Wheel and track-based planers are cutting up to 1.2 metres down into the surface of the desert near Al-Hofuf in southern Saudi Arabia. Glass fibre cables are being laid as communication links between newly erected oilrigs. Once this project is finished, around 11,000 kilometres of subterranean power cables then have to be laid. Being used for both milling jobs: High quality Betek bits from Germany, plus Betek on-site support provided by Thomas Eggers.
The desert climate puts a great strain on the milling teams, with the heat during the day reaching 50 degrees Celsius. There is 30 percent air humidity in inland areas and 70 percent near the sea. In such conditions each member of the milling teams is drinking up to 10 litres of water a day, working a two-shift operation, each of eight to twelve hours. How good it is, then, that the equipment they have at their disposal is of such outstanding quality!
Three planers are in use simultaneously along these routes. With up to 800 horsepower capacity, these machines clear away all before them to a width of up to 1.3 metres. First the top layer of sand, then mainly rubble and debris and below that limestone and dolomite rock, including shell limestone too near the coast. The planing conditions change by the hour. It is therefore very important to have experienced foremen and planer drivers, who are assisted by one or two helpers. The bits have to be changed regularly. Depending on the hardness of the rock and the extent to which the machine capacity is being utilised, it can sometimes be 16 bits an hour, sometimes just 16 a day.
Varying from planer to planer, up to 150 bits are mounted - with tips made from the best, hardwearing tungsten carbide. The well-rehearsed teams can change these sets of bits within two hours. For planers up to 400HP they then reach for the tried and tested Betek B40KS19/60 bits, and for larger planers the Betek B47K19/60, having had only the best of experiences with both types here in the desert. The bits have a flange diameter of a mighty 60mm. This provides perfect protection for the bit holder, while when it comes to 'cracking' hard rock the strong, 19mm diameter tungsten carbide pin shows its full capabilities.
How much can be milled in a day is very dependent on the hardness of the rock, the machine's capacity and also logistics in terms of diesel and lubricant supply. On some days only 35 metres are planed, on others more than 1.5 kilometres. The supply of bits and holders, however, is well assured. The tools come by air or sea freight direct from Germany, with the complete range for trenching being produced on cutting-edge toolmaking equipment at Aichalden in the Black Forest.
Anyone who asks what makes Betek products special is immediately informed of a whole host of benefits. For one, there is the high, very consistent quality that sets Betek apart from its competitors all around the globe. For another, the fact that the tungsten carbide used for the tools is matched precisely to their intended purpose - leading to longer service life and minimal abrasive wear and tear. If any problems crop up due to extreme ground conditions, Betek responds with a unique level of service. Within next to no time, special tools are developed, made in the company's high-tech production facility and delivered direct to the construction site. It is something that our clients cherish - including those in Saudi Arabia!
However, the company does not only react flexibly to clients' requirements, we also put staff on site with our end-users. For Saudi Arabia the man responsible is Thomas Eggers. "The journey to the Middle East and out into the desert regions is relatively comfortable these days", says the Betek specialist. "Four-wheel drive air-conditioned jeeps get you to the construction site with no great difficulty." He is also conscious of a particular benefit of being on site. "If there are any problems, it's only at the site itself that you ever find out about them", he says. "And by being here, I can react immediately, give the teams advice and, if necessary, order different tools."
So far, everything has gone without a hitch, thanks not least to the bits with external catches being used on both projects. Due to the conditions, bits with internal catches would get so dirty inside the holder that it would be very difficult to get them out. And in these extreme conditions out in the desert everyone involved is glad if everything can be relied upon when it comes to the bit system, i.e. perfect rotation, even wear and smooth tool changes. Anyone familiar with other manufacturers' tools appreciates the well thought out Betek system. With this bit-and-holder construction, changing tools is a quick and easy job.
When the teams have finished laying the glass fibre cabling by the middle of 2006, they will then start to tackle laying the 11,000 kilometres of power lines. For safety reasons, and to avoid exposure to the weather, the high-voltage lines are being laid below ground and covered with radiating aluminium foil in order to guarantee GPS capability. These electricity cables will then link the cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, as well as Kuwait and Qatar.
Given the distances involved, the milling teams live on-site in mobile homes. The route is plotted very simply using a laser beam or in wholly conventional manner with a compass. Thomas Eggers will, of course, be driving out into the desert to the join the construction gangs on this job too. As prior analysis of the ground would be far too costly and time-consuming, any problems that arise have to be resolved straightaway - and at such times, Betek's first-class support is unbeatable! That is because Betek pulls out all the stops to ensure that users of Betek tools make good progress through high daily productivity - something that is always possible with quality, 'made in Germany' bits from Betek.