• Short Summary

    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, June 8 -- The oil industry's struggle to conquer the Arctic got a big lift here today when a unique platform raised its 250 gross tons, off the ground on a cushion of air and was towed over rolling terrain.

  • Description

    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, June 8 -- The oil industry's struggle to conquer the Arctic got a big lift here today when a unique platform raised its 250 gross tons, off the ground on a cushion of air and was towed over rolling terrain.

    This was the first public demonstration of the heaviest air cushion vehicle ever built. The unit, known as the ACT-100 will serve year-round as an Arctic transporter, hauling 100-ton payloads across tundra, muskeg or marsh, without unduly disturbing delicate terrain. It will also traverse firm offshore ice and open water.

    The unit's developers, Arctic Engineers and Constructors of Houston and its affiliate company, Arctic Systems Ltd. of Calgary, said the transporter will spur Arctic exploration, which has been severely hampered because conventional land transportation is generally limited to wintertime. The ACT-100 can traverse water, firm ice or any relatively level terrain, permitting year-round operation.

    Development and testing of the Air Cushion Transporter is funded jointly by Sun Oil Company, the Canadian government, Arctic Systems Ltd., and Arctic Engineers and Constructors.

    Sun Oil Company, which has an active Arctic exploration program, sees the air cushion system as a way of drilling offshore wells while surrounded by Arctic ice, a procedure not previously attempted. After further testing of the 100-ton capacity transporter, Sun expects to support development of subsequent phases of the system include construction of a larger unit with self-contained drilling system, and an ice-melting capability that will allow it to hold position while drilling, despite gradual movement of the ice layer.

    Test Results
    "We are very pleased about the results of these tests of the transporter," said O.D. Blankenship, General Manager of Arctic Engineers and Constructors.

    "Our designs have been verified, the unit is highly stable when travelling and it can be towed at speeds in excess of 6 mph, which is more than adequate for Arctic operations."
    Blankenship also noted this is the first time air cushion technology has been applied to a unit of this weight. Previously the heaviest air cushion vehicles were 180-ton ferries, which currently ply the English Channel.

    "This type of transporter is unique, however, because it is not self-propelled, thereby eliminating the most expensive and sophisticated portions of conventional air cushion vehicles," said Blankenship. He pointed out that it does not require an aircraft-type hull of highly trained personnel for operation and maintenance. In addition, all mechanical equipment on the unit is standard oilfield machinery, thoroughly proven in Arctic operation, he said.

    How It Operates
    The 100-ton capacity unit is an all-steel, barge-type hull with a flexible air skirt fans force air under the hull, inflating the skirt and lifting the unit. Because the skirt forms a partial seal with the ground, the vehicle floats on a cushion of air. It is towed on land or firm ice by a conventional wide-track vehicle exerting a drawbar pull of 10,000 lbs.

    The 57 x 75 ft hull is 6-1/2 ft high. When air-lifted for towing, the hull rides about 4 ft off the ground, allowing it to pass over, obstacles. The skirt of rubber-coated nylon is segmented to flow around obstacles so that air pressure will always be maintained.

    "The transporter is designed for use on relatively level terrain, and land-fast ice areas such as offshore the northern Alaska coast, the Mackenzie River delta and areas around the Canadian Arctic Islands.", said Blankenship.

    He said discussions are under way with several prospective customers for use of the unit beginning later this year. The transporter is built in three sections so it can be take a part, shipped by barge up the Mackenzie River to the Arctic, and the reassembled.

    The Air Cushion Transporter has many applications, according to its developers, because its large deck can carry a wide range of drilling and construction equipment. Its builders see future units as a habitat for a crew of 60 men, a construction work platform, or oilfield service and maintenance equipment carrier. It can move equipment and structures while fully assembled, eliminating the need for time-consuming assembly and disassembly at the site.

    Skirt design was provided by Air Cushion Equipment Ltd., Southampton, England, who have had extensive experience in the development of air cushion vehicles. The Air Cushion Transporter was built by Dominion Bridge Co Ltd. in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

    Canadian government support for the program is handled through the Program for the Advancement of Industrial Technology under the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce.

    Arctic Engineers and Constructors is a joint venture of Global Marine Inc. a Los Angeles-based offshore drilling and natural resources company and Raymond International Inc. a world-wide integrated engineering, manufacturing and heavy construction firm with headquarters in New York.

    Arctic exploration activities for Sun Oil Company are handled by the company's Dallas-based Key Areas Region, managed by Fred E. Buchanan.

    For additional information:
    Arctic Engineers and Constructors
    3100 Richmond Avenue, Suite 404
    Houston, Texas 77006
    (713) 526-8745)

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