With the near completion of the tunnelling works for Kuala Lumpur’s MRT Sungai Buloh- Kajang Line (SBK Line), underground works contractor MMC Gamuda KVMRT (T) Sdn Bhd (MGKT) has set up a facility to refurbish its used TBMs, in preparation for its next tunnelling job.
Partnering with Herrenknecht AG, the initiative will see the refurbishment, upgrading and modification of almost the entire fleet of TBMs deployed in SBK Line, enabling the transfer of TBM expertise and refurbishment technology to Malaysians.
MGKT’s Head of Tunnelling Ng Hau Wei said the facility, the first of its kind in Malaysia, is crucial for MGKT as it looks forward to continuity of jobs in the coming years to recoup the heavy machinery investment made for SBK Line.
“The machines cost over RM40mil each, hence proper care has to be accorded to ensure they can be used again to lower our cost in our next tunnelling work. The TBMs need to be in optimal working condition before they are deployed again to the sites,” he said, adding that besides restoration and repair, the used Variable Density TBMs will also undergo upgrading for even better performance, while existing Earth Pressure Balance TBMs will be modified and converted into Variable Density TBMs.
“We cannot afford any technical glitches when the machines are working underground, so the refurbishment and modification works have to be done according to specifications,” stressed Ng.
The refurbishment, which will be conducted by a team of experienced local engineers, supervisors and trained tunnel crew from MGKT’s Tunnelling Training Academy (TTA) supervised by experts from Herrenknecht AG .“For now, the first equipment for the first upgraded Variable Density TBM has been procured and is expected to arrive by mid-2015. Experimental works will be carried out starting mid- 2015, including a series of workshop trials to proof-test the design upgrades for the machines,” Ng said.
With this new learning opportunity, Malaysians exposed to such training and experience in the highly specialised operation of TBM refurbishment will be highly marketable worldwide, said Ng.
“The setting up of a TBM refurbishment base in Malaysia is another major step towards grooming and retaining our local talent pool, as we move towards self-sufficiency in TBM works. This marks the beginning of the formation of a new industrial technology base in Malaysia, providing numerous employment and valuable skills development opportunities for young Malaysian talents,” he said.
“In addition, refurbishing the TBMs locally will help reduce the tunnelling contractor’s cost significantly in terms of transportation (to an overseas refurbishment facility) and procurement of common TBM components, as most of it is available in the local market. Other local players will also be able to scale up and expand this new business in the future,” said Ng.
Under the agreement, Herrenknecht AG will collaborate with local steel works and heavy engineering specialist Waiko Engineering Works Sdn Bhd (Waiko) to jointly carry out the TBM refurbishment works in concert with TTA crew.
Waiko is among the beneficiaries for TBM refurbishment and components manufacturing in Malaysia, as part of the KVMRT Offset Agreement under MRT Corp and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).
As of now (Dec 2014) the Variable Density TBMs and the EPM TBMs that have completed the respective drives have been delivered to Waiko’s storage yard in Ipoh for maintenance and upkeep until refurbishment works commence. Other TBMs will be transported to the yard progressively.
To-date, among the 10 TBMs used in the tunnelling works for SBK Line, eight have already completed its tunnel drives. The remaining two TBMs are awaiting final breakthroughs in the first quarter of 2015. Tunnelling works for SBK Line is expected to be fully completed by April 2015.