Rope access solutions provider Skyriders Access Specialists is continuing maintenance work at a petrochemicals company, in Mpumalanga, as part of a five-year service contract that extends to 2019.
Skyriders marketing manager Mike Zinn says the company is providing maintenance solutions for the petrochemicals plant’s tank farms, the power plants and various other facilities, thereby enhancing overall plant safety.
Zinn notes that using rope access enables the Skyriders team to immediately access and undertake maintenance work on the fire protection system and boilers. He states that this mode of access is faster and more cost effective than using the traditional access methods, which would likely require multiple service providers.
The cost of labour-intensive traditional access methods has proven to be vastly disproportionate to the scope of any given maintenance project, Zinn declares. “For example, a company may spend R1-million on a boiler inspection that should only cost R15 000 to R20 000, simply because of the amount of labour and time involved.”
Zinn notes that, typically, deluge system maintenance entails a four-person team abseiling around the petrochemicals tanks of the refinery to flush the network, unclog and replace deluge nozzles, and repair piping, in addi- tion to testing the system’s efficiency. Once completed, the team simply unties the ropes and rigging equipment.
He points out that work on the plant’s storage tanks is conducted in line with the refinery’s maintenance schedule. Further, while it is preferable that the tanks are off line when conducting maintenance procedures, the work is sometimes completed while the tanks are on line, thereby resulting in additional time savings.
Despite the notable advantages to using rope access, Zinn says one of the biggest challenges the com- pany has had is changing potential clients’ mindsets, as Skyriders must prove that it has a superior service offering.
He cites the stagnating economy as one of the core reasons for petrochemicals companies and other industrial companies shifting their perspective, however, as it results in cost-effective maintenance that does not interfere with throughput.
The strained economy resulting in budget cuts, has seen companies subsequently prioritising essential maintenance and putting upgrades on hold.
Finding appropriately skilled personnel who are able to conduct typical maintenance procedures for Skyriders clients is a challenge that the company is meticulous about. The company has a zero-fatality rate, which it maintains through strict safety regulations and adherence to the correct procedures. “We ensure that our technicians are well trained, the equipment is in order and senior staff are present on site, monitoring everything,” notes Zinn.
He highlights a steady uptake for rope access services in South Africa, and is confident that it will continue as the global economic climate remains unpredictable. “Operations will look for more cost-effective solutions for maintenance work. With rope access, the man on the rope is the man doing the work, which brings more benefit.”
Zinn notes that Skyriders’ yearly turnover increased last year, noting that, “the majority of the targets that we set for our business were met and, in a few cases, exceeded. Our focus going forward in 2017 will be to consolidate what we achieved during the latter stage of 2016.”
State-owned power utility Eskom remains a major client, with Skyriders enjoying an ongoing scope of work at the Medupi and Kusile power stations, as well as at the Ingula pumped-storage scheme.
“A trend that we are picking up on is new and old clients experimenting with our alternate access service offering . . . to assist with their maintenance budgets, which are being stretched further as cost-cutting and lacklustre economic growth take a bite,” Zinn explains.
He notes that the company is reviewing proposals to perform maintenance on an oxygen train and acid scrubbers.
Skyriders offers a variety of rope-access aided services to numerous industries, such as power generation, petrochemicals, mining, heavy industry and facilities management.
Further services include nondestructive testing and inspection, concrete inspection, maintenance and repairs, application of coating systems, working-at-height safety systems, welding, and confined- space rescue and standby.
“We look forward to the official launch of two new services in 2017,” Zinn reveals.