A can-do attitude, combined with innovative mix designs and excellent planning and execution has enabled Houston Ready-Mix to work twice on a highly unusual project that took our ready mix trucks on a marine voyage through the Houston Ship Channel.
When a barge filled with 1,500 tons of scrap metal accidentally slammed into an electrical tower on October 4, 2010, it hobbled the Houston Ship Channel with a massive power outage and racked up $1 billion in overall damages and lost business. To prevent future collisions, Centerpoint Energy, a major supplier of gas and electric utilities and the tower’s owner, called on Bo-Mac Contractors in 2012 to construct concrete barriers to protect the tower. Bo-Mac, which provides civil, piling and marine construction services, turned to CEMEX to help them get the job done.
“They called us for our technical expertise, and they basically wanted to know if it would be possible to put our cement (ready mix) trucks on barges to transport them to the pour site in the middle of the ship channel,” said Territory Account Manager Eric Edwards. “We had never done that before, but we were definitely willing to help them.”
The plan called for floating four trucks out to the repaired tower base to pour small concrete barriers around it to prevent future incidents. The job was accomplished with no problems, but over time the barriers proved inadequate and several more collisions had occurred.
“Earlier this year, Centerpoint Energy called Bo-Mac again and began engineering a more permanent solution,” said Edwards. “Bo-Mac’s first and only call was to CEMEX.”
This time, the design for the new barrier system called for 650 cubic yards of concrete, compared with 40 cubic yards on the first barrier project. It would require six pours, two trips per day, two times a week and up to six trucks for each trip. And if the large increase in project size wasn’t enough, market conditions added another factor. The first project occurred in a down market.
“The current project requires so much more from everyone because of the scale, but also, ensuring delivery in a market as busy as Houston is now presents a challenge both Bomac and CEMEX were willing to meet head on,” said Edwards.
Still, one more hurdle remained, and it set the bar extremely high. The one-and-a-half hour trip out to the pour site posed a daunting challenge for designing a mix that could go the distance without losing slump.
“It required a mix design that could essentially be put to sleep,” said Edwards. “It was an opportunity for our CEMEX team to showcase just what we were capable of doing. Safety, quality control and operations were notified, and we went to work.”
The team devised a 5000psi mix that incorporated a high range water reducer (HRWR) plus Recover 7, a set delay additive. The resulting mix provided up to seven hours for the team to complete the pour before setting.
“Our team’s customer-focused approach to this project was the key to success. We are proud to have completed this unique and challenging project safely and successfully,” said Scott Ducoff, CEMEX Regional President, Texas and New Mexico.
Extensive pre-planning with the customer has enabled the teams to complete each pour without a hitch. Conference calls begin at 3pm each day to coordinate timing and discuss weather conditions. Any rain prediction over 50 percent can cause a reschedule. Once given the go-ahead, each 60-yard pour begins at 5:30am with the first six trucks rolling onto the barge. Four hours later, they roll off, and the next six trucks load up for the mid-channel ride.
“It’s a great and exciting job for CEMEX drivers,” said Warren Treadway, Area Manager. “The job is very organized and safety is a top priority at all times. Everyone enjoyed their ride on the barge and had a good time. Drivers hope we can get more jobs like this, because it shows that CEMEX can accomplish anything.”
CEMEX is a global building materials company that provides high quality products and reliable service to customers and communities in more than 50 countries throughout the world. Its U.S. network includes 13 cement plants, 46 strategically located distribution terminals, 74 aggregate quarries and more than 350 ready-mix concrete plants. For more information, visit www.cemexusa.com.