The equipment, which is used for Wacker’s production process, arrived by barge to a unique location, and then traveled to the company’s construction site by various methods including a self-propelled transportation unit.
“The arrival of this core production piece is an exciting and momentous occasion,” said Dr. Martin Richtberg, vice president of engineering and head of the Wacker Polysilicon construction project. “Detailed planning for this arrival began in March this year. It was necessary to find barge access that could accommodate equipment this size, and to determine the most efficient road transportation route.”
The equipment arrived in Mobile, Ala., earlier this month after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Additional preparations were made to ensure the equipment was protected: four large steel stands were custom-built and welded to the barge so that the equipment would travel securely.
After travelling along the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers, the equipment arrived in Decatur. The location, however, had not previously been used for barge access, and advance groundwork was necessary.
Prior to the barge’s arrival, transportation specialists developed a strategy for preparing the area. New gravel and crane mats were added along the shoreline. This preparation offered additional protection to the river bank and minimized the possibility of damage to the barge, officials reported.
“Safety and environmental protection are core components of all processes at Wacker,” said Dr. Konrad Bachhuber, vice president and site manager for Wacker Polysilicon North America. “We take proactive steps to ensure every activity on our site is accomplished with the highest attention to environmental care and safety; therefore, we have ensured the transportation of our equipment would be carried out with this same level of care.”
Two onshore machines gripped the barge on either side and pulled it in, allowing preparations for road transportation of the equipment to begin. Engineering experts and transportation specialists reviewed the equipment’s route in advance, noting asphalt conditions and critical points such as road corners.
At no more than 2 miles per hour, the equipment travelled through Decatur with these experts walking alongside it. Each expert carried a remote control to make adjustments and alter the axles individually, ensuring the weight was evenly distributed and that the equipment would not be twisted.
“Every second someone is checking the machine and making sure the next step is possible,” said Ulrich Dankerl, project manager and lead logistics/engineering for the project. “This equipment cannot twist even slightly; therefore, it is necessary to navigate uneven surfaces by continuously evaluating the height of each wheel.”
Two trailers were used to transport the equipment through Decatur and to the Charleston site. Both trailers had 13 axles — each connected to the trailer hydraulically — with eight wheels per axle; the weight of the equipment was dispersed over 26 axles and 208 wheels.
“This method of transportation offers less surface impact than a standard transportation trailer because the weight is more evenly distributed,” Bachhuber added. “Additionally, these trailers have rotating plates to allow for superior navigation; roads with turns and slopes were manageable.”
About Wacker Polysilicon: It is a global leader in the production of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. Its product portfolio also includes pyrogenic silica, chlorosilanes and salt. Polysilicon is used throughout the semiconductor industry and in the growing photovoltaics sector. In 2010, the Wacker Polysilicon division of Wacker Chemie AG generated around 25 percent of the company’s sales. The new plant near Charleston is scheduled to begin operation by the end of 2013. The plant will employ some 650 full-time workers.