for use on a coal mine in Mozambique,” explains Nicolette Skjoldhammer, Managing Director of Betterect , advising that in July 2019, the mining business unit of German company, thyssenkrupp, commissioned Betterect to undertake the fabrication and pre-assembly of the SMCP as part of the mine’s goal to increase production.
The project was completed on time and within budget, with fabrication completed in February 2020, in time to be entered for this year’s Steel Awards.
“The plant is ‘semi-mobile’ and modular in design, as it has to be relocated as the coal pit grows, with relocation of the plant taking place every two years. Furthermore, it had to be semi-mobile, moved on specialised crawlers, as it is too massive to be transported in any other way,” Skjoldhammer adds.
She explains that steelwork and platework was chosen as the construction material of choice to cope with the immense operational loads that the plant would have to endure during the mine’s operations.
“To ensure that all the modular parts fitted together accurately, we undertook some trial assembly in our workshop. All the critical, ‘mating’ interfaces were assembled to ensure there would be no misalignment on site. The steel work equated to an astounding 950 tons overall, with some 750 tons of structural steel and platework, of which VRN (hard-wearing steel plate) linings accounted for approximately 60 tons. The SMCP needed to withstand a very demanding working environment, entailing robust and reliable manufacturing, and fabricated under the strictest quality assurance and project management procedures, in accordance with Betterect’s and our client’s stringent standards,” she adds and notes: “That it met and exceeded these criteria made it a perfect nomination for the Steel Awards 2020.”
“This is a remote site in Mozambique. Construction is difficult, transport is difficult and the structure itself is technically challenging. So, this was a very well-executed project, under challenging and technically challenging circumstances, and was well-solved,” comments Steel Awards 2020 Judge, Kevin Harris, Managing Director of Fabsmart.
As the client required pre-assembly and full fabrication in one off-site location, the entire structure was fabricated in Betterect’s workshop in Chamdor, Krugersdorp, thereby also reducing the safety risks related to so-called ‘hot’ on-site work.
“While the impressive dimensions made it a contender as an entry into the Steel Awards 2020, there were numerous additional criteria for the selection of this project,” says Francois Herbst, Project Engineer, Betterect.
“The latest pulse arc welding technology (full penetration welding) was used for the fabrication of the structure, and the integrity of every weld was tested using either radiographic or ultrasonic non-destructive testing (NDT). This testing process was hugely labour-intensive, but vital to ensure that each weld would endure the arduous and demanding environment in which the SMCP would be deployed,” he explains.
Herbst adds: “While the hopper base frame alone weighed close to 45 tons and required heavy lifting and abnormal load transport to site, other than the immense size of the modular components, there were many technical fabrication requirements which made this a worthy project for entry into the Steel Awards. These included pre-heating to ensure excellent welds — with steel plating measuring 12mm to 25mm and 40mm to 50mm thickness, depending on where it was used — extremely accurate laser alignment for seamless assembly on site, and welding of exotic materials; as well as the application of three coats of industrial-specified paint to the steelwork, for corrosion protection,” he explains.
To meet the timeline of the approximately 12-16 week project – and running in parallel with the fabrication of the plant – was all the electrical and mechanical design, maintenance and operational access design.
“This influenced some of the steelwork, and on short notice, Betterect modified some of the components to cater for these factors, and the changes they required,” says Herbst.
Skjoldhammer points out that the project served as a perfect example of Betterect’s ‘Team Africa’ concept, whereby African countries and companies collaborate on the delivery of high-quality pan-African infrastructure projects, across a variety of industries.
“The project required extensive collaboration to transport cross-border into Mozambique, with sections of the route requiring police escort owing to the size of the components. Betterect however, is recognised for our vast experience and expertise within Africa, and we are perfectly positioned to undertake projects such as this one, throughout Southern and Central Africa,” she emphasises.
“Betterect is extremely proud of this project and our Steel Awards 2020 Industry category win, which is an amazing accolade. It also serves as an example to the local and international arena of what pan-African innovation and collaboration can achieve, and the high calibre of South African fabricators,” she concludes.