8 November 2012 - Rope access maintenance group Skyriders has assisted a large power generation plant in Limpopo province, South Africa, in repairing downpipe infrastructure, located inside the six units, more than 60 m above ground.

Skyriders marketing manager Mike Zinn says that six power station units required repairs to their downpipe's joints. "The joints and the sealant had been installed more than 20 years ago, and were therefore old, brittle and failing. During heavy rains, water in certain areas leaked onto electrical plant components causing maintenance challenges."

The downpipes ran from the roof of the power station units down through the power station building in a zigzag formation into the ground. "This was a highly challenging job, as it was almost like a maze. The Skyriders team of rope access technicians were responsible for accessing and inspecting all areas, before taking photos, removing the old sealants, cleaning it up, installing new sealants and taking more photos," he says.

In total, 255 joints were repaired by June 1, 2012, more than two weeks ahead of the client's stated deadline. "Although the scope of work was relatively simple, the access constraints with regards to height, confined spaces and a fully operational plant made for a challenging work environment. We explained to the client that rope access was a far quicker and more cost effective method than scaffolding, and this method ensured that the Skyriders team was able to seal the 400 mm pipes from the 30 m level to the 60 m level in 26 days."

All six power station units remained fully operational throughout the project. "Skyriders' scope of the project was to undertake structural inspection and repairs of the downpipes without creating any costly disruptions whatsoever. As a result, the team had to make sure that ropes were never anywhere close to the conveyors and any other moving parts. Due to an abundance of structural steel onsite, the team was able to access all six power station units from above, thereby reducing the risk of any safety issues and potential disruption."

The downpipes will have to be checked regularly to ensure that the sealant remains effective."Heavy rains create a lot of dirt in piping systems."