As well as responding to increasing demand for gas in Belgium’s West Flanders region, the new pipeline will also feed gas to north-west Europe. Located between Alveringem, near the French border and port of Dunkirk, and Maldegem, east of Bruges in East Flanders, the existing infrastructure could no longer cope with growing demand from new housing and small and medium-sized enterprises starting up in the area.
On the French side of the border, responsibility for connecting Belgium to the French network fell to the French grid operator GRTgaz where a Volvo PL4809D rotating pipelayer was used on the project by French pipeline specialist SPAC, a subsidiary of the Colas Group.
The Belgian side is the responsibility of Fluxys Belgium NV, the independent operator of Belgium’s natural gas transmission grid and storage infrastructure, which transmits natural gas across Belgium to distribution system operators, power stations and major industrial customers. The 36-inch diameter pipe runs for 74km and this joint operation enables the transmission of 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas between the two countries for the first time.
Pipeline contractor A. Hak Leidingbouw, specialists in large diameter pipelines, worked on a 20km section using two Volvo PL4608 rotating pipelayers. Each 18m section of pipe weighs around six tonnes, but is not a problem for the PL4608s with their 80-tonne tipping capacity. The aim was to complete around 1,000m – or 50 welds –every day alongside Dutch sub-contractor, specialists Visser & Smit Hanab NV.
No stranger to Volvo pipelayers, A. Hak was the first pipeline contractor in the world to purchase them – six machines – back in 2009. Loe Steenbergen, in charge of equipment purchase and rental for the group, has worked on pipelines across Europe for 11 years.
He says he opted for the Volvo because he likes “the concept of the upper structure rotation, and the machine’s good lifting table”, adding: “They perform like machines with a 90-tonne tipping capacity, even if it says 80 tonnes on paper.” He also appreciates the heavy-duty, hydromechanical, extendable undercarriage.