Working together to further pipeline automation innovations one project at a time
Bemidji and Hibbing, Minnesota — Two really can be better than one – especially when combining innovative technology.
Based in Bemidji, Minnesota, and just across the state from L&M Radiator, LaValley Industries is an innovator in material handling for the pipeline, construction, mining, and utility industries.
Recently, the company contacted L&M Radiator, an industry leader and innovator in cooling systems located in the heart of Minnesota’s renowned Iron Range, to collaborate on the development of a cooling package for LaValley’s automated pipe-laying hydraulic power pack system, the Empower EMP40 Generator.
In designing the new hydraulic power pack system, LaValley realized it needed a radiator to cool the power electronics, for both onboard generator electronics and tethered electrified loads. The company was challenged by the low-temperature differential between the cooling air and the max temperature of the coolant.
Working closely with LaValley, L&M Radiator Design and Application Engineer, Brian Pierzina defined the project’s requirements and developed the cooling system.
“Working together, we came up with a Mesabi® cooling solution that provided the required performance and met all necessary specifications,” Pierzina said. “In the end, we also were able to plan for future improvements by oversizing the allotted area within the same enclosure envelope.”
Overcoming Complex, and Sometimes Competing Project Needs
One of the first challenges faced by the team was anticipating the harsh, often remote environment to which the Mesabi cooling system would be subjected. Laying pipelines means working in extremely dirty, muddy conditions, sometimes miles upon miles away from a maintenance shop. Being able to maintain and repair equipment in the field is critical to meeting deadlines. In addition, the engineering team had to consider other factors as well.
“Working with L&M Radiator on this project was the ideal situation for us,” said Doug Coutlee, Design Engineer at LaValley Industries. “Working directly with their engineers gave us the ability to expedite the design process and get it right the first time. We received quick and knowledgeable help with every question. They are experts at what they do.”
One of these factors included the need to fit the Mesabi cooling system within the existing generator enclosure package envelope while being able to liquid-cool all electrical components. The components inside the enclosure did not leave much room for the cooler and necessary plumbing.
“A lot of electronics and motors are cooled with just air over the top of them, but when you are trying to condense the size of the electrical controllers and motors, you must pump fluid through them to keep them cool,” explained Pierzina.
There are limitations on how hot the coolant can become to keep the equipment temperature at an optimal level. Electrical components can’t run at the same maximum temperature as a diesel engine (approximately 212 degrees F), they need between 160 F – 170 F depending on the component and manufacturer.
“Our Mesabi radiator would see 165-degree Fahrenheit fluid coming in. Typically 50/50 ethylene glycol water mixture is used,” explained Pierzina. “After the coolant goes through our radiator, it comes out at a different temperature, depending on the flow and the heat rejection in the system. That fluid will then go back into the electrical components and repeat the cycle.”
This project included stringent requirements due to the low-temperature differential between the coolant and the air temperature. The goal was 120 degrees Fahrenheit with coolant at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, so the overall size ended up being relatively small — 30 inches by 35 inches — for that type of project.
“The radiators that L&M Radiator designed for us is of the highest quality,” said Coutlee. “They’re rugged enough for our industry in the oil and gas construction market. Our equipment is exposed daily to harsh weather and working conditions.”
How Innovative Cooling Solutions That Work Are Developed
L&M Radiator engineers selected copper tubes to help obtain the heat dissipation required for the low temperature differential and for higher performance. It was also important to develop a cooling system that was easy to clean and repair onsite due to the remote location and rough terrain of the operation.
Mesabi individual tubes and seals are 100 percent replaceable in the field and once replaced, systems can be returned to 100 percent cooling performance capacity. Mesabi coolers also are easily cleaned externally with high-pressure water. As part of L&M’s commitment to excellent customer service, initial training on both repair and cleaning has already been provided to LaValley — before the final cooling system was even installed.
“When we collaborate directly with our clients, we can identify the ins and outs of the application and necessary performance requirements to create a cooling package that is the right long-term solution,” Pierzina added. “It’s part of our commitment to provide customers exactly what they need versus a customer ordering something off the shelf that will not perform or last as desired.”
One of the more unique parts of the final design for the LaValley hydraulic power pack system was identified during that collaboration discovery process — the inclusion of two separate tanks and a common tank. In order to meet LaValley’s requirements and enhance performance within the limited space available, a counterflow configuration and dual fans were incorporated into the final design.
“Working with local and regional companies has always been important to us,” said Coutlee. “It ensures that we will receive the highest quality products – made in the U.S.A — and service is never far away when we need help. Working with L&M has been an easy process and we look forward to continuing to do business with them. Their professionalism was top-notch from everyone we worked with through the entire process. We would recommend them to anyone who needs their services.”