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Sichelschmidt offshore forklifts master extreme conditions

25 August 2011

Ex-protected, low temperature and salt water resistant.

The harsh conditions on drilling platforms pose challenges not only for the workforce but also for the operational equipment needed such as forklift trucks. As well as the extreme cold, exposure to sea water causes rapid corrosion and the concentration of energy in the extracted gas is potentially explosive. All the components of any forklift used in this environment must therefore be fully compliant with ex-protection directives.

Sichelschmidt GmbH has extensive experience in the design and manufacture of forklift trucks for these demanding applications since the company delivered its first machine to the offshore sector in 1981 and major operators and suppliers of drilling rigs appreciate the company’s sturdy long life products. The latest location to benefit from Sichelschmidt’s expertise is a natural gas drilling platform north of the Russian Pacific island of Sakhalin.

In spite of the inhospitable environment - temperatures can plummet to -50 oC in winter - the region is booming due to the 700 million tonnes of crude oil and 2,500 billion m³ of natural gas deposits buried beneath the coast which covers an area of 20,000 km². Following very successful operation of a first Sichelschmidt for the Sakhalin extraction area two years ago, a second 1,600 kg capacity forklift has been delivered.

Its design was based on the very popular 4-wheel M700-4 EEX model widely used in the chemical sector, now tailored to meet the very specific requirements of offshore operation.

Sichelschmidt’s “offshore package” ensures that forklifts working in these extremely corrosive surroundings can withstand long term exposure to the elements without risk of downtime.

All coated components, for example, benefit from salt water resistant double pack paint applied to a specified depth. The pistons in all the hydraulic cylinders undergo chemical nickel and chromium plating and components such as hydraulic valves, hand brake and other operating controls are protected from spray water by special seals. The coatings applied to all connecting elements also prevent any occurrence of corrosion.

Powered by a high performance ex-protected encased 80V-ASM AC drive, the explosion proof features of the offshore forklifts are equally rigorous: the construction of all electrical and mechanical components rules out any risk of ignition in the potentially explosive atmosphere and the machine as a whole is fully compliant with the ATEX directives (Zone 1/Gas-Ex) which apply in the offshore industry.

Battery charging is a particularly challenging procedure on drilling platforms, as unlike in other industries there are no non-exzones where this can safely be carried out. Sichelschmidt has developed a charging box which protects the connector between the battery and the charging unit from the surrounding environment.

If the box is opened during charging the process is immediately interrupted, allowing safe battery charging in areas where the risk of explosion is present. The forklift is also designed to withstand the extreme climate as the cab and choice of lubricants are based on the specifications of Sichelschmidt’s cold store model. Following thorough testing and approval by the rig equipment supplier at Sichelschmidt’s facility in Wetter/Ruhr in Germany, the machine has now completed the 12,500km journey to its new home in the north west of Russia.

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