OFFLOADING equipment to check its weight specifications for transportation may be a relatively simple task, but when the specifics involve a 243-ton reactor measuring 31.5m with a 5.54m diameter, simple assumes a different dimension.

Last year a combined team including Mechanical Projects and Heavy Rigging working alongside the Heavy Lift Solutions department were called in to assist when a SAPREF reactor – dubbed “the whale reactor” – arrived in Durban port and reflected a disparity between the transfer permit weight and the load mats reading.

Heavy Lift Solutions engineer Damon Schoon says the load mats used to ascertain whether the reactor and trailer combination agreed with the transport permit showed a 9-ton discrepancy. Lovemore Bros was hired to pick up the reactor off the trailer bed with the secondary objective being to weigh the reactor and either prove or disprove the mat readings. Destined for the SAPREF refinery in Isipingo, the reactor served as part of a diesel production capacity upgrade to effectively double capacity. Schoon says this was the first time Lovemore Bros had attempted a dual gantry lift of this particular set-up as the 230t gantry could not go into the second stage of its hydraulic extensions without hitting capacity issues.

While the trailer was reconfigured to allow for the extra weight, Schoon says the team weighed the reactor using both tension and compression load cells. This involved lowering and lifting the entire 242-ton load more than 20 times.

“In the end we ascertained the shipped weight was correct to within two tons and the reactor was loaded back on to the reconfigured trailer to make its way to the refinery,” Schoon concludes.

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