Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cable greasing

Yesterday (Nov 14) we were fortunate to have a demonstration of a cable greaser by Brooke Ocean Technology (BOT). Jake Piskura and Davis Sanford conducted the demo.

We have a 750m fiber optic cable. It's a 9.8mm diameter double armored steel tow cable with two fiber lines. It's mounted on an electric-hydraulic winch with level wind and cable counter.

BOT sells a rinse and grease system for cables. It has one jacket that rinses and dries the cable, and a second jacket that greases the cable under pressure, so the grease penetrates the cable wraps. It is designed to operate on a vessel as a cable is being winched on board. We used it in a parking lot spooling our cable from one winch drum to another.

The first step was to set it all up. The cable went from it's main winch through the first part of the system, the rinser/drier. Steve Voss is holding up the tow bottle at the end of the cable and the aluminum rinser jacket has hoses attached for water (from a power washer) and compressed air.

This picture shows the rinser up close, with the water on. I'm in the background; I unspooled the cable.

There was some water spray, but not a lot. We did notice "gunk" was removed. The drier wasn't working very well, since the compressed air system we had apparently didn't have enough pressure. So the cable came out a bit wet, but nothing to worry about.

Steve spooled the cable onto the second winch (provided by Pine Hill) as I was unspooling it from the first winch. Mike Pol was the level winder.

(We were glad it was 65 degrees and sunny.)

Then we spooled the cable back onto it's winch, passing it through the greaser jacket, which was suspended on a forklift. The grease was pumped under pressure straight from the grease bucket. We used about 2 gallons of biodegradable vegetable-based grease.

The greaser leaked since the seals need to be slightly redesigned (BOT has already done this for their newer models). There was some pressure, 2-5 psi, which Jake and Davis said is enough to get the penetration to the 2 wraps. But there was no real way to tell how well the grease penetrated the cable wraps. Fortunately, Jake thought to put a cement mixing tray under the system to catch the leaks.

And here's the final result: the newly greased cable.

We were pleased with how simple the process ended up being. It took us only 6 hours to figure everything out and conduct the work. This included having to disassemble our tow bottle, which took at least an hour on its own, and lunch, which was a leisurely 1 hour.

When we do it all again in a couple of years, it will probably only take a few hours.

We're also pleased to have the cable maintained. Very good piece of mind since it is often hauling a $1mil instrument package through the water.

All pictures are courtesy of BOT.

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