News: Aging Robert S. Kerr Hydraulic Pipes Removed
Story by Ross Adkins
On any lock and dam, the last thing you want to fail is the ability to open and close one of those huge gates. When that happens, the entire lock is shut down. That was about to happen at Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam 15.
The miter gates are big, heavy, and require hydraulic power assists to open and close allowing vessels to enter the lock chamber.
On the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system, there are five locks and dams within the Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed portion of the inland channel. The system was built and became operational 42 years ago. Much of the equipment that operates the locks is the original equipment installed in the late 1960s. It is beginning to show its age.
In order to move the huge miter gates, galvanized steel pipes were installed as part of the lock’s hydraulic system. Greg Barnes, Navigation and Fleet Operations Manager said, “The original pipes had gotten so bad, we were expecting a complete failure at anytime. That would have resulted in an unscheduled shut down of the navigation system. And that would be real costly.”
Each day the navigation system is shut down, it costs shippers over a million dollars in lost revenue.
The district is replacing the galvanized steel pipes with new stainless steel pipes that are expected to last much longer than the original 1960s pipes in the same environment.
Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam is the third of five locks on the Oklahoma navigation system at which Tulsa District has had to replace these pipes. The pipes at Webbers Falls were replaced in 2004, and W. D. Mayo pipes replaced in 2012. Pipes at the remaining two locks are scheduled to be replaced when funding becomes available.
In the past, pipes have burst at locks 14, 15, and 16, creating an unscheduled shut down of the navigation system for more than 24 hours. Even a shutdown of a few hours can cause a huge back-up of shipping. When this occurs the district must go on a 24-hour emergency repair schedule to restore operations on the navigation channel. To prevent that from happening again, the district, in partnership with shipping interests, have scheduled periodic closures to replace aging pipes and perform other needed repairs. Navigation interests agree that scheduled maintenance closures saves them considerable money by allowing time to pre-plan schedules around the planned closures versus surprise unscheduled shipping stoppages.
Tulsa District employees, through pre-planning with shipping interest stakeholders, were able to close down for the repairs that took less than the scheduled 7 days thus saving shippers more than the $1 million dollar per day cost of an unscheduled outage.