With an ability to complete projects valued up to R1-billion, Murray & Dickson Construction’s (M&D’s) skills, experience and capacity are being harnessed by mining houses, petrochemical and gas suppliers, as well as by the country’s water boards and municipalities. WASA talks to Martin van Aswegen, HEAD of M&D’s Pipeline Division.

What gives M&D the competitive edge over other pipeline contractors?

We are one of only a few pipelaying contractors in the country that have the expertise, skills and equipment required to construct continuously welded steel pipelines ranging between 150 mm and 3 m in diameter.

One of our strengths is our commitment to M&D’s core values which include “be safe”, “do what you say”, “find the best way” and “do it right”. We demonstrate these values in all of our projects and this enables us to meet and even exceed our clients’ expectations.

Extensive skills, expertise and capacity are housed within the Pipeline Division and the larger Group. Through another M&D core value, namely Khula Nathi – isiZulu for “grow with us” – we have developed a strong, loyal and dedicated team over the years. It also includes highly competent and experienced welders who are all certified by the American Petroleum Institute.

Our pipe fittings factory enables us to accelerate the manufacture of steel pipeline connections and fittings for our contracts. Notably, it was the first such facility to be certified to ISO 3834 quality standards by the South African Institute of Welding.

Furthermore, my team has quick access to 180 different critical plant and equipment items required for high-performance contracts via M&D’s Plant Division. These include state-of-the-art pipelayers, excavators and welding machines that are always in tip-top condition to ensure high reliability.

M&D is increasingly harnessing digital technologies. This is especially noteworthy for our technically complex projects for private sector clients operating in the energy and mining industries.

A case in point is the use of 3D, 4D and 5D Building Information Management modelling techniques during the tendering phase. The technology is also being deployed during the project construction phases to maintain high levels of productivity, efficiency, accuracy and safety throughout the duration of the contract.

Moreover, the Murray & Dickson Operating System (MDOS) helps us to establish direction, execute plans and deliver results. MDOS is based on a tried-and-tested entrepreneurial operating system that promotes accountability throughout the group to ensure that all employees are aligned to our core values and pulling in the same direction. It also facilitates a system whereby issues that arise are identified and dealt with timeously.

Meanwhile, M&D’s Integrated Management System on SharePoint enables us to administer all our ISO accredited documentation. This includes ISO 45001:2018 Health and Safety; ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management; and ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management systems, as well as ISO 3834: part 2 Welding of pipes standard. These standards drive best working practices and establish transparent operations where there is traceability.

Importantly, we are a Black-owned Level 1 BBBEE company with 100% Black ownership and 51% Black disabled Women ownership. This demonstrates our unwavering commitment to transformation which is very much in line with that of our public and private sector clients.

We have CIDB ratings of 9GB PE, 9CE PE and 9ME PE.

What challenges are experienced by pipeline contractors?

All our projects have had their own unique challenges that require out-of-box thinking to find innovative solutions. Considering our extensive skills, experiences and capacity, we are usually entrusted with technically complex projects.

A case in point is the hot tapping that we undertook to connect a new 1 500 mm diameter pipeline section to an existing 2 100 mm diameter pipeline on one of our contracts for a leading water board. Hot tapping is a process of connecting to existing live pipelines without interrupting or shutting down the flow of water. The 1 500 mm diameter hot tapping drill rig that we used for this tie-in was one of the largest to have ever been manufactured in South Africa. Another more recent project entailed the deployment of “no-dig” technologies to cross rivers, roads and railway lines to mitigate the impact of construction activities on the surrounding environment.

Challenges can also be socio-economic in nature. Via our Khula Nathi value, M&D has always been able to work well with communities located within our project footprints. This ability is becoming increasingly important and one of the reasons that we remain a preferred pipeline contractor for municipalities and waterboards.

On one of our pipeline projects, we hired all our ancillary plant and equipment from small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to ensure that we were able to meet our enterprise development targets. This is despite M&D’s Plant Division owning all equipment required for this project to complement its pipelayers that were deployed to work on this project. To maximise participation in this project, the Pipelines Division sourced a single item of plant from various SMMEs. Moreover, many employment and training opportunities were created for community members throughout the construction programme. About 120 locals worked alongside M&D’s team when the project peaked. To further demonstrate our commitment to previously disadvantaged communities located within the project footprint, we paved a 1,8 km gravel road to help uplift the area.

What is M&D’s focus in the next few years?

Our core focus over the next few years encompasses water, sewer and stormwater pipelines, including the maintenance thereof. This infrastructure will remain a significant focus for municipalities and water boards moving forward, considering the water and sanitation challenges that the country is facing. Municipalities are also showing interest in the application of hydropower in their existing urban water systems to harness excess energy that otherwise would be wasted. This clean energy could be used to power parts of or entire operations to reduce reliance on unstable grid electricity supply. The Pipelines Division has the skills to become involved in these projects, although they are still in the very early phases of their lifecycle.

We are also well positioned to continue building on our proud legacy of delivering quality infrastructure for the private sector. The Pipelines Division has experience building gas, LNG petrochemical and hydrogen, as well as water pipelines, and we have undertaken extensive pipework for plants. This type of work will, therefore, also remain an important focus for the Division moving forward.

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