Tracked Machines Tackle Many Tasks on Pipeline Sites
The very nature of pipeline construction demands versatility, ease of operation and reliability from the equipment it puts to work. Because pipeline rights of way cover a wide variety of terrain, traction and ground pressure are also key concerns. One machine class that embodies all of these attributes is the crawler carrier.
Crawler carriers are rubber-tracked prime movers that can be customized for each application and outfitted with a wide variety of beds or support equipment. Flatbed crawler carriers are often used on pipeline jobsites to haul mats to be laid down in preparation for heavier equipment to come through, while dump bed carriers can be loaded up with materials and moved around while exerting a very low psi. The bed section can also be rigged up with welding equipment or a crane to help with support duties, or an extra-large cabin to transport personnel. The bed versatility of a crawler carrier allows users to conquer all sorts of jobs.
PipeLine Machinery International (PLM) is a global Cat dealer and also distributes the Panther T8 and T12 rubber-tracked carriers by Canadian manufacturer Prinoth Ltd. Terramac builds the RT9 and RT14 crawler models. Yanmar’s C-series tracked carriers offer a full range of capabilities.
PLM, Terramac and Yanmar are just three of the major crawler carriers manufacturers that we talked to for this story. On the following pages you’ll find their customers’ suggestions for of the top five tasks that crawler carriers are used for on oil and gas pipeline jobsites.
Including everything from mats to people, small equipment, rocks and other jobsite spoils, crawler carriers are ideal for hauling and transporting applications across the right of way to hard-to-reach places where wheeled vehicles are likely to get stuck. Crawler carriers can be outfitted in various configurations to suit the job, such as a flatbed for hauling mats, small equipment and other job supplies; a dump bed for rocks, dirt and other materials; or a personnel cabin for hauling up to 25 crewmembers. With a low ground pressure rating, crawler carriers are ideally suited for moving heavy loads over sensitive, rough, soft and steep terrain across pipeline spreads.
Hauling mats and job supplies can be a tedious and slow part of the job especially if the ground conditions are muddy. A flatbed configuration (fixed or tilting) gets large amounts of material where it needs to go on the right of way. A flatbed also comes in handy for small equipment hauling, to transport things like welders, compressors, rigs, fuel tanks, water pumps and more.
Dirt and rock hauling is required on most project sites, and a crawler with a dump bed configuration can transport loads of material to the jobsite safely and efficiently. For instance, the Prinoth Panther T8 has a payload of 16,000 lbs but exerts only 4.09 psi of ground pressure. The largest carrier in the Panther lineup, the T12, has a payload of 25,000 lbs and exerts only 5.95 psi of ground pressure. A man of average size and weight exerts a ground pressure of 5 to 7 psi just walking around.
Transporting workers to and from a remote pipeline jobsite can be challenging, but personnel crawler carriers make it easier.
“The personnel crawler carriers are great to get out to wherever we need to go, and we go to some tough locations to get to the pipelines,” says Jeff Wade, president and owner of Ace Pipeline, based in West Virginia. “One carrier can take up to 25 crew members plus all their tools and meals safely out to the job and back. No more multiple vehicles getting in the way or getting stuck trying to get through. They can be enclosed with heaters to protect them from the elements. That makes a big difference.”
Many personnel carriers through the 9-ton size class can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 25 people with cabin configurations for safety and comfort.
Welding tasks are another large part of pipeline construction. After pipes are aligned, the sections need to be welded together and prepared for placement into trenches. Crawler carriers are often used as all terrain welding systems when outfitted with a welding deck and associated supplies can tackle the job with efficiency. The low ground pressure and off-road capability of a rubber track crawler carrier allows the unit to reach remote jobsites while carrying the welding system required to finish the job.
PLM offers Panther carriers with a Weld Deck and slewing canopy from Vanguard Inc., a state-of-the-art package that includes all of the required components for welding and is mounted directly on the deck space. Courtney Construction recently used a Terramac RT9 crawler carrier with two tac welding units working on a 10- and
Potholing on a pipeline to identify existing lines before laying new ones is a critical step. Mounting a hydro- or vacuum excavation unit onto rubber track crawler carrier allows the end user to tackle this process across difficult ground conditions. Crawler carriers offer nimble movement on all terrain types, unlike wheeled semi-trucks that are sometimes used for this task.
“The utilization of the crawler carrier with the Vermeer Hydro Excavation unit has allowed our customers to have easier access in the rougher, more treacherous terrain,” says Ray Miller, sales manager of Vermeer Texas-Louisiana. “Since we combined these two units into one machine, it has allowed a safer, faster and more cost efficient exposure of the pipelines that has made an impact on their bottom line.”
A drilling unit can also be affixed to the back a crawler for investigation tasks.
With low ground pressure and high payload, outfitting a crawler carrier with a flatbed and crane makes the unit a superior tool for accomplishing support tasks, such as lifting a pipeline for coating and testing, heating coil rings and more. Some carriers, like the Panther models, can be outfitted with a knuckle-boom, telescopic crane with the capacity of lifting up to 900 lb. at a distance of 25 ft. The Panther carriers also feature a crane-chassis interlock feature, which improves safety for the operator and those within the vicinity of the carrier.
Restoring land to its original state is the last part of a job and reaching jobsites in need of reclamation has a reputation of being problematic. However, this important step is made easy with crawler carriers that are customized with hydro-seeders. Due to the flotation from its rubber tracks, a crawler carrier will leave a minimal footprint, while the hydroseeder attachment allows users to seed, fertilize and mulch in one simple process.
“The hydro-seeder allows the environmental crew to follow up the pipe crew and spray the seed mix for erosion control with very little foot print and less disturbance on the surrounding soil,” says Barry Casto, general manager of Shafer Equipment.” The crews can finish the job with little evidence they were ever there working.”
With these five core capabilities, crawler carriers offer pipeline contractors a wide range of options and versatility. From hauling people and supplies to supporting pipeline construction tasks, these tracked prime movers can be outfitted with just the right tool for the job.
The combination of a low ground pressure rating, rubber tracks and heavy payload allows crawler carriers to perform a multitude of rugged duties while maintaining traction on the various ground conditions found on pipeline rights of way. Manufacturers offer a wide range of models and custom options to suit whatever the project demands.
Dawn Rivera, marketing and communications manager at PipeLine Machinery International (PLM), and Erica Lopresti of InQuest Marketing, representing Terramac carriers, contributed to this article.