Posted on: May 10, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Developers of the new multibillion-rand King Shaka airport admit that there are “minor leaks” in the airport’s fuel pipeline, but deny that these pose a severe health and safety hazard.

A previous problem had been repaired at a cost of R100 million by the developer,

The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that senior managers and members of the development team feared the possibility of an explosion within the 2 000-hectare airport grounds.

The paper alleged that Ilembe Consortium, the contractor responsible for the entire airport development, and Acsa had planned to downplay the matter should the media get wind of what was going on.

During the official opening of the airport on Saturday, Acsa managing director Monhla Hlahla mentioned in passing that one of the challenges faced was the issue of the pipeline.

While Ilembe Consortium project director Duncan Barry on Sunday admitted that there were defects in the pipeline, he said weekend media reports were factually incorrect.

“The problem was that quality data packs were either missing or certain weld records didn’t correlate exactly with the weld positions. Every single weld is required to be X-rayed. Initially we understood the problem to be limited to a few welds, but it became progressively clear that we had a larger problem to resolve,” he said.

Barry said problems on the fuel pipeline were detected in November last year, but the repair work began in January.

In some places, concrete that had been cast had to be excavated to expose the pipes and about 8.8km had to be dug up. It was a mammoth task, which went on for three and a half months…We fixed the pipeline and retested it, and there were no more leaks. We employed a large number of quality inspectors and also had the Authorised Inspection Authority vetting the work,” he said.

Barry said the contract was subject to a 12-month defect liability period, and repair work on the fuel system had cost about R100m, which was paid for by Ilembe.

“The leaks the Sunday Times was referring to are minor leaks or sweating gaskets in the valve chambers at valves and or T-pieces. These are unrelated to the actual pipeline repairs,” he said.

Barry said there were more than 800 of these joints in the chambers and 17 indicated sweating and minor leaks.

“The consulting engineer reviewed these and deemed them to be safe, and gave a concession for these to be corrected at a later date. We started working on the problem a little more than a week ago and 14 of those joints have been fixed. Three joints are still to be completed,” he said.

Barry said the engineers who signed off the pipeline gave the company until September to complete the work.

“We focusing on quality rather than speed. The sweating gaskets pose no safety problems… There is no danger to passengers or any people or to the environment,” he said.

Barry said in the unlikely event of a major leak, there was nothing in the valve chamber that could cause an explosion. “Each valve chamber has a level alarm that would send a warning,” he said.

Acsa spokesman Colin Naidoo said the airport’s fuel pipeline was safe. Naidoo said the airport had an emergency evacuation plan in place.

Source: The Mercury

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