In a first for rope-access specialist Skyriders, ultra-high-pressure blasting was used to systematically remove a layer of cementitious fireproofing and insulating material from a 19-m diameter, 22-m high spherical gas storage tank at a major petrochemical producer in Mpumalanga.

The complete scope of work for Skyriders was to remove the deluge fire sprinkler and piping system before the cementitious fireproofing insulation material could be accessed from the top of the structure downwards, says marketing manager Mike Zinn.

“The pressurised gas storage tank requires statutory inspection and testing every couple of years, in addition to replacing the fireproofing and insulating material to ensure the ongoing integrity of the structure. Skyriders was tasked to devise a safe and efficient means of achieving this, in order to allow for third-party contractors to carry out their own scope of work,” he says.

An eight-person team from Skyriders took 18 days to complete the project, at the end of which the deluge fire sprinkler and piping system had to be put back in place. The major challenge was carrying out high-pressure blasting at height – hence the process was monitored closely by the client and its safety team.

Zinn reveals that, during a similar earlier project, the client had opted for scaffolding as a means of accessing the tank. However, the project took two months to complete, with Skyriders’ approach reducing the downtime dramatically.

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