E-Crane in the Press: Scrap Metal Monsters
Galloo-Gent is believed to be the only company in the world using two massive 430-tonne E-Cranes to sort and load scrap metal, writes Steven Vale.
With subsidiaries in France and the Netherlands, an increasing proportion of the 1.7 million tonnes of scrap metal handled each year by the Galloo Recycling Group ends up in Belgium for export. Operating from a 10-hectare terminal in the port of Ghent, this site handles mainly ferrous metals and is visited by as many as 150 trucks a day. Most of the inward trucks carry waste from local manufacturing operations, but the site also processes a significant volume of metal arisings from the demolition sector and the quay is also host to ship dismantling work. Vessels from other Galloo sites also deposit material at the terminal, their holds full of scrap metal. We visited this site back in 2009 to see the first monster scrap handler in action, built by Belgium-based Indusign/E-Crane. This 437-tonne 2000 Series machine has now clocked up nearly 11,000 hours. Since our last visit the site’s pair of Komatsu WA500 wheel loaders have been replaced by Volvos – namely an L220G and an L250G model. The same changeover has occurred at all 58 Galloo Group sites, which together run close to 30 Volvo wheel loaders. All are part-exchanged for new ones after 8000 hours. Some things have not changed though, such as the reliance on Liebherr for hydraulic excavators, all of which notch up 1800 to 2000 hours a year.
The original scrap metal monster allowed Galloo to keep pace with increasing volumes, but as more and more metal arrived on site even this was struggling, so towards the end of 2012 Galloo placed an order for a second unit. In addition to unloading an average of three barges a week, once a month the two gangly giants work side by side at Ghent to fill the hold of a 30,000- to 40,000-tonne deep-sea vessel. The Galloo Group has eight E-Cranes and, after 11 years on site in Ghent, a 2003-machine used to fill the static shear is still going strong after over 48,000 hours. It’s is not the oldest E-Crane in the group though, the honour going to a tracked 1500 Series machine at company headquarters at Menen, Belgium, which during the past 25 years has done over 80,000 hours of shredder feeding work.
The E in E-Crane stands for Equilibrium, also referred to as a Balance Crane. The design is based on a parallelogram-style boom that provides a direct mechanical connection between the rear counterweight and the dipper. There are no steel winches or cables. Instead, gravity does much of the heavy work. Aside from two hefty main boom lift rams, there are no hydraulic cylinders. Instead, when the stick is raised or lowered the operator is actually altering the angle of two hydraulic cylinders on the rear 118-tonne counterweight. There are many advantages of this technique, one of which is that unlike most commonly-used harbour cranes, it is possible to push the grab down into the heap to ensure it is completely filled. Another important benefit is that it allows a relatively small engine to be fitted, power to the upper-structure of the largest E-Cranes in Europe coming from a very modest 600kW (800hp) electric motor, while down below a 110kW (150hp) electric motor takes care of the running gear.
Just like the first machine, the second 2000 Series E-Crane reaches to 38 metres, but Galloo initially enquired into the cost of a longer 48m boom. Extending the arm by 10m would have led to a lot of engineering and design work, which would have increased the already hefty price of the 2000 Series E-Crane (anywhere between €2 to €3.5 million) by another €600,000. So they decided to stick with the standard 38m version.The 38m boom is ideal for reaching across and down to pick up material tipped from lorry skips and stockpiling scrap to a height of 20m. This ensures a big enough heap is ready to completely load one of the larger vessels. The E-cranes are capable of stockpiling even higher, but 20m is the maximum allowed by the port authorities, hence the initial enquiry for a longer version to enable the stockpile to be made even wider. When they bought the first machine it was assumed the 12cu.m grab would lift around 15 tonnes at a time. However, the grab never fully closes and actually lifts around 15 cubic metres, the equivalent of 20 to 25 tonnes. Despite lifting an extra three cubic metres of metal the E-Crane had no trouble at all in the looser material, but a slightly smaller grab would have been a better option in the denser shredded metal. With this in mind, in addition to taking a 12cu.m grab for their second machine, Galloo also bought a pair of 8cu.m grabs. In this application these will lift 15 to 20 tonnes at a time and attachment swap-over times are in the region of 45 minutes.
Most of the dozen or so E-Cranes that are made each year are destined for customers in North America and Europe, and about half of the machines are intended for a long life working in scrap yards. As far as we are aware, Galloo-Gent is the only company in the world using two 2000 Series E-Cranes to load scrap metal. Galloo reckons it cannot be beaten when it comes to speed of loading. The 12cu.m grab typically allows each machine to load 3500t in an eight-hour shift, but typically one of the E-Cranes will be working with the smaller grab, providing a combined rate of 6000t per shift. “We can load 40,000 tonnes in just 48 and a maximum of 50 hours,” says technical manager Bart Mentzij. “No-one else can get anywhere near this.”
Ghent currently handles more scrap metal than any other port in Belgium, mainly because of increased competition for scrap exports from several other new players in the port. Five years ago, when Galloo was the only scrap metal exporter in the port, their volumes were around the 700,000-tonne mark. Today, around 1.5 million tonnes of scrap metal are brought into Ghent each year, of which Galloo currently accounts for 850,000 tonnes. The two E-Cranes are presently running at about 70 to 75% of capacity and while Galloo is not expecting any significant change in volumes over the next couple of years, workloads are expected to increase within three to five years. The firm believes some restructuring will have taken place to bring some form of normality to the market, when they will be looking to capitalise and pile on the hours with the two E-Cranes.
General manager Bernard Beyne says while demand for new steel is stable in Europe, it is increasing in nearly all other areas of the world. “Traditional steel making in Europe is on the decline and there is currently an over-production of scrap metal,” he says. Five years ago, 25% of the scrap metal handled by the Galloo Group each year was exported via Ghent. Today, the figure is nearer to 50%, and Bernard confidently expects to export more and more of the group’s scrap metal to destinations such as Turkey, India and China. In the meantime, while one 2000 Series E-Crane is not enough for their requirements, two currently provide them with a bit of over-capacity. “But when the market does take off we will be ready for it,” explained Bernard.
Most of the scrap metal brought to Ghent is sourced from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, but with 18 sites in France, this country is increasing in importance, and the Galloo Group has been busy buying up as many scrap metal businesses as possible in Paris. The reason is simple. Currently, the canal linking the French capital with Belgium is only deep enough to handle vessels carrying 1000 tonnes at a time. But the waterway is currently being dredged, and when finished sometime 2018/2020, the water highway will cater for 4000t vessels. When the two E-Cranes do eventually work nearer to their full capacity their combined efforts should easily be capable of loading a million tonnes a year.
When you consider all material is handled twice, this will put the capacity of the two giant scrap handlers actually nearer the two million tonne mark. But even more is possible and Bernard reckons experience with the two machines confirms they are capable of loading 15,000t of scrap every 24 hours. The equivalent of 75,000t during a five-day week, the company operates for 40 weeks a year so on paper the two machines are capable of handling three million tonnes a year.
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