... 5 Tips for Pipelayer Operations - North American Energy Pipelines

5 Tips for Pipelayer Operations

Volvo pipelayer

Insights from Volvo CE on Handling Pipe

Handling pipe is a key element in ensuring the safe and successful completion of a pipeline installation project. Whether using a sideboom or excavator style pipelayer, there are several aspects that operators should keep in mind to ensure that your project goes smoothly.

North American Energy Pipelines spoke to longtime industry veteran John Duff, sales support — GPPE products for Volvo CE North America to get some helpful tips for operating a pipelayer on the jobsite. Volvo offers two dedicated pipelayers for the market, the PL4809E and PL3005E. To increase machine use, the company offers optional digging kits to convert them to excavators. Conversely, the company also offers a rotating pipelayer conversion kit that works with its EC140E and ECR145E hydraulic excavators.

The PL4809E and PL3005E offer 360-degree rotation and are capable of working on a 35-degree slope, for jobsites with steep terrain.

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Duff offered five tips to ensure you pipe handling operations run safely, smoothly and successfully.

Watch Your Load

Load management is critical to handling pipe on a jobsite. Whether offloading trucks or laying the pipe in the ground, it’s critical to maintain proper weight limits and ensure the machine avoids tipping over.

“Volvo pipelayers are equipped with a Load Management System (LMS) that constantly tells you the load status in real-time and signals when the limit has been reached,” Duff says. “What some other machines have is a Load Moment Indicator (LMI), which just tells you when you’ve reached the limit.”

Protect the Pipe

Outer coatings on energy pipelines are critical to corrosion control and ensuring integrity management. Therefore, it’s essential to protect the pipe from scrapes and dents during handling and installation.

“There are rubber pads on the front of the boom to protect the pipe,” Duff says. “There are also pads on right side of the boom, where you can tie it off, so you don’t need tag lines keep the pipe from swinging.”

Rightsizing the Machine

When sizing a pipelayer for a job, Duff says you need to consider two things: the slope you’re working on and how far our you need to take the load from the machine.

“Those are most critical,” he says. “Every pipelayer can lift a heavy load up close, but things change when you get farther away from the machine. Capacity-wise, you have to consider slope and the distance you want to pick the load.”

Duff adds that a front-facing pipelayer, such as the Volvo PL4809E and PL3005E, can take the place of a crane at a fabrication yard or for offloading trucks. Pipelayers offer added safety when it comes to tipping loads.

“For a crane, the safe working load is 50 percent of the tipping load,” Duff says. “For a pipelayer, it’s 75 percent of the tipping load.”

Staying Safe

In addition to protecting the pipe during operations, keeping the operator and those working around pipelayers safe is essential to every pipeline contractor. Duff says that reducing operator fatigue has a major impact on jobsite safety.

“With our machines, the operator is always facing the load,” Duff says. “They’re not having to look behind them or turning to see over something. On sidebooms, operators almost have to turn 180 degrees to see some things.”

Duff adds that proper training is another impact on safety.

“That’s another thing, our PL4809E and PL3005E are simple to operate,” he says. “They’re based on our excavator, so it’s pretty easy to find an operator and go to work. It’s also easy to train people on these machines and easy to operate.”

Maintaining the Machine

Regular maintenance is key to making sure your pipelayer runs safely and efficiently for its entire life cycle. Maintenance on the Volvo pipelayers is similar to an excavator, but much less greasing is required. The only added maintenance is the wire rope, and it is the same as any pipelayer. Volvo also prioritizes grouped filters and service points at ground level for easy maintenance access in machine design.


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