Slick operations in Saudi

The first Volvo Construction Equipment rotating pipelayer to get to work in Saudi Arabia is helping to build a pipeline extension through the vast Khurais oilfield.
Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s second largest oil reserves, spread over approximately 100 major oil and gas fields. The Khurais Megaproject is a recent addition to the Kingdom’s vast production facilities, comprising of the Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij oilfields. The project is coordinated by Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company in terms of production, and is set to raise Saudi Arabia’s already enormous oilfield capacity from 11.3 million to 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd).
The largest of these fields, the Khurais oilfield, covers an area of 2,890km2 and measures 127km in length. It is situated approximately 250km southwest of Dhahran and 150km northeast of the capital Riyadh.
Development of a new pipeline extension through the Khurais field is now underway, supporting Saudi Aramco in maintaining a reliable supply of gas to meet the demands of domestic customers in the central and western regions of the Kingdom.
A PL4608 rotating pipelayer from Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) – the first machine of its kind to get to work in the region – is being used to ensure the project runs smoothly. The pipeline extension will cover a distance of 150km, and is scheduled to take 27 months to complete. The PL4608 will lay 56 inch pipe, starting at the east-west pumping station number one and running to pumping station number three.

A perfect match

Working in the extreme conditions of the Arabian Desert presents several unavoidable challenges. Summer temperatures average around 45°C, and highs of 54°C are often recorded. Regular sandstorms also prove problematic for the equipment working on the project. Winter brings a different challenge – although the temperature seldom falls below 0°C, the almost total lack of humidity and the high wind-chill factor can make it feel incredibly cold. The PL4608, however, has been built to withstand these extremes, ensuring a high quality performance in all conditions.
This machine is also suited to the type of pipe used on the project – its hydraulically variable undercarriage, which expands by 500 mm (19.6 inch), provides a highly stable operating platform when working with 56 inch pipe.
In difficult conditions, the best-in-class 80t tipping capacity and the on-board Load Management System (LMS) ensure the operator is always aware of which loads they can safely lift. Similarly, the hydraulically elevating cab is appreciated by operators as it not only provides excellent visibility into the trench and improved lateral visibility to other machines on the line, it also offers a better view of personnel on the ground – an important site safety consideration.
“We are proud to be the first pipeline contractor in Saudi Arabia to have a Volvo pipelayer in our fleet,” commented Mr. Yousef Abu Gafra, manager of equipment operations at Gulf Consolidated Contractors Co. (GCC), the contractor for this project. “No competitor machine is capable of matching the Volvo’s features and performance in terms of safety, operator visibility, stability and the length of the boom.”
Safety first
Safety is a key consideration at the site. There are approximately 900 people working on the project with a total of 330 pieces of equipment, including fully and semi-automatic pipe welding machines. Last month, GCC announced that two million man hours had been achieved without any lost time due to incidents. The PL4608 is working alongside traditional sideboom pipelayers. It is designed to work safely next to a variety of machines, including crawler cranes, which are often used in this type of operation.
“There is no doubt that the PL4608 is a durable and reliable machine,” continued Mr. Yousef Abu Gafra. “Based on its previous performance and the feedback from our people at this site, we are going to increase the amount of these Volvo machines on our future projects.”
GCC was founded in 2006. Its main activities are in industrial plants and pipeline construction, serving many of the industry’s key clients, including Saudi Aramco.
Machine support for the project is provided by local Volvo CE dealer FAMCO, operating from five locations across the Kingdom and headquartered in Jeddah. Already known in the UAE for the high level of customer service and expert advice it provides, FAMCO’s presence in Saudi Arabia is a result of the 2011 acquisition of Al-Rehab Equipment & Machinery Company, at the time the exclusive distributor for Volvo Construction Equipment in the Kingdom. FAMCO is also the regional distributor for Volvo Trucks and Volvo Buses.