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Maximize StoryMinimize StoryWorld famous lift cushions respond to Coroner's call for high capacity airbags - November 2009

(Attn safety and rescue features in media serving relevant industry sectors, such as construction, engineering, infrastructure, materials handling, mining, quarrying oil and gas and safety. For a high-resolution version of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

A global supplier of lifting cushions is expanding distribution in Australia of products that respond to a coroner's call for high capacity airbags for mine safety and rescue.

The Pronal Group - represented throughout Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd - offers stock and custom-fabricated lifting cushions powerful enough to lift and split rock and heavy plant equivalent in weight to locomotives and semi-trailers.

Used by civil industrial and military forces, Pronal's newest cushions range from ultra-thin bags (just 20mm thick deflated) that can lift weights of more than 65 tonnes each, to powerful spreading cushions that can exert hundreds of tonnes of force to part plant and machinery components or split and lift rocks. These CLP and CLT ranges are complemented by low-pressure CPB Maxi-Lift cushions, which can be used on land and under water, offering greater strokes of up to 700mm (or 1400mm where a pair are employed).

"It is a tragedy that a death occurs to draw attention to the need for such cushions, but a very simple solution is available for industries that need it," said Air Springs Supply General Manager Simon Agar. "These highly portable and extremely rugged reusable lifting cushions respond precisely to the call by the Queensland State Coroner in Rockhampton* for coal mining operations to equip each underground district with airbags of sufficient capacity to move or lift the heaviest equipment in the district,"

"Not only are the airbags suited to the conditions described by the Coroner's inquest into the death of a miner crushed between a shuttle car and wall, but also they are suited to broad uses throughout the industrial and resources sector. They are a proven safety asset from the world respected Pronal elastomer engineering specialist organisation that achieved international prominence when it supplied the amazing lifting bags used to hoist artefacts from the ocean liner Titanic four kilometres beneath the Atlantic."

Inflated by compressed air, versatile Pronal lifting cushions can delicately raise loads ranging from pipelines of all types to trucks, tracked vehicles, beams, bridge components, building components, machinery and resource development structures. They are already in industrial service in Australia delicately hoisting loads such as pipelines that might be damaged by alternative methods involving high point loads, or where their compact load-spreading qualities are useful on soft and irregular surfaces and in confined spaces.

Safety in lifting is enhanced by Pronal cushions incorporating the strength of Kevlar textile, the same super-tough fibre used in body armour, racing tyres and racing sails. Weight for weight, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel and superbly suited for repetitive work in harsh environments, including construction, energy, industrial, resources and civil engineering sites, says Mr Agar.

Safety attributes of Pronal cushions include non-slip surfaces for maximum friction when stacking two cushions, cross-marking for easy centering under load and inscription of basic safety rules on the product. A broad range of accessories is available for different fields of application, including simplified inflation controller, control panel and air pressure relief valves.

"The materials used are so tough and durable that they are used to recover immobilized aircraft, for example, or to lift tanks or split rocks in quarries.

"In addition to the standard models - such as the workhorse 920X920mm square cushion - a major advantage of Pronal cushions is that they can be custom-engineered to particular shapes and sizes to perform particular tasks."

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryEasily deployed stoppers solve tricky tasks in pipeline maintenance and testing - October 2009

(Attn building and construction, engineering, electrical and energy utility, emergency service, food and beverage, fluid handling, government, materials handling, manufacturing, mining and onshore and offshore resources development, mineral processing, primary product processing, petroleum, quarrying, transport workshop, water and safety media Editors please note: For an email of this story, or a jpeg of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

Maintenance of pipelines can be a tricky business. Sealing and testing operations need to be conducted not only with complete safety and environmental security, but also with considerable speed, to maintain flows of liquids and gases.

One method of stopping and sealing that is attracting increasing interest and application in Australasia involves inflatable pipe stoppers that can be rapidly deployed, easily transported and widely applied in remote, temporary and permanent industrial situations.

The Pronal inflatable pipe stoppers from pneumatic actuation and isolation specialists Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd are used for maintenance, testing and emergency tasks in applications as diverse as oil and gas delivery, industrial and municipal water and waste water, and pollution prevention in mining energy projects.

"The common factor with all of these situations is that they need stoppers that can be rapidly and securely deployed to provide primary or secondary safety and environmental security," says Air Springs Supply National Manager Simon Agar.

"Sometimes the stoppers are permanently located in pipelines for instant remote inflation with compressed air or other gas where there is a risk of toxic runoff at different stages of production, or where spillages occur. In other instances they are used to seal off sections of pipe where leaks are occurring, serving the dual role of enabling pressurization of that section so leaks can be detected, then protecting the men in the pipeline from any product flows while they work to fix the problem."

The enormously strong stoppers are produced by elastomer products specialists Pronal, the company that produced the inflatable bags used to lift sections of the liner Titanic from nearly four kilometres deep in the Atlantic.

Multi-sized stoppers are available in an expanded range spanning pipes from 45-2115mm diameter in stock sizes and up to 3000mm for customised types. Different ranges respond to the needs of particular industries and pressure requirements, with VPE and ORJ types being used for pressures up to one bar and OPV types for pressures up to 3 bar. Higher pressure stopers are also available.

The versatility of the material used and the production method (customized dilatability) means Pronal inflatable stoppers are suitable for all types of pipelines including concrete, cast iron, steel, stainless steel and PVC, he says. "They are extremely strong and durable in service, being hot vulcanized in a mould and Kevlar reinforced, giving outstanding service life.

"External surfaces are also customised to particular needs, such as exposure to gas or petroleum products or where long term installation is required. "Naturally (as with any rubber-based product) direct or prolonged exposure to petroleum-based products is not recommended, but even so they have strong emergency use applications in such industries, where speed of deployment is vital.

"Inflated at the specified pressure and with a back-pressure of up to 1 bar for standard types (10m water column), each stopper can be used within a range of pipe diameters. For example, a range of just four stoppers is needed to span the 100-1200mm diameter pipe sizes.

Stopper types include:

  • Vari plugs 45-1500mm with blank stopper, bypass for watertightness tests; and rod for mini pipes
  • Uni-Plug collapsible pipe stoppers from 20-3000mm that compactly fit around obstacles, corners and into previously inaccessible areas of surface, underground and underwater pipelines.
  • Pollu-Plug and anti pollution stoppers permanently fitted in stormwater and sewerage lines ready for rapid inflation by remote triggering as soon as an emergency arises. The deflated stopper is designed to allow normal non-polluted effluents or water to pass through the pipe when the stopper is uninflated.

Mr Agar says the Pronal stopper range, for which Air Springs is exclusive national distributor, is one of the most extensive ranges available nationally and internationally. In addition to standard products, Pronal customised products include low and high pressure resistance models (according to the application). Custom-build models also come in a variety of shapes - cylindrical, egg-shaped, square - and up to 3,000mm diameter. Special models can be manufactured to meet particular specifications.

"Where water flow needs to be stopped, inflatable stoppers are an efficient solution. By creating an airtight seal within the pipe, they effectively stop the water flow to enable professionals in different industries to do their job and resolve the situation.

"They are also highly versatile in uses such as testing air, gas and water pressure, locating leaks, and even allowing the injection of chemicals or dies into a pipeline when facilitating cleaning or locating leaks in designated sections between two stoppers. By using the bypass function within the appropriate stopper, chemicals can be introduced then subsequently either diluted for disposal or purged to tanker or reservoir. It's very quick and clean.

"It is also very secure. Pronal products are based on more than 40 years of producing specialist pneumatic elastomer designs for demanding applications, including government, military, heavy industrial, emergency service, sub-sea and exploration" said Mr Agar, whose own organisation, Air Springs Supply, also has more than 30 years specialist national experience in applying pneumatic actuation and isolation technologies.

"The big advantages of the technology also include simplicity, portability and re-use. Maintenance staff don't need huge amounts of gear on-site and the stoppers themselves are easy to transport around plants to remote locations, where they can be used, moved on, and used again and again."

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 

 
Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper schematic

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryVisy's anti-pollution initiative employs world-class pipeline stopper protection - March 2009

Media Release - AIR SPRINGS - March 2009

(Attn building and construction, engineering, electrical and energy utility, emergency service, food and beverage, fluid handling, government, materials handling, manufacturing, mining and onshore and offshore resources development, mineral processing, primary product processing, petroleum, quarrying, transport workshop, water and safety media Editors please note: For an email of this story, or a jpeg of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

An Australian company committed to strong environmental management has become the latest adopter of internationally proven large-diameter pipe stoppers designed for rapid inflation to prevent accidental pollution of waterways.

Visy Beverage at Smithfield in Sydney has installed a Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper from Air Springs Supply as a precaution against industrial waste seeping into a stormwater drain passing through its production site.

The rugged 1170mm effective diameter plug - which is integral to Visy's broader environmental policy - was custom fabricated by elastomer specialist Pronal, which is the company that made the deep sea flotation tanks used to raise wreckage from the ocean liner Titanic 4000 metres beneath the North Atlantic.

Applications of the technology extend from building and construction projects (including engineering, electrical and energy utility tasks) to emergency services, food and beverage production, government, materials handling, manufacturing, mining and onshore and offshore resources development, mineral processing, primary product processing, petroleum, quarrying, transport workshop and water and waste water developments.

Pronal's anti-pollution plugs are permanently fitted in water and sewerage lines ready for rapid inflation by remote triggering to quickly stop the pipeline as soon as an emergency arises in industrial, civil and municipal applications.

"What appealed to us was their simplicity - they are easy to install and the deflated stopper is designed to allow normal non-polluted effluents or water to pass through the pipe when the stopper is uninflated. It helped too that they were a fraction of the price of the gate valve that we were looking at as an alternative," said Visy project Engineer Craig Tomison.

The custom-fabricated plug, which can be inflated in minutes, is used by Visy to prevent accidental spills from trucks or holding tanks that could ultimately pass from the drain into nearby creeks leading to wetlands in parks and heritage areas. The plug has been tested to be effective against water-borne spills of common industrial and packaging substances such as solvents, inks, acids and other aggressive substances.

"For further simplicity and reliability, we have the inflation feed to the plug permanently linked into our factory pneumatic system via a low pressure regulator. This arrangement, housed within the production site, is very simple to actuate for scheduled testing and for actual emergency conditions," said Mr Tomison, whose company is committed to environmental management and operating in a sustainable way. Visy operates its manufacturing sites and business units through an integrated approach by combining environmental excellence with strong social and financial principles into its operations and products.

Pronal OFR plugs are available in stock sizes to seal pipe diameters from 805-2115mm, with larger sizes and shapes available custom fabricated. The Visy plug was especially shaped to provide the security of protection specified by them. With an overall length of 1.64 metres and an effective sealing length of 1300mm, the plug is positioned within the pipe on a central steel axis located by permanent frame.

Air Springs Supply General Manager Simon Agar says that in addition to the actuation method chosen by Visy, the stoppers can be connected by a gas supply line to an all-weather control panel located nearby, above ground. When an emergency arises, the OFR stoppers are triggered either by a manual striker or optional electrovalve-piloted control unit, says Mr Agar, whose company is national distributor for Pronal products.

"Inflation can be provided in minutes by the gas cylinder method (typically using nitrogen) or alternatively by connection to pneumatic systems adapted to provide the low maximum inflation pressures in the pipe, which range from .2-.5 bar, depending on the pipe diameter. Once inflated, the plugs will act as a barrier to toxic fluid spill or spreading of firefighting water into different pipelines, he said.

Protected by a polyethylene cover to counteract effluents aggression, the extensive range of OFR stoppers is designed primarily for use with retaining pits but have also been highly successfully employed to protect natural waterways from industrial spills, says Mr Agar.

"As part of their risk management strategies, major industrial plants have employed them in pipelines leading to creeks and ponds that could be devastated by spills of chemicals and waste. Once inflated, the stopper will prevent any toxic fluid spill or spreading of firefighting water into the pipeline," he said.

"They are ideally suited to use by companies such as Visy, which is committed to environmental management. A cost-efficient and easily engineered risk management measure such as the Pronal Plug fits ideally into this philosophy and into the needs of a wide range of Australian industry and government groups."

Available in standard cylindrical lengths of 950-2200mm - with ovoid, elliptical and other shapes on request - Pronal's OFR stoppers complement Air Springs Supply's broader range of Pronal pipe stoppers. For smaller diameter pipes, down to 150mm, Pronal have developed a complementary product called Pollu-Plug, which in its uninflated state is permanently mounted flat and conforming to the arc of the top half of a pipe. Once triggered by remote line, it will expand to fill the entire diameter of the pipe.

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 
Visy's anti-pollution Control

 
Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper schematic

 
Pronal OFR anti-pollution stopper schematic

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryPacker-Can systems from sub-sea technology leader Pronal aid marine platform launches - February 2009

Media Release - AIR SPRINGS - February 2009

(Attn construction and infrastructure, engineering, energy, materials handling, mining and resources, metalworking, pipeline, oil and gas and safety media. Editors please note: For an email of this story, or a jpeg of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

A jacket equipment system designed to facilitate launching and positioning of oil and gas marine platforms is being introduced to Australia by Pronal national distributor Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd.

Pronal's complete Packer-Can system for the installation of platform legs includes the steel pipe Packer Can, grouting packer, grout seal, mud wiper, sacrificial inflatable diaphragm and other products required to complete the operation.

The system - installed into the pipes through which rig legs are guided to the ocean floor - is included in new ranges of offshore and underwater construction, engineering and maintenance equipment from Pronal being introduced throughout Australia by Air Springs Supply (www.pronal.com.au).

Pronal is the company that made the deep sea flotation tanks used to raise wreckage from the ocean liner Titanic 4000 metres beneath the icy North Atlantic, says Air Springs Supply's General Manager Mr Simon Agar.

The Packer Can's steel pipe structure contains inflatable diaphragms, inflatable grouting packer and non-inflatable grouting seal and mud wiper, all constructed from high-strength fabrics and synthetic rubber.

The inflatable diaphragms seal the platform legs for buoyancy until piles are introduced while platforms are being positioned after launch, at which stage water introduced into the leg to set it up correctly. The pile is then introduced into the leg to perforate the diaphragm and anchor the pile into the ground.

The system's inflatable grouting packer ensures tightness of the annulus pile/leg before and during column grouting and to avoid mud rising after piling. The inflatable packer is fixed inside the leg with two series of welded flanges. It is inflated through an NPT connection.

The non-inflatable grout seal ensures tightness of the annulus pile/leg. It is manufactured with a static O-ring so it is not necessary to install any inflation line to it. Grouting packers and seals are available separately from the packer Can system.

The mud wiper's function is to prevent ingress of mud that might obstruct the inflation of the grouting packer when the pile punches through the diaphragm.

The system is available in different dimensions to suit platform legs of different sizes. The thickness of the system's diaphragms (or number of layers of reinforcing used in their construction) is determined by the depth at which they are used. The diaphragms and other components are tested by Pronal to 1.5 times user specifications.

"Pronal is a world leader in its field, specialising in the design and manufacture of standard and custom-engineered flexible structures aimed at ensuring floatability. These structures are used to lift and position underwater loads and also to assist divers to move equipment on the seabed," said Mr Agar, whose company has more than 30 years experience in pneumatic actuation and isolation.

Pronal has used its civil and military know-how to develop new flexible innovative technical solutions intended for engineering, construction and maintenance of drilling platforms as well as seabed operations. The products are developed according to specifications developed in accordance with the often extreme conditions in which they are used. They must be able to withstand significant stresses. Related technologies are used extensively in the equipment and maintenance of oil and gas platforms.

Pronal products include: Underwater parachutes and lifting units; Deep sea flotation tanks; Recovery and decommissioning equipment; Jacket equipment system including complete "Packer-Can" system for installation of platform legs; Buoyancy bags and cushions; Pipe stoppers and plugs; Hyperbaric welding habitat door and sleeve; Clamping systems Pipeline intervention systems; overlaps; Oil booms; Flexible tanks; Push-pull stoppers; Shock cells; Barge bumpers; Rub strips; Pipe pullers; Oil membranes; Flex connectors
For special applications, specific systems are designed and modified by Pronal's engineering department to deal with situations subject to particular constraints.

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 
Oil Rig

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryLegacy of raising the Titanic helps RPC Technologies provide double safety for underwater workers - February 2009

Media Release - AIR SPRINGS - February 2009

(Attn construction and infrastructure, engineering, energy, materials handling, mining and resources, metalworking, pipeline, oil and gas and safety media. Editors please note: For an email of this story, or a jpeg of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

A rugged elastomer technology developed by the company that made the deep sea flotation tanks used to raise wreckage from the ocean liner Titanic is being employed in Australia to help protect workers on the huge Tugun desalination plant on the Gold Coast.

The GCD Alliance tunneling crew has deployed the custom-fabricated Pronal seals 60 metres under water to maximize safety for workers in sub-sea tunnels connected to intake and discharge risers that will ultimately feed the plant processing up to 125ML a day of potable water.

The 1900mm outside diameter by 520 mm wide inflatable seals are wrapped around the nose of RPC's innovative glass reinforced plastic (GRP) plugs located near the base of the risers to provide optimum levels of safety for construction workers in tunnels 30m below the seabed and extending more than 2km from the ocean floor risers to shore.

The custom fabricated Pronal seals, distributed in Australia by Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, are part of a family of offshore exploration, construction and energy and resources development technology made to the same exacting standards as the elastomer bags used to pluck Titanic artifacts from the Atlantic ocean floor 4,000 metres down.

Once the GRP plug is in position at the correct depth in the riser, the seal is inflated to enable dewatering of the flooded riser which safely allows break through into the tunnels, said RPC Design Engineer Brian Sestito. The inflated seal remains in place around the plug for the duration of the construction phase, helping to provide the top levels of safety required by the GCD Alliance constructing the tunnel systems, comprising Gold Coast Water, John Holland, Veolia Water Australia, Sinclair Knight Merz and Cardno.

"The project required that the risers can be safely sealed to allow the tunnels to be dewatered," says Mr Sestito. "While the risers are entirely empty of water during tunnel construction, they also needed to be initially filled with water to overcome the effects of buoyancy whilst they are grouted in place in the drilled excavations. So we had to develop a way of dewatering after installation before providing ongoing protection.

"Dewatering of the risers on the ocean floor was accomplished by flooding them with compressed air to force water out via an exit tube at the top dome enclosure of the riser, after which air pressure in the riser was restored to equilibrium with the tunnels to which it would be connected. Then the seals were inflated around the plug at 2000 kPa to provide permanent sealing and protection so work could proceed in the tunnels in a safe environment.

RPC's glass reinforced plastic (GRP) liners and plugs, were constructed to stringent standards of a material that exceeds the requirements of a 100-year design life. It needed to be light enough to install in one piece, require little or no maintenance, be relatively inexpensive, available in a short time frame and have enough structural capacity to overcome all construction and operating loads imposed on it. It also needed to have outstanding hydraulic characteristics and to provide the protection and performance required below the ocean floor to shield tunnel workers from the 60m head of water that lay above them.

"In a perfect world, the top dome enclosure on the risers would be sufficient protection against flooding without the GRP plug and seals. However, should the dome be damaged in some way, workers could be at risk because of the sudden ingress of water. To prevent this, the GRP plug was purpose-designed constructed, then fitted with the Pronal seal.

The clearance between the plug and the inner wall of the riser was maintained at a maximum of 15mm. If a situation arose where the dome was damaged and the hydraulic seal failed, the nominated clearance would slow down the flow of water to a rate where it would take 24 hours to fill the connecting tunnel, providing adequate time for workers to evacuate.

Air Springs Supply General Manager Simon Agar says the combination of RPC's outstanding plug design and the precision fabricated seals provide in effect a double level of safety.

"The seals are custom manufactured and tested to more than 6000 kPa to provide an excellent margin of safety for applications such as this.

"The seals are typical of Pronal product used offshore in very demanding situations in much deeper waters than this application - for example, Pronal's complete Packer-Can system is used for the installation of oil rig platform legs.

"Such seals and systems are typical of the new generation of Pronal technology being introduced for Australia's expanding ranges of offshore and underwater construction, engineering, energy development and maintenance tasks (www.pronal.com.au).

"Pronal is a world leader in its field, specialising in the design and manufacture of standard and custom-engineered flexible structures aimed at ensuring safety and floatability. These structures are used to lift and position underwater loads and also to assist divers to move equipment on the seabed," said Mr Agar, whose company has more than 30 years experience in pneumatic actuation and isolation.

Mr Sestito says the high performance Pronal seals ideally complement RPC's rugged but lightweight and cost-effective fibre composite plug used in the Tugun project. The RPC plug is part of a broad range of RPC fibre composite products, which include small to large bore piping, tanks, mine ventilation ducting, odour containment systems, specialty process vessels and ventilation and exhaust stacks. For more information visit www.rpctechnologies.com.

Pronal products include: Underwater parachutes and lifting units; Deep sea flotation tanks; Recovery and decommissioning equipment; Jacket equipment system including complete "Packer-Can" system for installation of platform legs; Buoyancy bags and cushions; Pipe stoppers and plugs; Hyperbaric welding habitat, doors and sleeves; Clamping systems Pipeline intervention systems; overlaps; Oil booms; Flexible tanks; Push-pull stoppers; Shock cells; Barge bumpers; Rub strips; Pipe pullers; Oil membranes; Flex connectors
For special applications Specific systems are designed and modified by Pronal's engineering department to deal with situations subject to particular constraints.

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 
Custom-fabricated Pronal seal

Maximize StoryMinimize StoryElastomer technology solves tricky engineering and environmental problems for pipeline and industry projects - February 2009

Media Release - AIR SPRINGS - February 2009

(Attn building and construction, engineering, electrical and energy utility, emergency service, food and beverage, fluid handling, government, materials handling, manufacturing, mining and onshore and offshore resources development, mineral processing, primary product processing, petroleum, quarrying, transport workshop, water and safety media Editors please note: For an email of this story, or a jpeg of the picture, please contact whyte@bigpond.com)

Internationally proven ranges of extraordinarily tough but light and flexible elastomer products are being employed in Australia to help overcome difficulties encountered in stormwater, groundwater, pipeline and civil, municipal and industrial engineering projects.

The inflatable lifting cushions, pipe stoppers and emergency spill prevention and storage technology from international elastomer engineering specialist Pronal are distributed by Air Springs Supply (www.pronal.com.au).

Pronal is the company that made the deep sea flotation tanks used to raise wreckage from the ocean liner Titanic 4000 metres beneath the icy North Atlantic, says Air Springs Supply's General Manager Mr Simon Agar.

"These extremely tough Pronal cushions safely handle tricky lifts where there is very limited space in which to work, delicately raising loads ranging from heavy vehicles, pipelines and plant through to beams, bridge components, building components, machinery and resource development structures.

"Whereas mechanical or hydraulic jacks concentrate their energy into a small contact area, lifting bags distribute theirs over the entire surface area of the bag for safety and to minimize the risk of damage to the pipeline or other object being lifted.

"Pronal lifting cushions also have a very low uninflated thickness (as little as 20mm) compared with conventional jacks. This allows lifting cushions to be deployed and operated under a wider range of loads than other hoisting apparatus. In addition to providing easier access, they are more tolerant of conditions around the load (which may include trenches and different terrain surfaces)," said Mr Agar, whose company can provide stock cushions or cushions custom-fabricated to particular tasks.

The cushions' fine lifting capability has been demonstrated on an Australian pipeline project, the Simpson's Creek gas project, which involved delicate vertical movements. Jack Walsh, Nacap Construction Superintendent on this major project, said the reason the cushions were used was to give absolute control of the lift "and therefore great safety and security of supply. Hydraulics might provide a half an inch of concentrated movement, when we only need one millimetre."

One of Mr Walsh's larger lifts, using five bags, involved 238 metres of pipeline passing through a gully, "So there was quite a lot of weight involved," he says. Using a diesel 180cfm compressor, load sensors and the gauges and valving provided with the bags, the pipeline was repositioned to obviate the effects of slope and ground subsidence.

"In that job, and indeed in all jobs, safety is number one priority, absolutely. That's what we are all focussed on - the whole team, the load control system people, the stress gauge people, the engineers, the client - we are all focussed on security of the workforce, the infrastructure and the supply of the contents of the pipeline."

Safety in lifting is further enhanced by the latest Pronal seamless inflatable lifting cushions - the largest of which is capable of handling up to 65 tons - which incorporate the strength of Kevlar textile, the same super-tough fibre used in body armour, racing tyres and racing sails. Weight for weight, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel and superbly suited for repetitive work in harsh environments, including construction, energy, industrial, resources and civil engineering sites, says Simon Agar.

Advantages of the Pronal cushions include non-slip surfaces for maximum friction when stacking two cushions, cross-marking for easy centering under load and inscription of basic safety rules on the product. A broad range of accessories is available for different fields of application, including simplified inflation controller, control panel and air pressure relief valves.

Pronal Stoppers

Complementing the lifting cushions - and also made from high quality fibre-reinforced elastomer - are Pronal's inflatable pipe stoppers up to 3000mm in diameter, which are used to:

  • Test pipes for leaks under pressure (joint testing)
  • Isolate pipes for maintenance (inspection stoppers)
  • Temporarily seal pipes to avoid runoff of toxic materials (pollution stoppers)
  • Provide highly portable and re-usable medium and high-pressure stoppers for offshore use
  • Provide high-pressure, self-contained stoppers for specialised uses, including power and water utilities

"Where water flow needs to be stopped, inflatable stoppers are an efficient solution," says Mr Agar. "By creating an airtight seal within the pipe, they effectively stop the water flow to enable professionals in different industries to do their job and resolve the situation. They can also be used in testing air and water pressure, locating leaks, and even allowing the injection of chemicals into a pipeline without a hazardous backup."

Advantages include suitability simplicity and speed of installation and being completely leakproof and safe to use. Sturdy with a long service life, they are suitable for a wide variety of pipes including concrete, cast iron, steel, stainless steel and PVC. The highly diversified stopper range includes either standard or made-to-measure models for low pressure and high pressure (over 100 bar) applications with a choice of shapes (cylindrical, ovoid, square) and specific models to comply with particular specifications including:

  • Standard low pressure Vari plugs from 45-1500mm with blank stopper, bypass for watertightness tests; and rod for mini pipes
  • High pressure OPV plugs from 70-220mm for use when back pressures of up to 3 bar are encountered in gas and water lines
  • Uni-Plug collapsible pipe stoppers from 20-3000mm that compactly fit around obstacles, corners and into previously inaccessible areas of surface, underground and underwater pipelines.

Environmental technology

To protect the environment, Pronal has developed innovative solutions dedicated to risk prevention. Especially designed equipment ensures that, in emergency situations, work is carried out quickly, efficiently and in total safety. A wide range of products is offered for:

  • Storing and recovering water and effluents (flexible tanks)
  • Sealing (inflatable stoppers and seals),
  • retention (flexible booms)
  • Anti-pollution (including permanent stoppers) such as Pollu-Plug anti pollution stoppers permanently fitted in stormwater and sewerage lines ready for rapid inflation by remote triggering as soon as an emergency occurs.
  • Pronal leak sealing systems, which can be applied externally to pipes and tanks to provide immediate assistance in the event of accidents or emergencies.

Information about Pronal products can be obtained through the Pronal website of Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, www.pronal.com.au. Air Springs Supply's complementary website, www.airsprings.com.au is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.

For more information about Air Springs Supply's national distribution and technical support network, please contact Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd, 10 Angas St, (Cnr of Underdale Lane), Meadowbank, Sydney 2114, ph (02) 9807 4077, fax (02) 9807 6979, sales@airsprings.com.au.


 
Elastomer Technology

 
Elastomer Technology