Mining, Petroleum and Gas | Hoisting & Lifting Equipment | by Joe Runyon | Oct 07, 2014
With increasing demand for the exploration and production of natural resources in North Dakota, Alaska and other northern regions in the U.S. and Canada, there is a growing need for cranes and lifting equipment that can withstand exposure to ultra-cold temperatures. When selecting and specifying these products, careful consideration must be given to site conditions that could affect the safety and use of these heavy-duty lifting devices.
If specified incorrectly, the potential for costly equipment damage, personal injury and lost productivity resulting from failure of overhead lifting equipment can be very significant. While reputable manufacturers of lifting equipment utilize sound engineering, quality materials and have safety factors designed into their equipment, it is important to note that most manufacturers’ standard capacity ratings and duty classes do not take into account the impact that extreme cold temperatures can have on structural steel and other construction materials. This fact is borne out in a variety of industry standards.
Some of these include:
These and other standards reinforce the point that “standard” lifting equipment may not be suitable for use in extreme cold. The temperature limitations set forth in these documents may vary slightly from one standard to another, but they all recognize that temperature can negatively affect the safe working capacity of lifting equipment.
Cold temperatures can adversely affect the tensile toughness of many commonly used materials. Tensile toughness is a measure of a material’s brittleness or ductility. Ductile materials can absorb a significant amount of impact energy before fracturing, resulting in deformations (bending) that can alert the operator to an overload situation before a failure occurs. Brittle materials, on the other hand, can shatter on impact. Many materials experience a shift from ductile to brittle if the temperature drops below a certain point. The temperature at which this shift occurs is commonly known as the “ductile-to-brittle-transition” temperature (DBTT). Any brittle failure will be catastrophic and the failure will not necessarily be predictable. It can occur from a random impact, dynamic loading or can propagate out of a stress riser such as a crack or nick.
In addition to the effects of cold on steel and other construction materials, we must also consider the suitability of items such as motors, control components, hydraulic fluids, gear box lubricants and welding in these environments. It is important to consider the minimum ambient temperatures that may be present in the location that the hoist, crane or rigging will be used. Cold can cause some oil to become so thick that it cannot be pumped or be relied on as a “splash lubricant”. Grease can become stiff and solidify, causing grease-lubricated rotating parts to seize up.
Reading and understanding applicable safety standards and consulting with experienced and reputable equipment manufacturers are two important steps in ensuring operator and facility safety when selecting hoists, cranes and rigging equipment for cold temperature applications.
Working with Columbus McKinnon Application Engineers to address your low-temperature equipment needs, along with adhering to proper maintenance procedures and operator training, should allow for safe and uninterrupted operation of hoists and cranes even during periods of extreme cold. Be sure to take into consideration the specific stresses that cold-temperatures put on heavy-duty lifting products to keep your workers safe and prevent dangerous accidents on your worksites.
Joe Runyon is a Vertical Market Specialist for Oil & Gas at Columbus McKinnon Corporation. He started in the industry with the Chester Hoist company more than 33 years ago. Prior to getting into the hoist and crane business, Joe worked in the oil and gas industry for 4 years.