The Guinness World Record for the biggest jigsaw puzzle belongs to the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The puzzle (an image of a lotus flower) was 48 feet by 76 feet (14.6 meters by 23.2 meters) and consisted of 551,232 pieces. A GE project in Finland might rival that record for size and complexity. In this case, it’s not a jigsaw puzzle that requires assembly, but a giant Foster Wheeler biomass boiler.
The machine, which weighs between 3,000 and 3,500 tonnes, consists of roughly 2,500 pieces. Languishing in a closed paper mill in Myllykoski, Finland, it is capable of producing 110 megawatts. Blue Energy Europe (BEE) needs to move the boiler 1,250 miles to Hürth, Germany, where it will provide steam for a different paper mill and send electricity to the grid.
But therein lies a significant logistics challenge, a first of its kind for GE: How do you move an object of this size. “It’s very exciting to be part of something like this,” says project manager Ravi Munjal.
BEE is moving the boiler instead of just building a new one because it will save the company time and help reduce the new mill’s impact on the environment. It will efficiently burn wood chips, forest residue, bio compost, industrial wood and other cheap waste materials, lowering operation costs as well as CO2 emissions.
But first it has to get there.
The project, which is still in the planning phase, will require precise engineering and attention to detail. Munjal estimates it will take at least 15 months to break the boiler down into its components, ship them to their destination and then reassemble them. The disassembly portion of the project alone will require 100 GE employees and four months of labor.
Workers will label and scan each piece into a database of parts. Engineers will then use computer-aided design and 3D modeling to make sure each piece is accounted for. “We have to make sure we can put every single piece back exactly where it was when we took it off,” Munjal says.
The individually packed boiler pieces will arrive in Germany in waves, as workers complete various stages of the disassembly. The first shipment is expected to leave Finland before May 2018. GE is exploring whether to transfer the parts on roads via truck, across the Baltic Sea by ship or through a combination of the two — whatever is cheaper and faster.
Once all the parts are in place in Hürth, it will take about nine months to reassemble the boiler. That time will include adding about 13 feet to the length of the boiler to bring it up to German code. After another four months of testing, it will be full steam ahead.