Retrofitting festoon cable system at onshore oil refinery in Texas

Altrad Sparrows was called out to a large refinery in Texas as their current electrical wiring system presented significant issues.

The electrification system for the refinery's overhead crane was an older style, comprising a brush bar conductor wire. Brushes touch the conductor wire to power the crane, but these exposed electrical wires present potential danger as the hoist moves back and forth.

Vulnerable to vibration, movement or touch, an older system like this is prone to electrical arcing with the potential to cause severe injury and even danger to life for workers at the refinery.

Already working to undertake lifting integrity inspections for the client, Altrad Sparrows was asked to step in and develop a solution that would improve safety and install a system that would last longer.

Assembling an experienced team comprising mechanics, overhead crane operators and riggers, we combined our electrical and mechanical knowledge to retrofit a festoon cable system for the client.

A safer alternative to the open wiring/brush system, the festoon cables are protected by an insulated PVC jacket, meaning no exposure to electricity for people or surrounding materials/equipment. This protection also ensures the system's longevity, guarding the cables against degradation caused by the refinery’s working environment.

Our experienced mechanics were able to make the minor alterations needed to the existing system to minimize downtime. In addition, the team used their in-depth knowledge to ensure that every detail of the system was considered, especially since this new system was to be retrofitted. This included changing the electrical routing and installing bespoke, galvanized brackets to ensure the system's safety and performance over time.

Retrofitting the system involved a week of planned work. With this week-long outage at the refinery, the team did have the advantage of working in a reasonably worker-free space throughout the job. But safety is still our top priority.

With our team working in man lifts under the crane, particular attention had to be paid to dropped objects. Team members and tools had to be correctly tied off and equipment properly fastened to mitigate the risk of injury. Lock Out, Tag Out was also an essential part of the safety plan to prevent accidental machinery start-ups.

The safety issue presented by the crane’s electrification system has been fixed. The client now has confidence in the system and, more importantly, in the safety of their workers.

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