Skyline Steel Spiral Weld Supports Port of Houston Bayport Expansion

By Don Mounce | September 28, 2010

The Port of Houston's Bayport Container and Cruise Project is a $180-million marine effort to expand the capabilities and meet the market demands for this growing industrial and commercial region. This massive Port of Houston Authority (POHA) project is expected to relieve pressure from nearby Barbours Cut terminal. The construction of a cruise terminal will aid in the growing tourism demands and capabilities of the port.

This fast track project required a complex coordination, utilization and installation of construction components in order to meet timeline and budgetary restraints, plus stringent air and noise emission standards. The project designer, Gee & Jensen, selected a steel combi-wall pile system from Skyline Steel in order to utilize the advantages gained through spiral weld pipe.

Bayport Cruise Terminal

The Port of Houston Bayport Terminal is not actually on the main Houston port waterway. It is a primary component of the three-mile, 45-foot-deep man-made channel that connects with the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay.

It is a major component of the entire, expansive Port of Houston complex. And the construction project components of this new expansion were competitively bid. While project time and compatibility were imperative, so were air and noise issues. Due to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements on the project, minimal air and noise pollution standards were placed on all project elements.

The Port Authority also desired to maintain its high standards of neighborhood and environmental relations. Nearly 200 acres of marshland and wetlands needed to be protected for birds and wildlife during and after project completion.

Spiral Weld Solutions

Port consulting engineers and engineers from Gee and Jensen selected the AZ combination wall solution from Skyline Steel as the primary structural element for the cruise dock wharf. The strength and economy of the spiral weld pipe was a major asset in resolving problematic soil conditions at the site. Engineers felt it was the best solution to handle the pressure and stress on these poor soil conditions.

Orion Construction of Texas was awarded the $40-million contract for this foundation work, which needed to be completed prior to the terminal facility construction and utility additions.

A total of 3,700 tons of 66-inch spiral weld pipe with 3/4-inch-thick walls was used for the 91-foot-long king piles. An additional 1,400 tons of Skyline's AZ 26 sheet pile was used between the king piles to create a continuous bulkhead.

"We have used Skyline Steel's combi-wall system with spiral welded pipe piles in many other marine projects," according to Orion Vice President Rob Lewis. "We were confident with installing this system on the Bayport project.

"The project had some unique challenges and requirements for low air emissions in accordance with the port's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. We could not use the cranes and construction machinery from barges on the water as we normally would. We had to build and compact a levy from dredged soil at the site so that we could use ground equipment, which falls under a different air emission standard and resolved the problem."

Special Testing

The design engineers at Gee & Jensen required tighter pipe tolerances and quality control/inspection requirements than standard specification (ASTM A252) grade spiral welded pipe pile. Skyline Steel worked with Orion Construction to develop an enhanced production and testing process on the spiral welded pipe. Skyline offered what it termed an Enhanced ASTM A252+ spiral welded pipe manufacturing solution, which was accepted by Gee & Jenson and Orion. The Enhanced ASTM A252+ pipe pile specification provided tighter tolerances on the circumference and diameter of the spiral welded pipe piles.

In addition, spiral welding was fully automated and met the specifications for AWS D 1.1 for full penetration welds. A grade 60 minimum yield strength coiled steel was used to manufacture the pipe, which is a higher grade than normal.

To ensure the quality of the welds, Skyline developed a control plan was. A third-party inspection team was supplied to visually inspect 100 percent of the spiral welds and to ultrasonically test (UT) 10 percent of the pipe for full penetration welds to ensure that AWS D1.1, section 6, table 6.2, accept/reject standards were met.

This special pipe designation further helped ensure that weld quality, physical and chemical properties, diameter tolerances per plus or minus 0.25-inch, straightness standards per API Section 7.6, and other aspects were maintained per the project specifications.

Product and Support Availability

"The Bayport Cruise Terminal's combi-wall foundation with spiral welded pipe piles marks the first time that the Port of Houston had ever used this type of bulkhead system," according to Lewis. "Spiral welded pipe is ideal for such a marine solution. During installation, the spiral-welded pipe has a tendency to rotate or screw itself into the ground due to the spiral-welded seam. But this is not a problem if you have designed and built a good quality driving template to prevent the pipe pile from rotating.

"Pipe pile is getting harder and harder to acquire on a timely basis for such large jobs as this. Skyline not only achieved the aggressive delivery schedule but they made it easy," says Lewis. "Plus the engineering assistance available from Skyline Steel before and during the project was a key asset."

The competitive price and coordinated delivery assistance were also key aspects of using spiral weld pipe. The pipe received a 16-mil coating of coal tar epoxy, which is a standard Skyline option. "It was coated locally by King Fabrication to assist with our scheduled demands," Lewis added. "And the Skyline Steel AZ 26 steel sheet pile was also used as a replacement for several hundred tons of stone revetment. These large stones for the revetment would have had to be brought to the site from St. Louis, Missouri, as it was simply not available locally.

"Due to the high transportation costs and material acquisition difficulties resulting from Hurricane Katrina's devastating effects on New Orleans, the steel sheet pile from Skyline Steel proved to be a more cost effective and timely solution," Lewis concluded.

Spiral Success

Sam Shilu, project manager for the POHA, was more than satisfied with his first use of spiral weld pipe piles from Skyline Steel.

"We were very impressed with the spiral weld pipe quality, price and availability," says Shilu. "The spiral weld pipe is humongous in size, and no field splices were needed to get the length that we needed. We would definitely use this spiral weld pipe again.

"Another asset that we did not expect was that the qualities of the spiral weld pipe helped us abate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers noise standards. We were able to use a vibratory hammer process to install the pipe and the piling down to 70 feet due to the strength of the Skyline project.

"We only had to use the impact hammer process to drive the last 20 feet. This cut down substantially on the noise concerns regarding the surrounding neighborhood."

The project did, and soon the ships will be able to, cruise along with spiral weld pipe.