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Volvo undertakes pipeline project in Argentina

Published by
World Pipelines,

Established in 1973 and employing some 1600 people, Santa Fe-based contractor, Milicic S.A. is taking on the US$20 million project of replacing a 66 km section of pipeline in central Argentina. With over 40 years of experience in road construction, civil engineering, infrastructure and public services projects, demolition and quarrying, the company is diversifying its multi-sector capabilities with its latest venture into the oil and gas sector.

The pipeline

Originally constructed in the 1960s, the pipeline stretches between the cities of Villa Mercedes in the Province of San Luis and runs northeast to Río Cuarto, the second most important city in the Province of Córdoba. Using a 12 in. pipe, this refined products pipeline will carry mixed ducts that will be used to transport different types of gas and oil. The trench will also serve as a conduit for utilities, such as fibre optic cable and other power lines.

This 66 km section forms part of a 1200 km pipeline, which traverses most of the country – from Luján de Cuyo (Mendoza) in the west to San Lorenzo (Santa Fe) to the east, about 20 km to the north of Rosario on the Rio Paraná. Pipeline owner, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF S.A.), operates a network of multiple pipelines for the transportation of refined products with a total length of 1801 km. It also operates 16 plants for the storage and distribution of refined products, with an operating capacity of 983 620 m3 and 1642 service stations. Already the country’s largest crude oil producer, YPF became the country’s leading gas producer in 2014 when it acquired the Argentine assets of US oil firm Apache Corporation.

The project

This renewal project began in October 2015 and is scheduled for completion in June 2016. The decision to purchase Volvo pipelayers was made last year, when the company purchased three PL3005D’s having had their first introduction to the Volvo rotating pipelayer at the INTERMAT show in Paris, with further exposure during the ‘Volvo Days’ customer event held in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The PL3005D’s were delivered in September last year.

There are around 50 Volvo machines, excluding welding units, and 180 people engaged on the site working 10 hrs/d. Thanks to their exclusive features, the PL3005D’s have plenty of opportunities to show their versatility. One unit is used for unloading pipes, while another is working with the welding crew and on tie-ins, and the third machine is engaged in lowering-in operations, alongside a Russian sideboom.


Project Manager, Marcelo Arias, is very pleased with the PL3005D’s performance. “Compared to the sideboom, the rotating pipelayer is much more versatile and able to jump into different job applications in the field,” he said.

Unloading operations

For pipe unloading operations, the PL3005D can unload and uses its unique, 360o upper structure swing capability to swing and stack the pipes without moving the undercarriage, eliminating damage to underfoot conditions. The higher hook height combined with the boom extension also provides an advantage when it comes to stacking and tie-in operations. For welding operations, the unique, hydro-mechanical swing lock enables the upper structure to lock, so the pipe can be secured until clamped. The upper structure can be locked at any 10o position around the swing ring, enabling the machine to achieve the optimum position. For tie-ins, the welding crew appreciates the machine’s smooth hydraulics, enabling the PL3005D to move the hook with or without load, with millimetre precision.

Additionally, operators are impressed with the cab’s ROPS structure, climate control capabilities and the low noise level compared to the sidebooms. All of these features contribute to reduced operator fatigue during a 10 hour shift.

When lowering-in, the PL3005D works in harmony with the sideboom. The Volvo machine’s superior lift capability delivers unrivalled stability and gives the operator full control, thanks to the load management system (LMS). The straight travel pedal function makes it easy to follow the trench, enabling the operator to focus on the winch. By swinging the upper structure slightly to the front, the operator has a clear view of the job site including the trench, hook/cradle and the pipelayer. If needed, the operator can activate the hydraulic cab raiser for even better visibility.

Milicic S.A has use for excavators in all its other sectors of activity and Marcelo is pleased with the conversion possibility from pipelayer to excavator, seeing this as a real bonus. “If there are no pipeline projects, the machines can be converted and sent out to whatever excavation job requires them.” This ability to have maximum machine utilisation reduces the cost of ownership. With the machine’s hydraulics matched for both pipelayer and excavation applications, there is no loss of power in either configuration.

The Volvo dealer for the Region, Escandinavia Del Plata S.A. continues to support the machines and has updated a Volvo excavator simulator with the latest pipelayer software. The simulator was used for operator training prior to the machine delivery. Designed around a standard Volvo excavator, operators familiar with excavators can make the transition to the rotating pipelayer very quickly.

Edited from source by Stephanie Roker

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