Perspective on Commissioning – Connecting the DOP’s

DOP pump and power pack, ready for commissioning

A DOP pump1 and it’s drive go together like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other. Basically one product, but two units. Whether hydraulic or electric driven. OK, in some cases, you could use the extra power take off from the excavator or crane, but you still have to hook them up, before they can do any useful work.

And connecting the DOP to its drive is an elementary job, that can cause some headaches, when not done carefully. The modern electric drives require some more certified wizardry, that is beyond the scope of this post. Hydraulic power packs have their own peculiar quirks, that are worth mentioning here.

Usually, the hydraulic hoses come supplied with Snap-tite® connections2. These are quick and prevent most oil spills in the environment. They come with a disadvantage in price and resistance. Ultimately, the DOP should be connected to the power pack like this:

Hydraulic diagram DOP pump and power pack

So, even with such a simple diagram, still things can go horribly wrong. Off course, don’t switch the ‘Pump’ and ‘Return’ line, you will blow some seals on the motor. Most common is a failed connection of the Snap-tite®. When it is not completely tight, the internal valve is not completely open and you have a lot of resistance. So a lot of power on the power pack gets converted to heat on the connection and no performance on the DOP pump. Another common problem is the resistance in the leak line. This can cause terrible things on the hydraulic motor.

One client followed all the instructions in the manual and all advise from the service department, but still could not coach his new DOP to work. Lots of flow at the power pack, but almost no pressure. And the impeller could still be turned by hand. (Warning: never put your hand in an impeller when there is power on the drive!) One of our engineers went over to have a look on board. Well, here is an impression of the situation on deck.

Situation on board during commissioning

He quickly began cleaning up the mess on deck and uncovered how the hydraulic hoses were actually connected.

How the DOP pump was connected (not), actually

Well, that makes sense! Now it was easy to see, why the DOP was not working. Solution, connect the lines correctly and dredge away. Oh, and educate the crew about a tidy workplace.

Ship shape and ready to rumble

Well, after this first basic lesson in connecting the DOP, you are ready to connect your own DOP project. It’s easy as child’s play.

Connect the dots to set up a DOP project yourself (pdf version)


  1. Hydraulically driven submersible dredge pump DOP, Damen
  2. Quick Disconnect and Valve Division, Parker Snap-tite

See also

DOP Dredges for Power Dams and Reservoir Maintenance

New DOP dredge family

Today, our product group director, Olivier Marcus, gave a presentation1 on the maintenance of irrigation reservoirs and power dams with a range of specially developed DOP dredges. Here, I am happy to elaborate on his message and share with you highlights from his presentation. As you may have noticed from my previous posts, reservoirs are a long standing interest of mine. It was one of my first commissioning jobs at my previous employer. It made me aware, that reservoirs and power dams are not always the clean energy and sustainable solution that they are usually presented for.

Don’t get me wrong, we need these kind of structures to pass on our planet in a better state to the next generation, than we received it ourselves. As with everything: we have to take care of these responsibly.

Barrage du Ksob, M’Sila, Algeria

Dams and reservoirs have mainly two problems. First, if the bottom of the reservoir hasn’t been cleared before filling with water, there is a lot of biomass available. Especially in warm and shallow lakes, the decomposing material can generate a lot of carbon dioxide. The CO2 footprint of the generated electricity might even be higher than from diesel driven power plants2. So much for the green image of hydro power. Second, the interrupted sediment transport will cause the reservoir to fill up. Eventually the storage capacity isn’t enough anymore and the operation has to be abandoned. So much for the sustainable part of the image.

The first problem should have been tackled during the building phase of the power dam. Maintenance during operation for the second problem. The simplest method is to flush the reservoir through the bypass. But you can’t flush all the sediment. The heavy particles up stream will remain in place. And you smother the life of the river downstream. A more effective method is to use dredges. Over the years, we have supplied several of these vessels, each specifically engineered and built for their own location.

Special design reservoir dredges (ul: Cosider, ur:La Mahuna, bl: Djebel Debagh, br: Gross Glockner)

In an initial survey of these dredging opportunities, we found some common features and could develop a range of DOP dredges specific for reservoir maintenance. The transport capacity of the river should be matched by the capacity of the dredge. Often resulting in a range suitable for a DOP pump. Their flexibility makes the dredges adaptable to work on all the different areas in a reservoir.

Various areas in a reservoir with their corresponding DOP dredge solutions

It’s been more than ten years after our first introduction of these nifty little dredges3 and with the experience gained, it was time to present you a next generation that could assist in achieving a sustainable power generation and a more environmental friendly operation. Main innovation is that this new range is also available in an all-electric version. Which should make sense, if it is going to work at a power dam. Always discuss this with the power dam operator, as they are not very fond of plugging in a dredge. They fear distortions and fluctuations on their ‘product’. Than consider alternative clean energy from solar or wind and lastly the old reliable diesel option. With a lot of reservoirs already losing their capacity, there is a lot of opportunity for these type of dredges.

Brave ambitious dredge Djebel Debagh has a lot of work ahead


  1. Hydropower & Dams Asia, Damen
  2. Hydroelectric power’s dirty secret revealed, New Scientist
  3. Multi functional small dredging solution for maintanance of deep irrigation reservoirs and hydro power dams, CEDA

See also

The Origin of Clay, When Dredging Becomes Sticky

Clay forming Fountain Paint Pot, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

This mud pot gave me a revelation on the origin of clay. I was aware, that clay is a completely different mineral than sand. For starters, sand is based on silicon dioxide and clay on some complex aluminium compound. Sand is mechanically worn down rock, usually quartz. But I never got around to understand where clay came from. Here, a small sign at the side of the mud pot revealed a complete different mechanism: chemical alteration of rock by hydrothermal action.

Sign at the Fountain Paint Pot, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Now, it became clear to me, how all the funny properties of clay arise from this generating process. Unlike weathered sand, clay grains are nice symmetric hexagonal crystals. And these crystals grow under changing conditions for temperature, chemistry and pressure. Exactly the environment in these mud pots. The sulphuric acid leaches the chemicals from the rock matrix, in Yellowstone usually Feldspar, the water bubbles to higher levels, transporting and mixing the ions and cooling down along the way. Just like salt crystallises in brine, the clay shakes out like tiny particles, about 2µm. These flakes coalesce into a new sediment: clay1.

Hexagonal sheets of a clay mineral (kaolinite) (SEM image, ×1340 magnification) (Credit: Wikipedia)

The specific mineral of clay, e.g. kaolinite, is a hydrated oxide. And the hydrate allows the charge of these semi-ions to be moved around. As same charges repel and drive themselves apart, the edges and corners of the little crystal will become negatively charged. Now, there are a bunch of discs that have a preference to stick to each other like masonry. Between the discs, there is not much space making the water content low. But, one can add water and the sediment will swell, but there will still be contact between the ends and centres of the disc. Even with this spongy structure, there is still some consistency. It behaves like a plastic substance, you can deform it and it will stay like that.

The plasticity of clay can be measured by rolling the clay in a sausage and measure the water content at which it crumbles. That is a lower limit. An upper limit of plasticity has to be determined by testing the effect of shaking a bowl with clay. Both methods are described2 in ASTM D4318. The difference of water content between the lower plastic limit and the higher liquid limit is the plasticity index. The higher the plasticity index, the more difficult it is to cut this material. It is like cutting warm butter, material is moved around, but you are not severing chunks of the bulk.

Synthesis of clay and the relevant properties for dredging

Whenever you hear dredge people boast about difficulties in dredging, usually it involves clay also. The cutting itself, it is very hard to cut the material out of the sediment. When the chunks come loose, the chunks will stick to the cutter head and the will get completely smeared over and no new material can be cut or sucked up. After that, the clay chunks will tumble down the discharge pipeline. Under certain conditions, the chunks will snowball and form bigger balls. Finally, the clay gets at the reclamation area and will cause problems with the drainage. Remember, fines clog the pores between the grains and prevent the flow of drain water. And clay particles are very fine and they glue the bigger grains together.

Knowing the properties of clay, it is obvious, that normal cutting tools for sand dredging, do not work in a clay environment. Based on the special properties of clay, we once developed a special clay tool for a specific project3. And it worked4. It was fun. And it will be another story.

DOP pumps with special clay cutter head at the ‘Markthallen’ project in Rotterdam


  1. Metasomatism, Wikipedia
  2. Standard Test Methods for Liquid Limit, Plastic Limit, and Plasticity Index of Soils, ASTM D4318
  3. DOP150 creates underground car park,
  4. Prestigieus project Markthal Rotterdam vraagt om innovatieve oplossingen, Autograaf 42-p.8, MvO Groep

See also