Jan De Nul Group is a global market leader in dredging and marine construction activities, as well as a specialized provider of services for the offshore market of oil, gas and renewables. The company executes dredging and land reclamation projects from start to finish: design, development and maintenance of ports, deepening of channels, land reclamation and shore protection works, dredging in the most diverse conditions. Anthony De Vos, Lead Geologist at Jan De Nul Group, and Lies De Mol, Engineering Geologist, explain the challenges the company was facing, what was required from a new system and how the Mastersizer 3000 and the Morphologi GS3E is helping the company meet the needs of its customers.
The need for fast and reliable particle analysis
For its dredging and reclamation activities, the company’s customers include harbor authorities, such as Government institutes, and, subsequently, projects are carried out via tenders. These tenders are evaluated by Jan De Nul Group specifically using soil research, the results of which have a substantial impact on the pricing included in a tender.
Anthony De Vos explains the process of analysis: “When we are actively searching for sand we use v vibrocoring to obtain sand samples and typically require 50 cores, meaning we have at least 50 samples. In the past, we used a standard laboratory to analyze the samples with sieve analysis.”
“For sieve analysis, we use 1-2kg per sample, which means sending 50-200kg of sand to a laboratory,” continues De Vos. “We can usually outsource this analysis locally, but we must analyze at least part of the samples in our own laboratory as a counter analysis to ensure reliability. While the sand can be transported relatively fast, it means we have to wait days or even a week before we can begin analysis.”
De Vos goes on to explain the company’s requirement for field-based sand analysis: “When we dredge sand for reclamation, in the time between dredging sand from location A and filling the land in location B, we must determine whether the sand is appropriate to fill the land and, if not, transfer the sand to a dump zone. Previously, we would have evaluated the sand quality afterwards and taken the risk that we might have had to remove the sand if the quality was poor.”
It’s this need for a fast turnaround that meant the company required an instrument that could analyze smaller samples efficiently, both in laboratories and in the field, in order to meet client deadlines.
Reliability, mobility and ease-of-use
The company had clear objectives for a new instrument and tested a range of vendors’ equipment in order to find the right match.
“We took a holistic approach when deciding to purchase a particle size analyzer, and Malvern Panalytical’s Mastersizer 3000, equipped with the Hydro LV accessory, was the best overall solution, with many benefits.”
“A big advantage of the Mastersizer 3000 is that it’s extremely compact and easy to transport. The software is also very convenient, meaning you can work with a standard procedure at one push of a button. It’s this simplicity and ease which mean that anyone can use the system, with minimal training.”
“Another feature of real value to us, is that when using the analyzer in an outdoor environment, such as on board of a dredging vessel, most settings can be pre-installed. This reduces the risk of any issues occurring and makes sure that everything is measured in the same way, enabling reproducibility.”
It was Malvern Panalytical’s reliability and instrument performance that set it apart from other vendors, leading to a repeat purchase by Jan De Nul Group.
“Malvern Panalytical is a reliable brand that offers strong product performance. We are very satisfied with the first Mastersizer 3000 we purchased in 2013 and have become heavily reliant upon it, particularly when working abroad. We therefore required a second instrument to guarantee availability in our laboratory, and purchased our second Mastersizer 3000 in 2017.”
Efficiency is the key
Commenting on how the instrument provides value and efficiency gains on a daily basis, De Mol explains: “The Mastersizer 3000 with a Hydro LV requires only a few grams per sample, which a geologist can easily transport in small jars in their hand luggage, for example. This means that we can start analyzing samples the day we arrive back to the office.”
“This is highly beneficial because when we outsource grain analysis, there are often queues in the commercial laboratories. We deal with very tight tender deadlines, so saving time anywhere we can is really valuable to us.”
“Another useful feature is the grain distribution range, which is between 10 nanometers and 2.1 millimeters. This is extremely helpful, considering that achieving the same with strains and a hydrometer takes much longer.”
Investment in particle shape characterization
The company also required an instrument for particle shape characterization that could enable it to estimate the amount of wear on its pipelines and facilitate cost forecasting. During a reclamation project, pumping sand through pipelines from the reclamation source to the final destination (which can be a few hundred meters, or up to a few kilometers) can cause enormous wear.
De Vos explains the challenge: “ Angular sand particles cause more wear than sand particles that are more circular in shape. The size of the sand particles also has an impact; the bigger the sand particles are, the more impact they will have on the wear. Before a project, we need to estimate the amount of wear as the impact is enormous – reparation costs or new equipment can cost millions. Therefore, accurate particle size and shape analysis is crucial for us.”
Following a detailed evaluation of particle morphology analyzers, Jan De Nul Group purchased Malvern Panalytical’s Morphologi G3SE. Commenting on the decision making process, De Mol explains: “Comparing alternative systems for shape analyzers was more complex than for particle sizing because there are different techniques to measure particle shape, such as static or dynamic. The range also has a big impact and there is a lot of variation in price.”
“We considered whether to use a single system for both particle size and shape analysis or two separate systems. There were also differences in the number of parameters that you can measure: 15, 22 or 30. For us, it’s not about the amount of parameters, but about the relevance.”
“Companies use various names for the same formula and, consequently, it takes time to work out whether we are comparing the same parameter. For us, the upper range was one of the crucial factors (the fact that the Morphologi G3SE enables measurement of particles that are up to several millimeters in size) and we preferred to stay with Malvern Panalytical.”
Rapid analysis, quality assurance and reduced costs – the triple bottom line
The results indicate that the instruments have so far contributed significant benefits to the company’s strategy, and will continue to do so.
De Vos summarizes the impact of Malvern Panalytical’s technology: “The technology saves us substantial amounts of time and money. Now, we can quickly analyze samples ourselves, reducing the need to outsource analysis. By using the systems on our ships, we can indicate the quality of the sand to our customers before we pump the sand ashore, where time is money.”
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