Graycor Industrial Constructors has successfully completed an eight-month project to upgrade components of a coke battery at a leading steelmaking facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana. Completed last May, the project included demolishing and replacing Coke Battery No. 1’s top paving refractories in 82 ovens including tie rods, lintel and parapet plates, stand pipes, charge holes and various rail systems. These ovens are critical to the production of coke, an ingredient in the steelmaking process that is produced when impurities are removed from coal by superheating it for many hours.
In addition to work on the coke ovens, Graycor also removed and replaced the collector main and cross-overs (four of each) including the existing flare stacks and miscellaneous walkways, platforms, piping systems and instrumentation. The project scope also included performing structural repairs and revisions to the battery’s north end structure, as well as installing a new pump/electrical room which consisted of demolishing existing concrete, excavating, placing new concrete and installing structural steel, masonry and doors.
The upgrades were designed to replace key components of the steelmaker’s 50-year-old coke battery. The battery was rebuilt in the 1980s; however, the lifecycle of many of the battery’s vital components had come to an end, and the replacements Graycor made during the project were necessary for the facility to continue production.
“Innovations in both the construction process and use of materials were key factors in the success of this challenging project, says Pat Kouns, Construction Manager, Graycor Industrial. “Sections of the collector main were preassembled at Graycor’s fabrication shop [in Portage, IN], which allowed for faster installation and higher quality in the craftsmanship of the final product,” he adds. Once these components were completed in the shop, the four modules were transported to the plant and erected in place with all the preassembled piping attached. This process allowed for the rapid field installation required to meet the limited time frame of the outage. On this project, old refractory brick in the coke ovens-designed to protect against extremely high temperatures-were replaced by insulating and dense castable. “These products were chosen because they have higher thermal properties than brick, are faster to install and are more economical to maintain,” Kouns adds.
The project was divided in two phases, each of which presented its own set of challenges. The first stage brought several coordination challenges to the construction process since the work was performed during plant operations. This included execution of work around the different travel/hauler coke cars which required carefully crafted safety work plans to keep the plant in operation and ensure the safety of Graycor’s construction teams.
The second stage of the project began with the shutdown of battery operations, which posed a new set of challenges. During this “hot-idle” time, the construction manpower was doubled, and the working hours were extended to include coverage for 24 hours each day. At the project’s peak, 285 Graycor workers were on site. Throughout this phase, work was carefully coordinated to keep craft personnel performing tasks on the battery top safe while crane activities were conducted above. During this 30-day outage, Graycor consumed about 80,000 man-hours, all while maintaining a clean safety record with no recordable incidents. “The outage was performed during one of the worst winter’s Northwest Indiana has experienced in decades, with temperatures reaching as cold as negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so having no recordable incidents was an outstanding feat,” says Kouns.
Despite the challenges faced on this project, the Graycor team was able to complete the outage work ahead of schedule and under budget. In addition, the time that was saved enabled the steelmaker to start production at the plant ahead of its initial plan and allocate funds saved for future capital projects and improvements to its other facilities located along the lakefront.
“We take great pride in projects such as these that will benefit our clients’ businesses for many decades to come,” says Sam Potter, President of Graycor Industrial Constructors. “Completing a challenging project under budget and ahead of schedule speaks to how well our teams operate together, and with that kind of success we really can’t ask for anything more.”