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Appetite for Destruction: Magnum Shears, Grapples Raze Steel Plant

Wed March 15, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In its heyday, the LTV Steel plant in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, represented about ten square miles of steel making facilities. However, changes in global and national economics, a growing reliance upon foreign steel and a push toward mini mills have collectively brought about the demise of the massive steel plant in America.

As a result, many of those sites are being razed and, because of their waterfront location, being offered as quality real estate development properties. Because of their sheer size, getting these sites down has proven challenging for many demolition contractors. For Independent Enterprises, it has meant attacking the project with the right plan and the right tools, according to a company spokesperson.

The company has been working on the project since October 1999.

The plant, as a whole, was shut down at the beginning of 1998 and about 80 percent of the structures on site have already been leveled and await redevelopment. The area in which we are working consists of two larger structures, the South Side Boiler House complex and the Elijah Power House complex, as well as some smaller support structures. We are completely demolishing all the structures down to six inches below grade, removing all the steel and other debris, then backfilling the site to make it ready for new development.”

An Appetite for


Independent is using three Genesis GMS 700R Magnum shears mounted on Komatsu PC 400s to handle the material downsizing facet of the project. The spokesperson said the shears have proven extremely effective and have exceeded the company’s expectations in a number of areas.

“This site was built in the early 1900s and they obviously didn’t spare any expense in material costs. As a result, in most of the buildings we’ve been encountering some very large material: steel beams with 18- to 24-inch webs, crane rails with 36- to 48-inch webs, very heavy stuff. Despite these sizes, the Genesis Magnum shears are handling virtually everything we can get into their jaws. For example, there was a three-eighth-inch steel coal hopper in the boiler house that ran the full length of the building and stood about 50-feet high. One shear operator alone had it processed into 2 inch by 5 inch charging box size in about six days,” he said.

“The shears were also invaluable in processing several 80-ton turbines with no problem. We have been impressed with Genesis’ decision to go with a larger bore cylinder and the hydraulic regeneration system. My operators have used a number of different shears over the years and they agree that the Magnum shears have made the difference,” the spokesperson added.

Getting Down

Grapples are being used for demolition of wood and brick structures, as well as for pulling down some of the smaller steel structures. “On an all wood and brick transportation office for example — we used a PC 400 with a Genesis GSD 90 severe-duty grapple and it was down in about 15 to 20 minutes. We also have a Genesis GSD 140 mounted on a Komatsu PC 650 and we have bushings which will allow us to mount it on a PC 1000. We’ve found the Genesis GSD140 on the PC 1000 to be a really powerful combination,” he said.

Challenges Abound

In addition to the structures themselves, Independent was faced with removal and processing of literally miles of piping and support framework so prevalent on sites like the one at LTV.

“On the boiler house side, there was a pipe bridge loaded with water pipes, gas pipes, steam pipes and other piping, that was about 60 feet above ground. We initially estimated its weight at about 260 tons. When we pulled it down and processed it for shipment the actual weight was 750 tons. Since it had to carry coke oven gas and other caustic gases, all the pipe was heavy-walled, ranging from one-third-inches to five-eighths-inches thick and from 6 inches to 34 inches in diameter. The Genesis Magnum shears went through all of it without a problem,” he continued.

The company spokesperson said that, by project’s end, Independent will have removed and recycled more than 6,300 metric tons (7,000 tons) of steel. “By steel plant standards, this is not a mammoth project, but it certainly has been an interesting one. We feel that having a solid plan in place and having the right equipment to put that plan into action have helped make the difference,” he concluded.

(This article appears courtesy of Genesis Equipment & Manufacturing Inc.)

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