Asphalt for aviation

The Ciber iNOVA 2000 plant can produce up to 200 tonnes of asphalt per hour.

Tasked with resurfacing and extending the Geraldton Airport runway in Western Australia, Boral turned to Wirtgen to find a relocatable asphalt production plant with flexibility and a high production rate.

Four-and-a-half hours north of Perth sits Geraldton, a coastal city in the Midwest with significant port infrastructure and a strong agricultural industry, affectionately known as the windsurfing capital of Australia.

Geraldton City has a population of over 40,000 and Geraldton’s airport punches above its weight, servicing around 120,000 passengers yearly, bringing many visitors.

When it came time for a runway upgrade at the airport, contractor Boral was awarded the $24 million Geraldton Airport Upgrade Project. This included resurfacing the newly extended runway to 2.4 kilometres.

As the chosen contractor for the job, Boral came to Wirtgen looking for a high capacity, modular asphalt plant, that could be easily mobilised and suited to efficient production targets of more than 2000 tonnes each shift.

While expanding and resurfacing the runway, the asphalt plant was also required to supply mix for the airport’s main aprons. This included a new parking bay which would provide necessary taxiway clearances for the operation of the larger aircraft.

For this job, Boral purchased the Ciber iNOVA 2000 asphalt plant. Greg Astill, General Manager of Mineral Technologies at Wirtgen Australia, says the main benefit of this plant is the combination of the ease of mobility and high material production.

“Ciber plants are compact and flexible and they are relatively fast to establish on site, which is ideal for an airport as there are tight restrictions around timings for airport projects,” Mr. Astill says.

When completing projects at airports, he says it is important the contractor can stick to tight timeframes and ensure the risks of production loss through breakdown and or lower productivity are minimised. There can be significant financial repercussions if airport projects run over time and it can be very difficult for the contractor when flights are disrupted by construction works.

“This is why the Ciber iNOVA 2000 plant was chosen by Boral. These plants are well suited to airport projects, with the main trailer featuring an integrated dryer and burner, baghouse and pugmill with a slat conveyor,” Mr. Astill says.

“The iNOVA is very fast to establish on site with only one mechanical connection required between the cold feeder and the mixing trailer. These features make the plant very reliable and excellent for high rates of sustainable and consistent production.”

He says all that is needed to set up the iNOVA 2000 is to drive to the site, set up the ramp, position the two main trailers and connect the power and the bitumen tanker. After calibrating the feeders, it is possible to move straight into production.

“When producing a new surface for a runway, it’s going to require an asphalt that is durable under heavy loads. With high levels of production quality, the plant needs to produce a consistent mix every day. If there are variations, this could affect the quality of the final product,” Mr. Astill says.

The Ciber iNOVA 2000 plant can produce up to 200 tonnes of asphalt per hour. It is also capable of producing mixes with 15 per cent reclaimed asphalt pavement to increase sustainability on projects.

The Geraldton Airport project was Boral’s first rural airport project using an iNOVA 2000 asphalt plant. The same model has been used in the past two years at other regional airports such as in Queenstown, New Zealand and Busselton, WA.

Mr. Astill says all contractors have achieved excellent outcomes and performance from the operators of the Ciber iNOVA plants. For the Geraldton project, Boral were meticulous with planning prior to departure. Mr. Astill says Boral’s risk management plan was actioned.

Under the direction of Ronan Moore, General Manager of Asphalt, the Ciber iNOVA was delivered to Boral’s Welshpool facility to undergo a complete pre delivery and assembly. Technical and maintenance training for the Boral operations and service teams was also completed by the Ciber factory technicians. After completion of initial trial mixes, the plant was packed up and mobilised at the Geraldton Airport site.

Boral then dissembled and shipped the iNOVA 2000 to the Port Hedland Airport Project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Geraldton Airport was Boral’s first rural airport project using an iNOVA 2000 asphalt plant.

Similarly, this project involved upgrades to the taxi line and a new layer of asphalt on the airport’s runway.

Ronan Moore says the team excelled at the Geraldton Project and were well prepared for the planned relocation of the Ciber iNOVA to Port Hedland.

“The pre work completed as part of project management plan ironed out any issues and we were quite quick to be up and running at Port Hedland,” Mr. Moore says.

“Its quite a relief to know that an OEM such as Wirtgen are right there supporting the Ciber product and once we were up and running, we were able to handle most issues with our own team.”

Mr. Astill says Wirtgen received great feedback from Boral about their support for the transfer of the asphalt plant and the quality training provided for the crew.

He says Wirtgen customers come to expect the right performance from any products sold in Australia and New Zealand. He says there is definitely some comfort among customers that dealing directly with an OEM, which can support both the customer and the product, is highly valued.

“It’s exactly the same with our Ciber iNOVA plants. We are there on the job site and in the office, working with the factory to make sure it works properly straight out of the box.”

He says even the control system for Ciber iNOVA plants is very intuitive and simple for an experienced operator.

“This new control system is excellent. It’s a very stable control system with a human interface that mimics the simplicity of working on an iPad or tablet. This control system is very strong,” Mr. Astill says.

Matt Schokker, Boral’s Production Manager of Mobile Asphalt Plants, says the touchscreen control system was simple.

“It displays a main plant overview screen, which shows the operator a detailed overview of all components synchronised from input aggregates to output of finished product asphalt,” Mr. Schokker says.

“Easy onscreen tabs help examine, in detail, individual process control operations to customise the plant for a variety of mixes such as dense grade, open grade, stone mastic asphalt, red laterite, and reclaimed asphalt product mixes. These all cater for local government, Main Roads WA and project specified mixes.”

He says Ciber’s PLC constantly monitors all inputs and outputs of the asphalt plant and makes adjustments autonomously to constantly keep parameters tight and keep the asphalt mix within specification.

“This consistency is evident through onsite laboratory production testing magnifying the exact process control achieved throughout the production process of the plant.”

Mr. Astill from Wirtgen says the plant is also well designed for other asphalt productions such as highways or freeway work in metropolitan or regional areas.

“All three airport project teams that have worked with the iNOVA 2000 had exceptional results with the plant. Operators identified consistent mix production and lower than expected production costs,”

“We see that the iNOVA 2000 operated by Downer has been relocated for the second time back to Queenstown for more work. Proving the point that the Ciber plant is very quick to relocate or mobilise, of course in these challenging times contractors need every advantage.”

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