The sun never sets on a worldwide collaboration



Around the world around the clock – this insulation project spanned the entire globe and took advantage of the world of engineering expertise at KAEFER’s fingertips.

In the truest sense of the word, this was a global project. In addition to involving the cryogenic insulation of a sphere, it spanned every time zone in the world: from Australia through to Malaysia and Thailand, then to Germany and finally, the west coast of Canada. Insulating a sphere tank of 17.5 metres in diameter is a challenging task at the best of times. The fact that it was partially performed in Thailand, using specialist Polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation, and then transported and completed in western Canada, made it even more complex.

Stages of insulation on spherical tanks

Colleagues you can count on

KAEFER is fortunate to have a range of talent dotted around the globe. There’s the LNG Solutions Centre in Australia and the Corporate Innovation & Technical Excellence (CIE) Department in Bremen. Then there are the experts in Thailand, who are well versed in working with spherical tanks. However, this project involved working with a special material: PIR.

A further development of polyurethane, PIR is typically produced as a foam blocks and cut into form. René Matthies as team member of KAEFER’s Expert Group Thermal Insulation took the lead and created a working group to convey the necessary PIR knowledge and spherical tank standards to the international team. In a series of weekly calls with CIE, everyone worked together both remotely and in-person, with a regular photo series to document the work and allow for closer collaboration and the exchange of advice and best practice.

This meant that the people on the ground could benefit from the skills and experience from others several thousand kilometres away and leverage all the expertise each of their colleagues had to offer.

From tropical Thailand to cold Canada

As the sphere tank would be transported to Canada, it could not be completely insulated in Thailand. There was approximately 20% left to do in Canada prior to final commissioning. This provided serious challenges in terms of developing a bespoke cladding design, as well as coming up with solutions that would function in two very different climate environments.

Working in concert, the team added additional insulation support rings at the bottom of the structure and used sacrificial layering to support the use of screws and rivets. A great deal of support was received from Jeeva Karuppiah, Operations Manager in Malaysia, and Niti Sakdiprom in the design of these specific rings, in collaboration with the teams in Thailand and Germany.

Furthermore, CIE helped with defining further engineering elements for the sphere to insure it would deliver the necessary quality and be able to withstand the climatic conditions in Canada once operational.

For the team in Thailand, this was much different than the usual insulation work they performed.

Business unusual

For the team in Thailand, this was much different than the usual insulation work they performed for standard tanks or pipelines directly at customer sites. Furthermore, just like with many other KAEFER projects around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns, travel restrictions and labour limitations made this job more difficult than usual as well.

However, thanks to the international sharing of know-how and expertise, the global team managed to successfully complete the project to the client’s complete satisfaction. This goes to show that when it comes to working together on complex engineering projects, there are no borders, just benefits.

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