Botnia Fray Bentos Pulp Mill Construction Project – Uruguay 2006-2007.
The US$1.1 billion Botnia Fray Bentos pulp mill is one of the world’s largest and most modern facilities of this type. Construction finished in Q3 2007.
The company’s involvement in the Botnia project started in August of 2006 when Finnish Terastorni Oy (contracted by Andritz to erect multiple pressure vessels and storage tanks of the Fray Bentos fibre line) sent an invitation for a tender. Sales negotiations followed and the NDT services contract got signed in September 2006.
The first equipment container set off for Uruguay at the beginning of October, and the rest of equipment arrived in January 2007. The first members of staff arrived in November of 2006. LBNiW strength was 5 to 7 people, including project manager and a team of multi-disciplined NDT specialists.
According to the contract, LBNiW was to undertake various NDT services on the fiber line pressure vessels. Hundreds of hours of additional work, falling outside the original scope were performed for Terastorni Oy.
After arrival to Uruguay additional contract opportunities opened up. LBNiW was approached by German Butting GmbH & Co KG and Austrian KRESTA Anlagenbau GesmbH Nfg & Co KG and offered additional NDT work at the evaporation plant, fiber line, drying plant and BOP (pipe bridge).
View of the immense fiber line at Fray Bentos. Weld integrity of its key components verified by non-destructive testing from LBNiW. Our company provided code compliant NDT inspection of pressure piping welds according to EN 13480-5, storage tanks according to EN 14015, and pressure vessels according to EN 13445-5. All common NDT methods were utilized i.e: VT, RT, UT, PT, MT, and vacuum box testing.
More than 9,000 inspection hours were accumulated.
LBNiW inspected 100% of welds of the massive duplex continuous digester utilizing X-ray radiography. The combination of ultrasonic testing, radiographic testing, dye penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing and vacuum box testing was utilized for providing code compliant inspection of 11 storage tanks including two 10,000m3 storage towers, several storage tanks ranging from 3,000m3 to 5,000m3 and a couple of smaller tanks. Finally, LBNiW performed radiographic and ultrasonic testing of over 1,000 piping welds throughout the entire construction site. All NDT was carried out in accordance with the following European norms: piping – EN 13480-5; pressure vessels – EN 13445-5; storage tanks – EN 14015.
We worked 10 hours a day on weekdays and another eight hours on Saturdays. All of the X-ray inspection for radiation safety reasons was performed at nights.
One of the clients on site had a significant backlog in weld inspection which was successfully cleared when LBNiW took over. Our specialists worked right through Christmas and New Year period and most statutory holidays in order to put the inspection schedule back on track. At the end, all production was successfully inspected on time.
Project challenges were overcome.
Fray Bentos project presented many challenges to our team all of which we have overcome.
To start with, we had to obtain various permits in order to be able to work in Uruguay. The most complicated one regarding utilizing X-ray radiography required dealing with Uruguayan Radiation Protection Authority. Our Radiation Safety Officer did an outstanding job by quickly gathering all requirements and correctly preparing the necessary paperwork that allowed us to obtain the permit without a delay. Having a few team members that are fluent in English and Spanish helped us obtaining required permits and made dealing with Uruguayan Authorities go smoothly.
Acquiring certain inspection materials and consumables in Uruguay proved to be quite a problem. Radiographic films and chemicals, for example, were hard to get on the Uruguayan market and required long wait times until delivered from neighboring Argentina or Europe.
Fray Bentos Pulp Mill construction site was enormous. All sorts of problems occur at a site of this magnitude. Rearranging work was an everyday reality on the site. Waiting for lifting and moving equipment often changed the inspection sequence completely. Rain would also cause significant changes to plans. We had to have a contingency plan for the days when rain ruined our primary plans. When it was raining very heavily, the site’s roads could be blocked for days. It took a great deal of coordination and careful inspection planning in order to balance indoors work during extreme weather conditions with outdoors testing during normal conditions. Fortunately, we had many inspection points to choose from. On hot days the temperature rose to 36°C, despite that, slowly but surely we managed to continue with inspection duties.
There were couple inspection points requiring working at heights up to 60 meters. The climb was exhausting and we had to make sure we brought everything we needed with us. Security comes first at such heights. Everybody used fall protection gear and strictly followed safety guidelines in order to eliminate the risk of an accident. LBNiW ensures that all our inspectors are adequately trained to perform work duties at heights and strictly follow safety policy.
Some additional frustrations were coming from cultural differences in the approach to work between European and Latin American workers. There was a normal South American flavor to the work of local labor with a general tendency to repeatedly postpone things till next day, which sometimes was creating delays. On several occasions local workers went on strike, during these times foreign workers were not allowed on site which caused some additional work disruption.
Massive 60m height, 11m diameter, wall thickness 20-50mm, duplex continuous digester fully inspected by us according to EN 13445-5. 100% of welds tested with RT (X-ray).
The professional quality of our services was confirmed by auditors.
The quality of our work was audited by Inspecta Oy, the leading Scandinavian inspection group, acting as project’s quality assurance auditor on behalf of Andritz. All inspection reports accompanied by radiograms were submitted to Inspecta Oy for auditing. Additionally, their inspectors randomly re-performed sample tests to confirm the results of our testing. Audit results were very good. Not a single test result was questioned by the auditors.
Good project management and commitment of our highly skilled inspectors allowed LBNiW to complete all NDT work on time and within budget to the highest satisfaction of our clients.
Cooperation between LBNiW and its clients worked seamlessly. Good planning, communication, and coordination of activities made the work progress well without any major delays.
At LBNiW, we always try to handle issues at an early stage so they don’t turn into problems later on. During Fray Bentos project our proactive approach fostered a better management and allocation of welders. Many of them worked during construction of massive Fray Bentos mill and were rotating frequently. Welders were coming from various countries including Poland, Turkey, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Finland and Uruguay and their skill levels were not equal. Welding of duplex digester turned out to be particularly challenging for some. In order to help our clients maintain a low rework rate, we would always pay close attention to the work of ‘fresh‘ welders. Their welds always had inspection priority until we would have gained confidence in their work. Unsatisfactory performance would be reported immediately so our clients could take prompt corrective actions.
Expertise and motivation ensured a successful project outcome and the repeat business from our clients.
AT LBNiW we love what we do. We thrive on the challenges presented by projects that require good project management and a team of highly-skilled and motivated professionals. Despite the distant location from our home base, the project went well and LBNiW successfully performed all inspection works. Good qualifications and great work spirit enabled our team to cope with all sorts of project challenges and achieve set goals. This project demonstrates what can be done when great companies and great people plan a job together from start to finish.
We were very pleased with LBNiW’s performance during Fray Bentos project so when we were awarded another pulp mill contract in Uruguay, LBNiW was our first choice for NDT services.