better together stories

Liefkenshoek rail tunnel

Pioneering in underwater tunnel support

A new rail tunnel is being constructed under the River Scheldt to provide additional access to the increasing cargo traffic in and out of the port of Antwerp (Belgium). Once completed in 2014, the tunnel will be a historic first, as it is extremely close to the bed of the Kanaaldok port terminal. Since pushing the limits of tunnel construction means deploying the best technology available, Bekaert was glad to contribute to this challenging project.

Steel fiber reinforced concrete for safety

This particular tunnel called for the use of a huge concrete slab as protection during the drilling process. According to Locobouw1 , the main contractor, the concrete ‘floor’ will prevent overpressure from escaping to the surface, which could otherwise cause a collapse. In addition, it will protect the tunnel from damage when ships anchor in the port waters above.

To construct this 2 meters thick, 32 meters wide and 270 meters long fiber reinforced concrete slab, Bekaert offered an integrated solution with at its core 600 tons of Dramix® steel fibers and all the dosage equipment to cast it according to specifications and within a tight timeframe.

Short timeframe for a challenging job

Since no reinforcement cages or mesh could be used and the concrete slab had to be one solid, monolithic structure, ensuring a continuous flow of concrete during the casting process was crucial to success. Timing was another important issue: traffic at this location in the Antwerp port could only be halted temporarily. So, the casting had to be completed in a minimum of time.

Bekaert lives up to high standards

Locobouw selected Bekaert and its Dramix® steel fibers based on strenuous testing at the technical university of Braunschweig (Germany). We were the only supplier of steel fiber to live up to the high standards set for this challenging project. Bekaert was also the only bidder capable of providing the right kind and numbers of automatic dosage equipment to ensure a continuous flow of steel reinforced concrete.

1 Temporary association of MBG, CEI De Meyer, VINCI Construction Grands Projects and Wayss & Freytag

Furthermore, DCN Diving, the company in charge of the underwater activities, preferred to work with steel fiber reinforced concrete as it significantly increases operating speed and safety compared to reinforcement cages.

Our totally integrated solution guaranteed the automatic lowest possible dosage of the steel fibers, and a perfect spread in the concrete mixture as a result. Our 24h technical assistance and the availability of spare parts and backup personnel were key to rounding off the project on time and in conformity with the high quality standards. Bekaert also advised on adjusting the concrete pumps to ensure smooth pumping.

Putting our knowhow to future use

From left to right: Arnold Roos (Locobouw), Geert Bettens (Bekaert) and Wim Vriens (DCN Diving)

“Reliability is key in the underwater pumping of steel fiber reinforced concrete. Our divers need to be sure that the product is easily pumpable and does not cause lump formation. That is why we prefer the glued concept of Dramix®”. Wim Vriens, Director of Operations, DCN Diving

Our experience with the long-distance pumping of steel fiber reinforced concrete in the Liefkenshoek rail tunnel project was essential in the success of another major project in tunnel construction, this time in the rail link with Brussels Airport (Belgium).

In the near future, we will again partner up with DCN for a concrete casting project at an underwater location in Utrecht (the Netherlands), once more putting into practice our better together philosophy.


Pushing pressure limits to maximize oil output

The days of ‘easy oil’ are over. As conventional oil reserves are running dry, oil companies need to invest in new technology that enables them to operate in seemingly inaccessible environments, Shell and Bekaert partnered to test Bekaert’s steel cord based pipe reinforcement solution which would allow Shell to push pressure limits and go farther.

Exploring new materials for high pressure performance

Shell was looking for an alternative pipe solution that could withstand pressures of up to 300 bar while offering excellent corrosion protection. This type of pipe was required to subtract oil by water injection, whereby water is injected under high pressure into the reservoir to sweep the remaining oil from the well. Existing solutions like traditional steel pipes or aramid-reinforced thermoplastic pipes fell short of meeting these needs.

When Frans Janssen, Subject Matter Expert Polymers and Composites at Shell Global Solutions, found out about Bekaert’s Armofor® steel cord reinforced composite strips, he was interested to test it. Bekaert’s solution combines the advantages of a light-weight material (as compared to steel strips and wire) which enables flexible design and easy installment with high corrosion resistance. In addition it offers the high pressure performance Shell needed thanks to the particular performance of steel cords.


Teaming up for better (together) results

As Shell learned that Bekaert was an expert in steel cord corrosion protection research, the Shell team decided to set up a joint development project. Purpose of the project was to test the corrosion protection mechanism of the steel cord reinforced thermoplastic strips with zinc coated steel cord, a combination which is new to the industry and for which there are no standard test results available. The research results had to reveal the amount of zinc needed to make sure that the solution warrants a lifespan of 20 years, which is critical to oil field operators.

Frans Janssen: “Shell was actively involved in defining the parameters of the test environment as these had to correspond with field conditions (temperature, pressure, exposure to CO2, O2, H2S, water and hydrocarbons), whereas Bekaert designed the experimental set-up, provided the required measurement techniques and developed the composite strip samples. Bringing in these complementary competencies really speeded up the process."

Based on the research results Bekaert developed an Armofor® corrosion model. This cleared the way for the first onshore field trial in Oman in March 2010. This trial was successfully executed, which opened up opportunities for offshore testing.

Frans Janssen: “On a personal level there was a very good ‘rapport’ between team members and we are particularly appreciative of Bekaert’s professionalism throughout the project, which was demonstrated by a fast response time, their flexibility in making resources available and high quality project management.”


From left to right: Frans Janssen (Shell Global Solutions) and Philippe Scheerlinck (Bekaert) at Shell Technology Centre in Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

Expanding the field

Encouraged by the results of the first research project, Shell asked Bekaert to take the lead in an additional test – which is currently running – with modified parameters in order to expand the application range of the Armofor® strips.

Testing the rescue capsule

On Monday 20 September 2010 Prodinsa field technician Alejandro Villagro gets in touch with Manuel Montecinos, who is in charge of the rescue operation. Two days later he departs from the designated camping site for Codelco personnel at Bahia Inglesa heading for the San José mine.

This is his story:

“With a 40 meters long and 24 mm thick IZAFLEX wire rope and a Crosby wedge socket in the back of the car, we are on the road. After what seems an endless drive, we finally arrive at the San José mine.

In the middle of the desert, the usually calm atmosphere at the mine camp is disrupted by the presence of police and international press. Families of miners talk among each other and eye every vehicle that enters the scene, hoping it’s the one that will bring the crucial help.

Manuel Montecinos greets me and immediately asks for the rope, which I hand over. Andres Sougarret (Codelco Drilling Engineer, second in command for the rescue operation after the Chilean Mining Ministry) and Rene Aguila (Codelco third in command for the rescue operation), express their gratitude for our technical assistance and our products.

The rescue capsule, the same I saw on TV a hundred times over, lies on a truck covered by a black canvas. We get to work and test the installation maneuvers, grabbing the capsule with the wire rope and the wedge socket. Everything goes well. The final test of the day, with strong pulls and the empty capsule attached, is successful too.

The next day we repeat the procedure, this time with a volunteer inside. Manual Montecinos is the first to go in. The capsule with him inside is lifted 15 meters in the air and then lowered 40 meters in a simulation pipe, about 200 meters from where the actual rescue pipe was drilled. When he submerges, his face is filled with joy: the wire rope lives up to the expectations. Everybody witnessing this crucial test is infected with his happiness.

People clap their hands in joy. I hug people I will probably never see again. At the end of the day, overwhelmed with emotion, I set off to my family in Santiago. I am satisfied knowing that the tests of the IZAFLEX wire rope and the wedge socket were successful and that we have made an essential contribution to the rescue of the 33 miners.”

Alejandro Villagro, Prodinsa field technician, participated in the testing and installation maneuvers of the capsule that was used to rescue the miners in the San José mine in Chile.

Oriental Rubber

Conveying it better together for lower cost-of-ownership

Tens of thousands of kilometers of conveyor belts are being used the world over to transport heavy materials. Still, the weak point in conveyor belts remains their poor resistance against cuts and impact, which significantly reduces their lifetime. To keep these belt rips to a minimum, Bekaert has been working with conveyor belt manufacturers to develop and implement belt reinforcement solutions based on steel cord.
One such company is Oriental Rubber, a major player in the rubber conveyor belt business, operating from Pune (about 160 kilometers from Mumbai) in India.

Keep belt rips to a minimum

Traditional textile conveyor belts have the tendency to creep and have low cutting resistance. As a result frequent regulation of the tensioning station and occasional belt repairs and replacements are required. Oriental Rubber wanted to extend their portfolio with a textile belt that offered superior cutting resistance. Bekaert then introduced them to Fleximat®, a woven steel cord fabric with steel cord in transversal and/or longitudinal direction.

By embedding high-strength steel cords in the rubber covers of the belt, solid protection can be provided against impact and rip damage. Another advantage for Oriental Rubber was that Fleximat® could be easily integrated in their existing calendaring process, with no need to invest in a creel room. With the Fleximat® range Oriental Rubber can lower the total cost-of-ownership for their customers considerably: at a scrap recycling plant in Australia, the lifetime of the belt was prolonged by a factor 5 to 6!

Creating value beyond the product

Oriental Rubber aims to be a solution-provider for their customers, offering added-value service to the product. In Bekaert they found a supplier that could actually support them in establishing this added value with the end-customer. One example is the on-site technical training Bekaert offered to operators from Oriental Rubber on ‘splicing’, which is a time-consuming process that is needed to rejoin parts of the belt and which involves the removal of the rubber and transversal reinforcement in the belt.

Thanks to the training provided the time needed to complete the splicing was significantly reduced to 6 hours. In the same spirit Oriental Rubber asked Bekaert to supply joint training to one of their end-customers and train their maintenance team on how to perform splicing more efficiently.


Vishal Makar (right on the picture), joint managing director of Oriental Rubber: “We immediately felt a fit between our companies in terms of corporate philosophy and valuing long-term relationships, which is embedded in the Indian culture. The Bekaert India team, also located in Pune, fully supported us in establishing the Fleximat® based belt product in our portfolio.”

Fulfilling ambitions through partnerships

Oriental Rubber has set a clear goal: they aim to tackle the Indian market more aggressively, reach out to the global market with higher production volumes and expand their product range through continuous innovation. To this end they want to tie in with suppliers who can handle an international supply chain in view of their global expansion.

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