Moving large tanks into a research facility: Engineering special technical solutions

A matter of technical feasibility: There are projects where conventional move-in and installation techniques do not work. Two large cryogenic tanks had to be moved into a heavy ion accelerator facility at the GSI/FAIR research center in Darmstadt. The combination of the narrow hall geometry and planned tank locations proved to be problematic. This complicated problem was ultimately solved by the experienced SCHOLPP engineering team.

The GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt operates a one-of-a-kind ion accelerator. Researchers from all over the world use the facility for experiments to gain new insights into the structure of matter and the development of the universe. They also develop innovative applications in the fields of medicine and technology.

A further research complex, the international accelerator facility FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), is currently under construction. In future, ions will be accelerated to up to 99% of the speed of light in the SIS100 ring accelerator. Strong magnetic fields are required to guide the particles along their paths, and these can only be achieved through superconductivity: at extremely low temperatures, the electrical resistance in materials can almost disappear, with the result that high electrical currents can flow into the electromagnet.

Move-in initially not feasible with conventional technology

This technology includes the cold box, a steel tank measuring almost 19 meters long and over 4.70 meters high, with a weight of 85 metric tons. This is the heart of the cryogenic system, manufactured by Linde Engineering and used to cool and liquefy helium. This tank and another smaller one (L 8.75 m x H 3.56 m) had to be moved into a building on the FAIR site.

Lautec from Philippsburg was commissioned to undertake the installation. The plan was to unload both tanks with a truck-mounted crane and position them in the hall with another truck-mounted crane. The project’s feasibility was to be reviewed ahead of the work. This is where Lautec called on SCHOLPP’s technical expertise.

Technical solution with engineering by SCHOLPP

This job was tailor-made for Klaus Engel from the SCHOLPP site in Dietzenbach near Frankfurt am Main. The graduate mechanical engineer has worked at SCHOLPP for 27 years and is the divisional head for industry. Among other things, he is responsible for the engineering of technically sophisticated installation solutions. “I had worked on the FAIR site before, which was an advantage. My job was to provide engineering and consulting services for the move-in and installation concepts for technical systems. This is extremely challenging in the case of the FAIR site, since many of the facilities are located underground,” Klaus Engel points out.

The site inspection quickly revealed that bringing truck-mounted cranes into the building as planned would not be possible. “The cranes were too big for the available floor space and too tall in relation to the building height,” Engel explains. It was therefore clear that only detailed engineering would lead to a feasible and safe move-in solution.

Crane and lifting gantry setup in the hall not possible

The next thing to be discussed was whether it would be possible to set up a lifting gantry to unload the tanks from the heavy-duty truck and position them in the hall. But after taking measurements and performing some calculations, Klaus Engel determined that erecting and extending a lifting gantry would not be possible either. This was due to the piping installations already attached to the walls and the insufficient distance between the wall of the building and the intended tank location. “All relatively simple options were therefore off the table,” says Klaus Engel. What would a feasible solution look like?

Technical concept and certification for challenging conditions

The technical concept and the logistical process plan for safely unloading and precisely positioning the tanks included detailed measurements and technical documentation, various floor load calculations, and workflow plans for the move-in and the lifting and lowering. “Special safety requirements on the FAIR site also had to be taken into account in the solution concept,” Engel emphasizes.

The structural environment with buildings, pipelines, cable systems, and technical equipment is extremely complex. SCHOLPP is SCC-certified for such strict requirements and has many years of experience with the move-in of components in high-tech facilities, for example in medical technology.

After Klaus Engel and his team had compiled all the data and calculations, a third possible solution emerged. It had three steps. Step one: drive the tanks into the hall on a heavy-duty truck with a height-adjustable low-load trailer; step two: transfer the tanks to self-propelled modular transporters with a low overall height and detach and drive out the low-load trailer; step three: pick up the tanks from the self-propelled modular transporters using hydraulic jacks and gradually lower and align them.

Precise implementation: Project management by SCHOLPP

This sounds simple on paper, but it required many steps in between and great concentration from everyone involved. Klaus Engel sent his experienced team colleague Marcus Schütz to the construction site in Darmstadt to ensure that the project was implemented exactly according to the specifications. Schütz took over the project management on site, in particular monitoring the workflow, organizing and coordinating the partners, and scheduling the delivery.

These are day-to-day tasks for Marcus Schütz. Having trained as a building fitter, he has been working at SCHOLPP since 1999, initially in materials management and from 2013 in regional installation. “I am familiar with complicated installation processes and special equipment through the practical experience I’ve gained in many successful projects,” says Marcus Schütz. He has been a project manager in Klaus Engel’s team since the beginning of 2022.

“First of all, the original delivery sequence was changed,” Schütz explains. “Instead of the large tank, the smaller one was now delivered and brought in first. The tank was reloaded outside onto a heavy-duty self-propelled modular transporter using a truck-mounted crane and was then moved in. "We chose a SEFIRO SPMT with a very low design because of the entry height. This model can also be controlled with great flexibility,” Schütz adds.

Elaborate driving maneuvers and limited space

This step was essential because the tank had to be precisely steered around a 12-meter-deep functional shaft on the way to its destination. “There wasn’t much room for this in the hall,” recalls Marcus Schütz. If the large tank had been positioned first as initially planned, driving the small tank around this functional shaft would no longer have been possible due to a lack of space.

The large tank was delivered on a special transport with a low-load trailer the next day and was driven directly into the hall. The driver had to make several attempts since there was little space available for maneuvering on the site in front of the hall. The hall door was also relatively narrow in relation to the width of the transport. “When the heavy-duty truck was in the hall, we lifted the low-load trailer carrying the tank up far enough so that two linked self-propelled modular transporters could be positioned underneath from the side,” Marcus Schütz explains.

With the subsequent lowering of the low-load trailer, the tank was set down with its entire weight on the two self-propelled modular transporters. Then the low-load trailer could be detached so that the self-propelled modular transporters could move to the side, and the heavy-duty truck could drive out of the hall. Finally, the fitters moved the 85-metric-ton colossus into its exact position using the self-propelled modular transporters. The tank was lifted again using hydraulic jacks so that the SEFIRO SPMT could drive out. Next up: lowering and aligning, step by step.

Success factors: Vast experience and detailed engineering

Experience and engineering were the critical success factors for tackling this complicated case. Our team weighed up numerous spatial and technical details to determine feasibility. Klaus Engel sums up: “Despite the engineering effort, the coordination of several partners, and an integration process with many complicated intermediate steps, the project was completed on schedule within four days, including site preparation and follow-up work.”

SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios
SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios
SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios
SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios
SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios
SCHOLPP is a specialist in detailed engineering and complicated move-in scenarios

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Lautec GmbH, Philippsburg


Power plant engineering

Project type:

Rigging projects


Installation of two large tanks for cryogenic technology (24.0 metric tons, L 8.75 x H 3.5 m and 85.0 metric tons, L 18.7 x H 4.70 m)

Technology used:

Truck-mounted crane, low-load trailer, heavy-duty self-propelled modular transporter (SEFIRO SPMT), hydraulic jacks

Unique factors:

Engineering for special technical solution with low-load trailer due to extremely narrow hall geometry, no possibility of internal setup with crane and lifting gantry, use of heavy-duty self-propelled modular transporters and hydraulic jacks

Contact person:

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