To places where no mountain is high enough for Siemens

Airin in partnership with Pelindo II to improve logistics performance
Airin in partnership with Pelindo II to improve logistics performance

In a massive intercontinental effort that began last May, two Siemens-made gas turbines, each weighing 85 tons, were boarded onto a heavy load carrier in the Inner Harbor of Norrköping, Sweden – a Baltic Sea port equipped with a 350-tonne heavy-lift crane for loading and discharging transformers, turbines and other special cargo.

JAKARTA (infolog); From there, the turbines traveled some 14,000 kilometers, or 8,500 miles, across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean to the Pacific port city of Arica in the desert of northern Chile.

Next, the turbines were loaded onto trucks that ascended the snow-peaked Andes mountains; an 1,800-kilometer (1,118 mile) route that proceeded over winding, treacherous roads overlooking peaks as high as 4,680 meters (15,350 feet) above sea level, before descending to their destination – the 628-meter (2,060-foot) high Termoelectrica del Sur thermal power plant operated by Bolivia’s state-owned utility Ende Andina SAM, just north of Bolivia’s border with Argentina.

In total, Siemens will supply 14 industrial gas turbines, 11 steam turbines, 22 heat recovery steam generators and further power plant equipment to three power plants in Bolivia.

Termoelectrica del Sur thermal power plant will be equipped with an additional four SGT-800 gas turbines, four SST-400 steam turbines and eight heat recovery steam generators.

Termoelectrica de Warnes in the eastern Bolivian province of Santa Cruz, will be expanded by four SGT-800 gas turbines, four SST-400 steam turbines and eight heat-recovery steam generators.

For Termoelectrica Entre Rios power plant located in Cochabamba, 220 kilometers southeast of the capital La Paz, Siemens will supply six SGT-800 gas turbines, three SST-400 steam turbines and six heat-recovery steam generators

Feasibility Analysis

Managing such projects is an ongoing challenge even for experienced project cargo specialists. In an interview with Breakbulk, Wilhelm Deubet, director of industrial projects at Geodis’ freight forwarding unit in Germany, explained:

“We have carefully conducted feasibility analysis ahead of the project to survey and optimize transportation, including about 50 possible bypasses to overcome infrastructure challenges for the transport of the equipment. If the height of the cargo is too high, or if a bridge is not strong enough, we have to ensure that such hurdles can be enforced for the transport phase.

This requires very transparent and solid relationships with local administrations, in order to get all required permits for transporting heavy lift equipment.”

At each step, crewmembers calculate if bridges and roads are capable of carrying the tonnage. “If any adjustments are needed, or also in case of any damages, we reinstate the roads and other infrastructure the same way they were before,” even if it means to manage repairs on the spot, Deubet said. Geodis was the global supply chain operator and project logistics specialist working on the project.

According to Thomas Grestenberger, head of procurement at Siemens Industrial Power Plant Solutions, or IPPS, in Vienna, there are three sorts of initiatives.

“We are expanding existing power plants, increasing their efficiency, and building new ones.”

He explained that Bolivia will “save a lot of natural gas” as a result of the more efficient, “combined cycle” design of the three plants, which are more efficient than conventional open-cycle power plants. He added that the environment of the country will benefit as a result of the more efficient design.

Milestone for Siemens

While the logistical challenges are great, so is the potential payoff. In all, the three expansions will increase the installed power generating capacity of Bolivia’s National Interconnected System by 66 percent, while providing a more reliable energy supply for the local population.

For giant Siemens, the Bolivian projects are also significant.

“Our team in Vienna is a very new unit at Siemens’ power and gas business; just a few years old,” Grestenberger said. “We have done several projects but this is the first mega-contract for this unit.”

The project is large in scope, encompassing three different regions in which each of the three projects has a different supply chain. It is also significant that Siemens signed the project with the Bolivian government directly to bring reliable power at an economic rate, he said.

Various pieces of equipment will reach various Bolivian locations over land and sea, not just from their place of manufacture in Germany, but also from Sweden, China, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam and neighboring Brazil.

Most of the equipment used in the power plants will be made by Siemens. The gas turbines and the equipment for them are coming to Bolivia from Sweden and Germany; the steam turbines will come from Brazil; and the heat-recovery steam generator will come from China.

To complicate matters further, some equipment will be made by Siemens plants in Sweden and Brazil, while others will be designed and engineered by Siemens but manufactured in China.

At this point in the operation, it’s not clear whether the projects will also boost the exports of Bolivia, one of the lowest-income countries in the region.

Grestenberger said: “Bolivia wants to make power to sell electricity to Argentina – from the Del Sur plant – if they have more power than they need.”

Whether that happens will depend not only on the completion of the various initiatives, but also on how much demand for electricity exists as Bolivia’s long-lagging industrial sector expands its appetite for energy.

One of Bolivia’s endemic weaknesses has been the absence of any border on the Pacific since 1879, when Bolivia lost the Chaco War with Chile.

Nowadays, Bolivia’s location at the geographic center of South America could become one of its strengths, as vast improvements in transportation and logistics make it possible to construct and operate power plants that generate electricity from locations that were inaccessible.

Right Sequence of Moves

Despite such transport infrastructure improvements, the Siemens project still faced logistical challenges. At the time of writing, ships carrying turbines and heat recovery steam generators for the Termoelectrica del Sur project – the first of the three – had arrived in two South American ports, and were about to transport the equipment some 1,800 kilometers to the first of the three different sites.

“We have to handle [each of the projects] a bit differently,” explained Marcus Koerber, head of transport logistics at Siemens IPPS. “The locations are hundreds of kilometers apart from each other. We have more than 400 special transport [vehicles]. The [power plant] sites vary from sea level to an altitude of 4,680 meters, in four different climatic zones within South America.

“We also have to deliver equipment, which is not that easy to transport onwards. We have to make the right sequence [of moves and procedures] and have the right equipment in place [at the right time]. We have to make sure that the drivers reach the sites, and then come back in time to deliver the next shipments.”

As these interviews were taking place, the just-in-time choreography of various pieces in the daily puzzle of logistics was starting to fit together within the Chilean port of Arica. An 85-ton turbine was about to be loaded onto one of the multiple-axle platforms that was coming into that port.

Eventually, explained Koerber, “we [will] also need to plan the delivery of the equipment so that we don’t have dead time and cargo sitting on the ground. We have all sorts of people on the ground, with security there, insurance, the engineers. And this requires daily coordination.”

Geodis’ Deubet added that the Port of Arica operates 24 hours a day, and those who use the port would do well to understand how much work goes on there.

On one day, he said that a second shift was loading over-dimensional cargo on low-loaders, while 140 pieces of general cargo were being loaded in parallel. In addition, 34 land vehicles were being loaded in Arica.

“These are containers, general cargo, and 13 over-dimensional pieces. That’s one operation,” Deubet said. “The big operation will also happen: the five big ‘heavies’ – three generators – of 74 tons each; two turbines of 84 tons each – they have separate loading methods.

They have permits on-hand, and insurance documents – with an estimated time of departure of next week.” (


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