Maintenance and refurbishment services company GM Boiler plans to complete a boiler maintenance project at a local prison, in Johannesburg, by December this year.
As part of government’s 36-month facility inspection programme, GM Boiler MD Gregory Morgan says the project includes the overhauling of the valves, pressure-vessel stripping and weld exposure, stocker repair, as well as approved inspection authority (AIA), magnetic particle inspection (MPI) and ultrasonic testing (UT) inspections.
“The valve overhauling includes the stripping of the valves to see if there are any leaks and cracks. We also check if the valves can maintain the pressure they are meant to maintain. We then clean the valves and reassemble them, after which they are inspected again and signed off to operating specifications.”
The law declares pressure vessel stripping and weld exposure to be critical sections. Therefore, the company strips the boiler completely and cleans the areas on the pressure vessel required by law. Thereafter, MPI and UT is performed to check for cracks and failures and if any repairs need to be done.
Morgan explains that a stocker needs to operate at a certain speed and on a straight line without any broken links. “If the stocker runs too fast, it means the coal is not burning. If the stocker runs too slow, it can damage the stocker. What we check is whether the links are broken . . . If the stocker is not working, we then replace the rods, the links and the carboflack box.”
Moreover, Morgan mentions that the MPI, and AIA and UT inspections are done in collaboration with external parties. “The external party ensures that we adhere to the regulation, especially when it comes to pressure vessels.”
Meanwhile, Morgan mentions that the market is oversaturated with inexperienced service providers, who do not adhere to the regulations of the law. The inexperience of these providers adds to the noncompliance and insufficient maintaince strategies. He adds that regulations are stricter, but end-users are not informed on these regulations. “These inexperienced service providers do not advise or service end-users correctly when it comes to applying these regulations. And because end-users do not see the importance of the pressure vessel they insist on quick fixes and, that maintenance of the vessel should be done in unrealistic timelines, which results in shoddy work.”
He says outdated and ageing pressure vessels are having a major impact on the maintenance sector, how vessels are maintained requires expertise and innovative approaches. “Maintaining old pressure vessels is still good business and it is what we as maintenance experts thrive on. What needs to be focused on more is innovative ways of maintenance. We are not challenged by the oldness of the vessel as it is our bread and butter but rather changing the attitude of the end-user is what has an impact on compliance to regulations.”
The undermaintained vessels and end-users’ disregard for the importance of the pressure vessel has a great impact on the maintenance sector. Having end-users see maintenance providers as partners in ensuring efficient production is the challenge faced, as there have not been many new pressure vessels introduced to the market. “Compliance of pressure vessels is made difficult owing to inspections and documentation not being kept up-to-date.This makes it difficult to know when the boiler has exceeded its life span and if it should be scrapped.”
Morgan concludes by noting that, as a preventive maintenance tool, the boiler maintenance and refurbishment service helps clients to detect equipment failure, possible production stoppages and to prevent major losses and injury or fatalities from occurring. It also guarantees that pressure vessels adhere to government regulatory requirements.