Fitzroy giant on the move

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2011

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The eyes of the energy world will focus on Taranaki early next week when a giant gas platform "mega-module" inches its way through the streets of New Plymouth.

The bright-yellow, 650-tonne, 19-metre-high and 13-metre-wide accommodation module has just been built by New Plymouth's Fitzroy Engineering Group for an offshore platform in Australia's Bass Strait.

The biggest and most expensive single fabrication project undertaken by Taranaki's engineering industry, the $35 million unit will be placed on a specially built 304wheel trailer and transported from Fitzroy headquarters in Waiwhakaiho Valley to Port Taranaki.

The move is scheduled to take place from 10pm on Tuesday but the heavy haul could be a day earlier if high winds forecast for midweek arrive.

Either way, the event promises to be a spectacular sight.

Up to seven trucks – five pulling and two pushing – will be used to haul the unit and its giant trailer to the port at a speed of less than a kilometre an hour.

Thousands of people are expected to line the route in the dead of night to watch the event.

Fitzroy Engineering is even setting up its own "fan zone" at Puke Ariki Landing for the public to use as they watch the big load trundle through the central city. Free coffee will be available in the zone.

"It's going to be a fantastic sight, and it's something we're very proud of," Fitzroy managing director Richard Ellis said.

"It's been a big and extremely complex fabrication project that has involved 100,000 man hours by Fitzroy staff. We've done everything with this project, and we're delighted with the result."

This module, which is destined for the Yolla offshore gasfield, is internationally significant because whereas the original plan was for it to be built in nine segments and assembled at the site, instead it has been constructed as one giant unit.

It's been completely commissioned by Fitzroy staff and contractors, which means when it is installed on the Yolla gas production platform, it will simply need to be connected up to become fully operational.

"It'll be virtually plug and play," Fitzroy's New Zealand marketing manager Mark Arnold said.

Mr Ellis said the Yolla field owners, Origin Energy and AWE, were delighted with the results of the 15-month Taranaki fabrication project.

"When the tendering went out for this job, it attracted tenders from Australia and Asia as well as from us.

"We convinced the field's owners that we in New Zealand had the skills to do the project. We've now proven that – and we've had only good comments from our client."

Once the accommodation module reached Port Taranaki, further equipment, including a crane, would be added before the arrival of a specialist crane ship which would transport the monster to Bass Strait.

This ship, the Jascon 25, is now on its way from Singapore and is scheduled to berth on November 27.

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