Brevini drives in $5billion Panama Canal extension – the largest engineering project of this century
Doubling the capacity of the Panama Canal, the recently-opened expansion has tripled the maximum vessel-size for this major international shipping route. Critical to this huge engineering project are the new locks, the most important component of the expansion, and Brevini gearboxes are driving the massive sluice gates.
With a total of 16 rolling gates to operate the Canal extension, the sluice gates are 30m high, 60m long and 10m wide, each weighing over 4,000 tons, with 2 Brevini gearboxes driving the opening/closing cycle. Brevini faced a number of significant challenges on this project. The gates must be opened in less than 5 minutes, with a 43-minute cycle of opening/closing which is repeated 33 times per day, with only 180 minutes of stoppage permitted per month. With a lifespan requirement of 35 years, the gearboxes need to provide 57,000 hours of operation, working in humid conditions with high levels of salinity. Reliability of function is paramount to this critical application.
To ensure the required continuous operation of the canal extension, minimising maintenance time, Brevini supplied a solution based on its Posired 2 helical range, with 2 gearboxes driving each sluice gate, each unit weighing in excess of 9 tons. The gearboxes operate a winch system with 2 ropes off each drum which, via a system of pulleys, allow the gate to be pulled in either direction. Two gearboxes per winch are utilised in order to have full redundancy in the system but this means that, for normal operating conditions, the bearings are lightly loaded. Without a minimum load on the bearings there is a risk that the rolling elements slide and so the bearings are specially coated with Triondur C to prevent wear and tear and fulfil the requirement for a 35-year lifespan. To address the specific environmental issues of humidity and salinity, the gearboxes include special shaft sealing solutions and desiccant breathers. Should there be a problem with the first gearbox or motor, the second gearbox immediately becomes the driver. Similarly, there is an auxiliary motor and, in case of any problems with the power supplier, the system also includes an uninterruptable power supply. With a nominal torque rating of 483 kNm, Brevini’s Posired 2 size PD67 gearboxes more than meet the extremely high torques of up to 330 kNm required to move the sluice gates.
Explaining his company’s rationale in selecting contractors to work with on this hugely-significant project, Roberto Cimolai, Managing Director of Cimolai Technology (manufacturers of the sluice gates) said,
“My business strategy at Cimolai Technology is to always use first class brands with products that have no competition from a qualitative viewpoint.”
Renato Brevini, Brevini Group Chairman, explains Brevini’s approach to such projects,
“We sell a product from a technical and commercial point of view, adapting our products to ensure they meet the needs of markets and individual customers.”
Within the UK, Brevini have extensive experience in a wide range of industries, including the marine and offshore sector. With world-class manufacturing capabilities and expertise in solutions-led engineering, our activities are underpinned by a commitment to engineering excellence, innovative solutions, quality, reliability and outstanding gearbox design.