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Konecranes answers critical need to replace energy-from-waste cranes in operating facilities

The City of Quebec achieves major cost savings by replacing 34-year-old cranes with modern automated versions from Konecranes. North American energy-from-waste facilities are at a crossroads. Built 20 to 40 years ago, most are operating with cranes that are at the end of their service life. The question facilities now face is how to replace aging cranes without disrupting service or revenue streams.

“The growing focus in the industry is on these older facilities, and how they intend to move forward for the next quarter century,” says Joseph Botros, Konecranes director, energy-from-waste, Americas and Asia-Pacific Regions. “Their biggest concern is how to replace the cranes without interrupting production. Konecranes has done this several times without affecting throughput, giving new life to the plant.”

The City of Quebec’s energy-from-waste plant was built in 1974, designed to process 280,000 tons of waste per year. In 2006, maintenance costs on its two existing cranes had escalated to $400,000 per year. The plant was the only option to receive the city’s garbage and could not shut down to replace the cranes. In addition, the city had a contract to provide steam energy to an adjacent paper plant to the tune of $10 million USD per year.

Konecranes worked with the City of Quebec’s Principal Design Engineer, Yves Frechet to develop a strategy to replace the cranes one at a time. The city built an additional crane maintenance bay adjacent to the refuse pit, which enabled one crane to be parked out of the way and replaced while the other continued to operate. Formerly, one crane always had to be parked over the pit. Going forward, the additional maintenance bay allows the facility to balance the workload more evenly over its two cranes, ensuring a longer service life for both.

“Facilities may have additional forms of revenue other than tipping fees that we need to support, which is why it is critical to manage a crane replacement without interrupting production,” says Botros. Since installing its new equipment from Konecranes, crane-related maintenance costs fell 80 percent from the $400,000 the facility spent on its original cranes in their last year of service. In addition, electrical consumption is significantly less. The facility operator logged a 12 percent drop in electrical consumption immediately after the new cranes went online in 2008.

“The old cranes were very heavy, and when you have something very heavy to move, it takes more energy,” says Frechet.

Savings have also extended to personnel costs. Originally a crew of five was required to operate the old cranes over three shifts, with two operators working each daytime shift and one at night. Now, the new cranes spend most of the time running in full automation at night, freeing up the operator to perform additional tasks.

During the day, the cranes require only one operator per shift, which has allowed management to move two employees to support other areas of the plant. Today, the City of Quebec’s energy-from-waste facility has all the benefits of more efficient automated technology and a safer workplace. Operational costs have dropped so much that less than a decade after their installation, the cranes have already paid for themselves.

According to Frechet, it was critically important to work with a partner that had experience replacing existing cranes in a running facility.

“The experience of the supplier was one of our principal requirements,” says Frechet. “Reliability was another. It was very important for us that the cranes work, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, all year long. And, it continues to be important year after year. I am happy to say that we are very satisfied with the equipment we have now.”