M&D Construction Group, a leading South African contracting company, has diversified into the oil and gas (O&G) infrastructure market.

The company’s successful entry into this highly-regulated industry bears testament to its unwavering commitment to quality, safety, health and the ISO 3834 standard.

“We are entering new markets based on our stellar track record in the civil-engineering construction and building industries where we have earned a reputation for being a ‘disruptor’ by constantly innovating and testing the limitations of traditional boundaries. This approach has also been a major driver of the growth of our Pipelines Division since its inception in 2008. Our diversification into the O&G market complements this strategic operation and is a natural step forward for the group,” Rukesh Raghubir, chief-executive officer of M&D Construction Group, says.

The company has had the opportunity to demonstrate the extent of its contracting skills and capabilities in the O&G sector while working on 2 projects that entails upgrading fire-protection systems at Transnet Pipelines petroleum product-storage facilities in Kroonstad, Free State and Alrode, Gauteng.

Fire-protection systems are a critical component of the health and safety systems at these operations. Therefore, numerous other product-storage facilities and depots throughout the country are undergoing similar upgrades. This is to enable Transnet Pipelines to achieve its strategic business objective of providing and maintaining world-class infrastructure.

Kroonstad Depot

The upgrades that are being undertaken at Transnet Pipeline’s petroleum product-storage facility in Kroonstad are multidisciplinary in nature and encompass civil, structural, building, mechanical engineering and electrical instrumentation (E&I) control works.

A major component of the work scope entails constructing a new pumping station that will be fed by a new bolted-steel water-storage tank with a capacity of 910 000 litres. M&D Construction Group’s site engineer, Marius Bierman, says that extensive foundation work was required before the contracting team could commence building the main structure.

“We had to first construct a 4,2 m-high retaining wall to create a level site for the pump house and water tank. This was followed by the compaction of more than 4 m of fill material and then the installation of 43 friction-driven piles by Geopile Africa, the geotechnical contractor, to complete the foundation,” Bierman says.

Technical procurement of the equipment, including the tanks and pumps, housed within the pumping station is also an intense process.

The 744 kW pumps are powered by two 21 litre W12 diesel engines that provide the necessary capacity to deliver cooling water and foam-fire suppressant from the foam-storage and foam-proportioning system to the various assets in the depot via a new pipe network.

This contract requires that M&D Construction Group work in a hazardous and explosive environment that is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year – even during the annual construction industry shutdown period.

“Work has to be carefully coordinated with the daily Transnet Pipeline operations at the terminal. Considering the many ‘unknowns’ on this construction site, upfront planning can be an extremely complex undertaking, especially when we do large concrete pours and receive sizeable deliveries of construction materials and equipment,” Simon Mason-Gordon, M&D Construction Group’s site agent, says.

This has also meant that the contracting team can only refit 4 existing hydrocarbon tanks within set intervals allocated for this component of the project to avoid disrupting operations at the facility. These tanks, each with their own surface cooling water and apex cooling water supply, are taken offline systematically one at a time and made safe by removing any residual hydrocarbon product and gas by Transnet Pipelines before M&D Construction Group can commence working on them.

“Timing is critical on this aspect of the works programme,” Dave Slatter, M&D Construction Group’s construction manager, says. “Once we have received a certificate from our client, we are able to commence with the refitting of the tanks. We first remove all of the existing pipes and then install the new pipework and equipment, which includes a new foam top pourer that can discharge fire suppressant foam directly into the top of the tanks.”

To avoid delays, the pipe sections are cut to length offsite working to strict quality control procedures and  then delivered to site where they are installed by the contracting team.

Other end-of-line equipment, located at strategic points of the petroleum product-storage area, includes fire monitors, hydrants, water-deluge sprayers and bund-foam pourers. They are fed by a network of new pipelines that is connected to the valve bank that is situated at the pump house.

Instrelect will install the new state-of-the-art E&I control system that is able to activate control valves in the valve banks by a simple push of a button.

Valued at R78-million, this ECC NEC3 Option B re-measureable contract is due for completion in July 2019.

Alrode Depot

Meanwhile, M&D Construction Group mobilised to the Alrode site in January this year to commence working on this R129-million project.

Scheduled for completion in February 2020, the project is similar in nature to the upgrade being undertaken by M&D Construction Group at the Kroonstad facility, although 8 tanks will be repaired as opposed to 4.

Working within a bustling built-up area such as Alrode will also present its share of challenges for the contracting team.

However, the many lessons learnt and important experience gained at Kroonstad, places M&D Construction Group in very good stead on this project. This is on the back of the excellent dynamics that have already been established between the existing contracting team, consulting engineer and client.

Enterprise Development

“Transnet supports the Supplier Development Programme promoted by the Department of Public Enterprises of the Government of South Africa. In response to this requirement, M&D partnered with Independent Minds 107, which was intimately involved in both projects from tender stage to construction. This partnership is in line with M&D’s vision of ‘Growing a Great Company with Great People and Great Partnerships’, as well as one of our core values and motto, ‘Khula Nathi’, meaning ‘Grow with Us’,” Raghubir says.

“We are proud to be associated with this subsidiary of one of the country’s leading state-owned entities. As the principal operator of South Africa’s fuel pipeline system, Transnet Pipelines is the custodian of more than 3 000 km of pipelines, as well as numerous petroleum storage facilities. Our work for Transnet Pipelines will definitely promote and substantiate the group’s experience as it continues to grow into this new market segment.”