Local fabrication company ERD Fab, a division of Gauteng-based structural steel product manufacturer Structa Group has been awarded the maintenance service contract for South African energy and chemicals group Sasol’s Site 1, as well as Sasol Polymers, in June, for the third consecutive year, ERD Fab GM Rudi Venter tells Engineering News.
“The contract entails maintenance and service of the pressure vessels, storage tanks, heat exchangers and pipes according to Sasol’s specifications,” Venter says.
The company also renders boiler- making and welding maintenance service in accordance with a unit rate contract to subsidiaries Sasol Chemical Industries, Sasol Polymers, National Petroleum Refinery (Natref) and Sasol Technology.
ERD Fab, situated in Sasolburg, has on-site workshops on the Sasol Midland Site, Sasol 1 Site and in the Sasolburg light industrial area, in the Free State.
Demand for ERD Fab services is increasing, as the Sasol 1 Site has been in existence and in production for more than 25 years, while more Sasol sectors and sites are starting to contract the company’s services, thereby increasing the workforce and the value of the contract, Venter notes.
“The maintenance workforce has increased by 5% since the contract started,” he says, adding that, as the plant drives 24-hour production, this results in continuous wear and tear and the need for ongoing maintenance.
Other projects include the completion of a heat-exchanger re-tubing project in July for Sasol Polymers at its vinyl chloride monomer plant, in Sasolburg, as well as a maintenance project to refit piping at Sasol’s ATR plant on Sasol 1 Site. ERD Fab has successfully tendered on a Natref tank refurbishment project to be completed early in 2015, Venter says.
Nevertheless, the company faces several everyday challenges in providing maintenance, Venter notes, highlighting the safety factor, as significant safety procedures need to be adhered to during maintenance at the plant.
ERD Fab has to adhere to a minimum recordable case rate (RCR) – a standard international measure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, Venter says, warning that a maintenance contract can be lost on the basis of an unacceptable RCR.
“In light of this, it remains imperative that the company responsible for the maintenance must provide superior quality and standards,” Venter asserts, noting that ERD Fab has a safety officer who conducts risk assessments before the start of each maintenance task to ensure the implementation of measures that should prevent near-miss cases, incidents or and especially accidents.
The company’s safety approach also includes safety training every morning before the teams start work to ensure that human behaviour is positively influenced towards a safer work environment, Venter adds.
ERD Fab uses three classifications of priority maintenance management: P1, which occurs when a plant experiences an unplanned or emergency shutdown; P2, which concerns less serious maintenance and prefabricated equipment that can be stored for longer periods; and P3, which is preventative maintenance and equipment that can be fabricated over an extensive period for future shutdowns. Venter mentioned that a large portion of the company’s maintenance services currently performed comprise P1 demands.
Nevertheless, ERD Fab completed and delivered P3 prefabricated equipment for a planned shutdown in May 2015, he adds.
Venter also notes that development of newer technologies and fabrication products is improving, thereby extending the product or equipment’s life cycle.
ERD Fab can use an enhanced type of material that is more competitive in pricing, user-friendly, and which increases the durability of the equipment, he says.
While Venter believes maintenance demand will not decrease in the short term, he predicts a demand decrease in the next five to ten years, as enhanced technologies and materials are being implemented and installed, while companies are considering better maintenance strategies.