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(VIDEO) First electric Liebherr drilling rig in Canada takes icy Calgary winter head-on

A drilling rig working on a parking lot next to a building.
The LB 30 unplugged battery-electric drill rig operated in an urban area near several sensitive buildings. Liebherr

Construction work in Calgary, Alberta, is changing as contractors and local government target reduced emissions on the job site. For construction of a pedestrian overpass during the bitterly cold Calgary winter, the contractor selected a battery-powered drilling rig to get the job done and cut environmental impact.

Deep foundation subcontractor Ki International Ltd., working with the contractor, Graham, brought Canada's first Liebherr LB 30 unplugged drilling rig onto the pedestrian overpass work in northwest Calgary, with the battery-powered machine working in temperatures as low as -36 degrees C.

"We saw the LB 30 unplugged as an opportunity to do something good for our society," described Gordon Williamson, Ki International owner. "It is imperative that construction machines with electric drives have a future in Canada in order to steer our economy towards sustainability."

The construction site is located in busy northwest Calgary with important medical facilities nearby. The pedestrian overpass will facilitate access for the local population, and promote growth. Ki International is using the Kelly method on the Liebherr drilling rig to build 22 cast-in-place piles. The largest piles have a 1,000-mm diameter, and are 18 metres deep. The area includes mud, water, and sand, making the ground very soft and requiring the entire drilling depth to be cased.

Construction had to begin during January, meaning crews and equipment met winter head-on. Temperatures of up to -36 degrees C were exacerbated by higher wind chills. However, according to the contractors, there were no delays with regards to performance on the drilling rig.

The LB 30 unplugged has very low noise emissions, which makes it popular for urban operations and dense areas. In this case, with a major hospital nearby, it was especially useful. Operating more quietly meant that emergency vehicles could be heard more clearly as they approached the hospital, improving safety for medical staff, patients, and construction site staff.

City of Calgary Project Manager Jason Lin said the alternative drive system of the LB 30 unplugged is an important aspect of the project.

"We are proud that this emission-free technology is being used in Canada for the first time. Zero emission aligns with our policies and our climate strategy. The use of such machines will help us to reduce greenhouse gases. That is very important for us."

Williamson said he and the Ki International team were very pleased with the results of the project.

"We wanted a difficult task. One that would really put the machine to the test. We got what we wanted. On this construction site, we have proven that the LB 30 unplugged is able to deal with difficult drilling work and extreme weather conditions."

Watch the LB 30 work in a cold Calgary winter

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