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Atlas Crane Moves 300,000-lb. Boilers for Dockside Plant Expansion

Full-Service Crane and Rigging Solutions for Efficient Plant Expansion


Recently, Atlas Crane Service helped load two big new boilers into hopper barges in Nebraska for their trip to a manufacturing plant expansion in central Illinois.

On the receiving end of the trip, Atlas unloaded them and trucked them from the dock to the newly expanded plant.

Those two boilers were later joined by a third. 

Together, they will provide steam to drive turbines that will generate the additional electricity needed to power the expanded processing plant.

Each boiler measured 42' long, 21.8' wide, 20' tall, and weighed about 300,000 lbs. with rigging.

They were manufactured in Omaha, Nebraska, then barged on the Missouri, Mississippi, and Illinois rivers to a newly expanded industrial plant in central Illinois.

In Omaha, Atlas provided one of two all-terrain cranes that worked together at dockside to load the boilers into hopper barges for their on-water journey.

In Illinois, two Atlas all-terrain cranes worked at dockside to unload each boiler, rotate it, and set it onto an Atlas-owned 14-axle trailer that hauled it to the industrial plant. 

At the plant, the owner used two of its own cranes to pick each boiler off the trailer and mount it on concrete a foundation.

Growing Full-Service Provider

Atlas Crane Service Inc. offers a full range of crane-related services nationwide.

Its capabilities include crane rental, rigging, heavy hauling, storage, and engineering, which it provides to customers in sectors like wind energy, industrial construction and maintenance, fossil-fueled power generation, commercial construction, mechanical, HVAC, telecom, petrochemical, and others.

CEO Zach Prentis founded the company in 2009 in the Chicago suburb of Batavia, Illinois, with one 40-USt capacity truck crane.

Just five years later, Atlas had grown to 50 employees, a fleet of cranes, and a 10-acre headquarters in nearby Aurora.

In 2022, the company was bought by investor Ares Management with Prentis remaining as CEO.

Today, Atlas has 200 employees and a fleet of cranes that includes mini cranes, carry decks, boom trucks, hydraulic-boom truck cranes, lattice-boom truck cranes, telescopic-boom and lattice-boom crawler cranes, rough-terrain cranes, and all-terrain cranes.

Besides its Aurora headquarters, Atlas operates branch offices in Peru, Illinois, and Atlantic, Iowa. Together, they serve customers from coast to coast.

In fact, this project was booked through the Iowa office.

In addition to providing cranes and operators for the job, Atlas engineered the rigging, lifting, and land-transportation plans.

A Few Challenges

Loading the barges in Omaha took the combined capacities of two 550-USt Liebherr LTM 1450-8.1 all-terrain cranes.

One came from Atlas; the other from another crane service.

The main challenge for the barge-loading lifts was making sure the cranes always shared the load evenly as they swung the boiler into position and lowered it into the barge.

To help keep things consistent, each crane was equipped with 295,400 lbs. of counterweight, set on a 34.2' x 31.5' outrigger footprint, and had its boom extended to 104.7'.

Under each outrigger, 8.4' x 8.2' matting helped distribute loadings.

“For safety, the outrigger mats had to be at least 11.6' back from the dock edge, and that put the load radius at 51.6',” said Atlas project manager Shawn Jeppson. 

“The boiler started out between the two cranes, perpendicular to the river and barge, with one rigged to each end of the boiler,” Jeppson added. “As one crane swung left and the other swung right, the boiler automatically turned 90° so it was parallel to the river and aligned with the barge.”

Jeppson noted that both cranes had to swing at the same rate so that each held half the load as the boiler was swung into position and lowered into the barge.

Jeppson said that the cranes’ smooth controls and the operators’ skill made the lifts go exactly as planned.

When both boilers were safely loaded and secured, the barges and their tug began the two-week on-water journey to central Illinois.

Pick and Roll

Atlas’ plan for offloading the boilers in Illinois and moving them from the dock to the plant had to be a bit different.

“In Illinois, we needed to roll the boiler onto its side while it was suspended so it would stay within the width clearances as our Goldhofer trailer carried it to the plant,” said Jeppson. “So we needed a higher-capacity crane that could handle the boiler’s full weight while a second crane rolled the load 90°.”

Atlas chose a 900-USt Liebherr LTM 1750-9.1 as the main crane and a 550-USt LTM 1450-8.1 as the secondary rig.

The LTM 1750-9.1 had 449,700 lbs. of counterweight, sat on a 39' x 39' outrigger footprint, and had its boom extended to 107'. 

Each outrigger sat on 8' x 12' matting to help distribute loadings, and the mats lay 15' back from the dock edge.

The LTM 1450-8.1 had 295,400 lbs. of counterweight, sat on a 34' x 31.5' outrigger footprint with 8' x 8' matting beneath each outrigger, and had its boom extended to 105'.

Working together the two cranes lifted a boiler out of its hopper barge and swung in unison until it was suspended between them. The LTM 1750-9.1 was at a 61' radius, and the LTM 1450-8.1 was at 55'.

Atlas engineer Matthew Meiers had designed rigging that featured a rolling block and basket-hitch rigging under the smaller crane’s hook.

So while the LTM 1750-9.1 supported the boiler, the LTM 1450-8.1 lowered its hook, allowing one side of the boiler to roll downward. 

That let the boiler’s 21'6" width become its height, while the unit’s 20' height became the width.

The reoriented boiler was then set onto the 14-axle Goldhofer trailer and secured for the approximately half-mile drive to the plant.

“We had to push a few cable and phone lines up a foot or two as the load passed under, but its width met all the clearances along the route,” said Jeppson.

“This was an excellent example of the way Atlas can provide a customer total service,” said Jeppson. “We can design rigging, plan lifts, and provide the cranes, hauling equipment, and skilled crews to carry out the plan.” 

Article written by Mike Larson


Crane Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.