World's Largest Composite Lock Gates
Earlier this year, highly innovative composite lock gates were installed in the Wilhelmina Canal in Tilburg (The Netherlands) under direction of Heijmans. These huge lock gates (6.2 x 12.9 m) were manufactured by FiberCore Europe with resins from AOC. The installation was relatively easy, because of the low weight of the parts in comparison with steel and wood. The composite solution was chosen for its extended lifetime expectancy (over 80 years), great durability in continued contact with water, and minimal requirement for maintenance.
Fit for the Future
The Wilhelmina Canal is an important water way in the South of the Netherlands, and a vital part of the transportation infrastructure. In order to keep up with the increasing water traffic and increasing size of the ships (up to Class IV), the Wilhelmina Canal is being widened and deepened near the city of Tilburg. The project has been commissioned by the Dutch water way authorities (Rijkswaterstaat), and is executed by a combination of construction companies Heijmans and Boskalis. Installation of the lock gates was done by the construction company Hillebrand.
After project completion, the large vessels should be able to sail through this section much faster. This means less heavy traffic on the roads, reduced road congestion and consequently reduced emissions of CO₂ and particulates. The improvements to the canal will also create additional economic opportunities in the South of the Netherlands, as businesses are increasingly using the canal network for delivery of products.
As part of the larger project, the existing locks II and III are replaced by a single new lock. Also, new sheet piling is installed along the canal sides and a more environmentally banks are being developed.
Pushing the Limits of Composites
While smaller composite lock gates have been installed in recent years, so far the number of installation projects is limited. The use of the innovatively large composite lock gates (size of each part 6.2 x 12.9 m) in the Tilburg project, means a major breakthough in the acceptance of composite technology for this demanding application. The individual gate doors need to have very high strength and stiffness (remaining in shape with water heights up to 7.9 m), are required to resist water in continued contact for over 80 years, and survive an eventual impact of ships without blocking the locks.
The composite parts were designed, engineered and manufactured by FiberCore Europe with Synolite™ 1967-G-9 resin from AOC, using InfraCore Inside technology (patented worldwide, already used for over 500 bridges, bridge decks and structural installations). The parts fulfilled all relevant technical requirements as defined by the project owner. The large parts have a relatively low weight (24 MT) which is significantly lower than comparable solutions in steel and wood (respectively 50 % and 25 % less). This makes the installation much easier, requiring simpler equipment and upfront preparation. Because the fact that the specific gravity of the gate material is fairly close to the one of water (unlike steel), the wear and tear on the pivoting points is greatly reduced.
“Lock gates in composite materials are highly competitive in terms of cost compared to traditional material solutions based on steel and wood”, explains Harald de Graaf, CEO of FiberCore Europe. “Steel and wood gates require repainting or treatment on a regular basis and for that purpose need to be removed from the lock (with an interrupted operation of the lock as a result). In many cases, wooden gates need to be replaced with new ones because the water will ultimately penetrate in the material and reduce mechanical properties.”
After project completion, the large vessels should be able to sail through this section much faster. This means heavy traffic should decrease on the roads, reduced road congestion and as a consequents reduced emissions of CO₂ and particulates. The improvements to the canal will also create additional economic opportunities in the South of the Netherlands, as businesses are increasingly using the canal network for delivery of products.
“This is a nice example of close collaboration through the entire supply chain”, adds Fons Harbers, Sales & Marketing Director of AOC. “FiberCore, Heijmans, and AOC have proven again it is possible to push the limits of composites performance. Innovation like these truly demonstrate the value a solid partnership can bring.”