AME Inc. Skids Boilers in Close Quarters at Packaging Plant

Lifting and rigging specialist AME Inc. used a 300 ton capacity Hydra-Slide heavy track skidding system to position two 160,000-lb. boilers inside a packaging manufacturing facility at the base of the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, USA.

Evergreen Packaging Inc., which produces sustainable, eco-friendly paper and fibre-based products for the food, printing and publishing industries, awarded AME the task of receiving the boilers from a railcar via the onsite rail line, move them to their final position inside the mill and complete their installation by assembling the associated components, all whilst the Canton-based mill remained operational.

AME used a gantry system and a 500 ton capacity Grove GMK 7550 mobile crane to unload each boiler, rotate the units 90 degrees and set them onto the HT300 Hydra-Slide system. The 48 ft.-long, 12 ft.-wide, 16 ft.-high boilers were then skidded 200 ft. under the existing utility trusses and through an alley into the construction site, where a second gantry system lifted them onto their respective foundations.

The project presented a number of complications, as Jason Walker, senior project engineer at AME, explained. First, the boilers had to pass through an opening that was 14 ft. wide and 17 ft. high with clearances of only a few inches on each side and to the pipe gallery above.

Additionally, Walker said, “Continued use of the onsite rail lines had to be maintained to allow uninterrupted operation of the facility and the weather could not impact the already tight installation schedule either. The proximity of hazardous materials in chemical storage also necessitated that every crew member had to carry emergency evacuation respirators throughout the process.”

Robert Young, director of operations at Hydra-Slide, was present for the initial phase of the project, which covered the slide and placement of the first boiler. The HT300 was onsite for approximately one month, including a week for delivery and assembly, two weeks in use and a final week for disassembly and load out.

It took around three days to move each boiler from the railcars to the foundations—much faster than would have been possible with alternative methods. Walker said there were coordinated schedule adjustments due to ongoing operation of the mill, such as trains coming through the work area as well as steel and piping deliveries for other trades. However, even with such adjustments and leap-frogging the track, the 200 ft. was traversed in about six hours.

Young said: “This was an exciting project to take part in. AME engineered an impressive, detailed multi-lift plan involving gantries, the mobile crane, numerous material handlers and, of course, the HT300 skidding system—all working within an operating paper mill.”

Walker added: “It was great having Robert onsite. He was able to ensure that the system was working at optimum performance, whilst educating AME personnel on assembly and use, covering details that may have otherwise been overlooked. He also made sure any operational issues were addressed quickly from a technical standpoint; when working over rail lines time is constantly of the essence.”

Application of the HT300, suited to moving, loading or unloading all types of heavy loads where a rigid, load carrying track is required, presented an alternative to a number of other solutions considered by the AME team, including beams and dollies; plates and dollies; and multi-line transporters.

The system has a total height of only 180mm, saving jacking time and suiting it to application in confined spaces. The ratchet track design facilitates continuous movement and automatic resetting of push cylinders without personnel being nearby during a move. The track and skid shoes are fully bi-directional so loads can be moved in either direction by simply repositioning the push cylinders.

Walker said: “It was the only complete solution considering dimensional constraints; safety and engineering concerns; speed and control issues, while offering ease of use and functionality. We needed a solution that was pre-engineered, simple in design and effective, regardless of weather conditions.”

He added: “I wouldn’t say [the HT300] was purchased exclusively for this project, as we have been considering a system for some time, but it was the obvious choice in this instance. We intend to have the system for a very long time and it will replace the old practice of using beams and dollies.”


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