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Schaeffler supplies custom bearings for Pioneering Spirit

Schaeffler supplies custom bearings for Pioneering Spirit

Schaeffler has secured its largest ever order for Elges spherical plain bearings. The company will supply more than 240 bearings with outside diameters ranging from 400mm to 1060mm, for the topsides lift system on the Pioneering Spirit, a purpose-built ship used for the installation and decommissioning of offshore oil platforms.

Built by offshore contractor Allseas, Pioneering Spirit (formerly Pieter Schelte) is the world's largest working ship. As well as installing oil platforms and laying pipelines, the vessel is equipped with a topsides lift system (TLS) that has a capacity of up to 48,000 tonnes. This enables the installation of extremely heavy platform topsides, while its jacket lift system (JLS) can remove and install steel platform substructures weighing up to 25,000 tonnes each.
Schaeffler is supplying custom designed, maintenance-free large spherical plain bearings with an Elgoglide sliding layer to Allseas for the TLS levers, and to Bosch Rexroth for the TLS hydraulic cylinders.

As the ship moves into position alongside an offshore oil platform, which is firmly anchored to the seabed, the movements of the ocean waves cause enormous loads on the ship. The function of the TLS levers is to compensate for these loads. In turn, the TLS hydraulic cylinders ensure that the platform topsides can be elevated and lifted off safely without causing any damage. This means the bearings must provide very high load carrying capacities in order to compensate for these loads and to allow for movement of the hydraulic cylinders.

Plain bearings are ideal for the low speed rotary, swiveling and tilting movements, where high loads are also present. For offshore applications, bearings must provide extremely high corrosion-resistance, high moisture-resistance for the sliding material, and must be maintenance-free over their operating life of at least 25 years. Spherical plain bearings in X-life quality from Schaeffler are equipped with extremely robust, maintenance-free Elgoglide material.

The bearings are certified by Lloyd's Register to meet the safety requirements of the marine industry. They also have an optimised screw connection on the axially split outer ring. To improve its adhesive properties and to optimise moisture resistance, the fabric is treated before the hardening process. Overall, X-life optimisation has resulted in 15% higher load ratings for the bearing and a 15% increase in operating life. This also means additional benefits for the customer, including the opportunity to downsize the bearings, as well as longer service intervals and an increase in the overall cost of ownership.

Schaeffler has extended its range of plain bearings to offer a wide variety of maintenance-free plain bearing materials. In addition to the maintenance-free Elgoglide plain bearings, which have proven themselves over many years, the product range now also includes metal-polymer composite plain bearings and plain bearings with Elgotex.

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