Sniffing Out The Details Of Dredge System Fittings

Sniffer valve on the discharge line
Sniffer valve on the discharge line

The mixture carrying system of a cutter suction dredge, is more than just a cutter and a pump in a pontoon. In the dredge system, there are many valves and fittings, that make the system work. One question I was asked, what these extra valves do. Actually, there are several valves, that are worth mentioning. The sniffer valve, the vacuum relief valve and the non-return valve. For working in the designed operating point, you don’t need them. But, to get there and back, they can be quite useful.

Dredge system layout and fitting locations
Dredge system layout and fitting locations

The first valve is affectionally called a sniffer valve. A more descriptive name would be ‘discharge line de aerator valve’. Usually, it consists of a floating ball in a cage with a seat at the top, that can be closed by the ball. Provided the ladder is already under water and starting up the dredge pump from a fresh situation, probably air is in the high onboard discharge pipe sections on deck. Behind the dredge, the line goes down again and the air is basically trapped, preventing the dredge pump from properly priming. The sniffer valve allows the air to escape and the water to enter the floating discharge pipe at the water line. Problem solved.

Arrangement and operation of a sniffer valve
Arrangement and operation of a sniffer valve

On the other hand, when the discharge pressure falls, the ball floats down with the receding water level. This opens the top and allows air to enter the pipe again. Which is no problem as it can be expelled again through the same sniffer valve. When the water can flow away from the high section on board, this will break the water volume in the system. When opening the pump, only the small section between pump outlet and bulk head passage will fall in the pump well. Or, if properly executed: need to be drained and discharged.

A last function of the sniffer valve is in case there is a blockage of the suction pipe. There will be no new mixture flowing in, but the mixture in the discharge line still has a lot of momentum. For a 1 km, 500ø mm pipe, the mixture has the equivalent momentum of a 75 ton truck barrelling down the pipe at 80 km/h. You don’t stop that in an instant either. The mixture keeps flowing and draws a vacuum. The sniffer ball drops and allows air to enter the pipe.

A better way to prevent the vacuum, is to install a vacuum valve in the suction line. That will allow water in and enable you to clean the discharge line without a cavitating pump. Once the suction block is removed, the relief valve opens again and mixture can be inserted in the dredge line system.

Suction pipe vacuum relief valve
Suction pipe vacuum relief valve

In case there is a high discharge height, the mixture mass will not be broken by the sniffer valve. The geodetic pressure will close the sniffer and all of the mixture volume wants to return through the system out of the suction mouth; or open pump, swamping the dredge. To prevent this from happening, a non-return valve can be mounted in the onboard discharge line.

On board discharge non-return valve
On board discharge non-return valve

These fittings will cover most operational situations. There might be even more for exceptional situations, depending on the design choices by the manufacturer1 and to the taste of the owner.2 e.g. We provide a suction deaerating valve. Any ideas about such a provision?

Suction deaerating valve
Suction deaerating valve

References

  1. Cutter Suction Dredger, Damen
  2. Product Finder Dredging, Damen

See also

Sunken Treasures From ¡VAMOS! At Silvermines

Comment

04/03/2020, Mark:

I did receive the right comment about to the purpose of the suction deaerator valve. It is indeed for letting out the air trapped in the suction pipe when the ladder is being lowered. It could be argued that the air will also leave through the sniffer valve at the back of the dredge. If somehow, the air would have trouble escaping all the way to the back, the pump will be very slow in priming itself. Providing a deaerator on the local high at the bulkhead passage, the suction line can purge the air there and the pump starts quicker.

 

CEDA DMC Works On A Guidance Paper For Soil Investigation

CEDA Dredging Management Commission WG on Soil Investigation (Credit: CEDA)
CEDA Dredging Management Commission WG on Soil Investigation (Credit: CEDA)

Did you ever start a project and it turned out that the conditions were different than expected? Welcome to the dredging industry. One of the most underestimated preparations for a dredging project is the soil investigation. As this investigation is of the utmost importance for the dredging community, the DMC is preparing a guidance paper on this topic1, which we discussed last meeting (February 7, 2020, IMDC, Antwerp).

Working for a dredging equipment manufacturer, I am not much involved in the actual soil investigation. However, often our clients base their purchase of a specific type of equipment on the soil investigation and as such we are often presented with the reports on soil investigation. Based on these reports, we calculate the possible production for various types and advise the client for a dredge that will meet their requirements on the maximum production. most of the time we provide a good advise and the client is happy.

Off course there have been occasions where the performance was not as expected. Often because the report on the soil investigation was inadequate. Either the report did not contain all the details, or the investigation itself was lousy. Either way, rubbish in, is rubbish out. Just as an example, let me tell you what can go wrong, when the information is not representing the real circumstances.

One of our products are the so called ‘DOP Dredges’2. They are based around the versatile DOP pump. Basically, it a DOP suspended on an A-frame on a pontoon with a powerpack. The DOP can be lowered into the sediment and create a typical suction dredge pit. The production is more based on the rate that water can enter the bank face and the velocity that the banks recede. Our client provided us a Particle Distribution Diagram of the available sediment3. It was a nice narrow graded sand, but there was a considerable fines tail on the lower end. This was being dealt by the washing and screening installation. According to the client was this the sand characteristic from the whole pit. And what could be better? If you excavate all the material, you really know what is there, right?

Difference between expected soil conditions (left) and real situation (right)
Difference between expected soil conditions (left) and real situation (right)

Well no. As it happened, there were cohesive silt layers between the narrow graded sand layers. When dredging, they sucked at the bottom of the pit. Any silt layers gradually broke of and disintegrated by the eroding density flow. As the pit was created over a long period, the falling chunks of silt just slid down the slope, without causing any harm.

Enter: the new DOP dredge. It started in a new corner of the pit and initially had some trouble penetrating the silt layer. Eventually it managed to get through and started excavating a cavity below the silt layer. These broke of, burying the DOP. Without any possibility to recover the DOP, it turned into a very expensive anchor.

Risk of getting your DOP trapped in a cavity under the cohesive silt layers and the solution
Risk of getting your DOP trapped in a cavity under the cohesive silt layers and the solution

If the presence of these cohesive silt layers would have been known, we would have adapted the suction pipe for a deeper penetration. That prevents the DOP becoming covered and facilitates easier extraction. This story proves two things: 1. A proper soil investigation can prevent costly accidents and budget runovers. 2. A DOP can be modified to most requirements, when the circumstances are known.

Meanwhile, the DMC is preparing its guidance document to assist you in preventing problems like this. Follow CEDA for updates4.

Standard suction tube (left) and long suction tube (right)
Standard suction tube (left) and long suction tube (right)

References

  1. Dredging Management Commission, CEDA
  2. DOP Dredger, Damen
  3. A Sample of Soil Samples, Discover Dredging
  4. News, CEDA

See also

Which Teeth Will Survive The Cut? Adapting Your Selection

Me, explaining about our cutter systems
Me, explaining about our cutter systems

After my last post1, I received some comments and questions about the actual products we are applying in our cutter systems for our CSD’s2. Indeed, from a pure physical perspective, last post cuts to the heart of the processes, but does not explain our design of the working tool that makes a cutter suction dredge do its work.

Over the years, there has been a lot of development in this tool. Originally, suction dredges were plain suction dredges, working in non-cohesive sand. When the soil was more cohesive than could be dug with the standard suction dredges, attaching a mechanical device for loosening the ground enabled the suction dredge to work in this environment. From this original concept, the cutter head was already recognisable as a crown with teeth on a back ring and a suction mouth in the centre. From there, a lot of experimentation was done, but ultimately it all came back to this concept. Although modern cutter heads have a vastly improved performance and lifetime.

The cutting process in a modern cutter head is a combination of the rotation of the head and the swing of the dredge. The teeth describe a compound path of translation and rotation and each individual tooth has its own set of cutting parameters for depth and angle varying over time. Moreover, the combination of teeth on the different arms, allow for a staggering of the teeth that each tooth cuts fresh material and optimising the use of the teeth and spreading the wear. This results in a complicated geometry of the arms and a intricate pattern of the teeth.

Teeth system with adapters (left) teeth system direct on arm (right)
Teeth system with adapters (left) teeth system direct on arm (right)

Once a cutter design has been chosen, there is still some tuning possible. Normally, the teeth are fitted on adapters and there are several teeth types available for a certain adapter. Pick points, Chisels and Flares. Most productivity can be expected from the wider teeth. However, the penetration of the wide teeth is less. So, for harder material you want to select narrower teeth.

Adapter system (left), teeth range with adapter (top), teeth range direct on arm (bottom)
Adapter system (left), teeth range with adapter (top), teeth range direct on arm (bottom)

Wear is also an issue3. And as the teeth are in direct contact with the fresh material, the wear rates can be severe. The disadvantage of a teeth and adapter system is that that are quite big. So, less teeth fit on an arm, reducing production on average. As most of our CSD’s are working in more gentle sands we selected a cutter system, that provides more teeth to engage in the action, increasing production. As these teeth are fitted directly on the arms, there are no adapters that wear also. Consequently having no adapters, simpler arms and dirt cheap teeth result in a low investment low OPEX cutter system. Although you might have to check the state of your teeth more often, in the end you spend less money on a cubic meter produced.

Teeth in various stages of degradation
Teeth in various stages of degradation

Teeth can be worn down to the root. Also they are not wearing evenly. Usually, they last longer on the outside, near the back ring. You might consider using different tooth forms over the arm. Experience and practice, will guide you in selecting the best combination. In line with the previous post, the analogy will be on the table. Just as you select different teeth for your fork, you can select different teeth on your cutter depending on the dish being served.

Different teeth selection for tableware
Different teeth selection for tableware

References

  1. Experiencing The Cutting Edge Of Dredging Technology, Discover Dredging
  2. Cutter Suction Dredger, Damen
  3. Wear of Rock Cutting Tools, Peter Verhoef

See also