Experience

Resealing 17” diameter hydraulic cylinder rod at catalyst plant in Texas

Following an emergency outage a catalyst plant, our partner Motion Industries sought the expertise of Sparrows for one of their customers in Texas.

One of the plant’s rods, measuring 17” in diameter, should have ideally been resealed every 8-10 years. However, gaining access to complete this work was incredibly difficult, with the plant essentially having been built around the rod.

After 13 years, the rod was now causing issues. Unfortunately, an inspection to identify the problem would require a planned outage which the client could not immediately undertake. Therefore, the client needed a temporary solution to keep operations running until the client was ready for an outage.

With the client flying in strongbacks from their plant in Norway to support the rod on the rail, a Sparrows team of hydraulic technicians, mechanics, and riggers combined their expertise to reseal the rod onsite before returning to complete an inspection of the rod and barrel during the necessary, planned outage.

After the Sparrows team had undertaken to reseal the rod each time, the client completed the reinstallation themselves, which unfortunately led to the seals being pinched. Sparrows advised the client on this issue and recommended that they have spare kits at all times in case it happens again.

Resealing the rod the first time took two days. However, subsequent reseals came down to one day once the team became more familiar with the setup.

Sparrows returned during the planned outage to complete the inspection of the rod and barrel. It became clear that the bottom of the rod had severe wear, gouging and scratches. Undertaking root cause analysis, Sparrows put forward that the weight of the rod was digging down into the brass bushing, resulting in the damage and causing the rod to sink rather than sitting level. With the plant’s product sitting beneath the rod, any leakage could contaminate the product sitting below.

Sparrows identified two likely reasons for the rod sinking. Either the rail system that the rod was sitting on was wearing down, or the bearings/wheels on the filter press attached to the rod were wearing down. The ideal solution would be to take the rod out completely to repair it or replace it with a new one. However, until this was achievable, the Sparrows team continued to reseal the rod onsite.

Using temporary platforms for access, the team had to be aware of working at height. Wood slats were in place below the rod, disguising a five-storey drop. Therefore, the team needed not to remain vigilant while working on the temporary platforms. Potential hazards of working at height were communicated to the team during toolbox talks and throughout the job.

The next step for the client is to plan a more prolonged outage for more extensive repair work or replacement of the rod to be completed. In the meantime, Sparrows has advised the client to begin shimming the wheels to raise the rod.

Through Sparrows’ inspection of the rod and barrel, an ideal solution became apparent. However, the ideal solution is not always possible immediately. Therefore, the Sparrows team gave the client a temporary solution that would allow them to continue their operations and plan for an outage at a more convenient time.

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