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It's a long trip to Brazil for giant generators built in Darien

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 3, 2012
— How do you get a 250,000-pound generator from Darien to an oil rig off the coast of Brazil?

The answer, of course, is very carefully.


This week, four such generators will leave Professional Power Products, a design and manufacturing company in Darien. It's not the first time the company has sent equipment overseas.


"It's a little unique because of the physical size of the engine," said Ken Trent sales manager.


He is speaking of the 125,000-pound engine encased in a 40-foot-long, 16-foot-wide, 15-foot-high box containing another 125,000 pounds of controls and safety systems, all designed to withstand the demands of an oil rig in uncertain seas.


Yes, that would qualify as unique.


What's even more unique is the way the generators will travel.


The engines were built by Caterpillar in Indiana and shipped to the company in Darien.


Professional Power Products engineered the controls and the shells for the generators.


"It's like they built the engine, and we built the car around it," Trent said.


Well, sort of.


The "car" in this case will provide all of the power for oil rig operations. That includes power for the floating city of employees who work on the rig, power for pumping and moving oil, and power to operate all the other drilling activities that go on.


Something that big can't be moved in the back of your neighbor's pickup truck. Nor does it qualify for a big semitrailer truck with the "wide load" signs that you see on the Interstate.


These are so big and so heavy they need specialized transport.


Badger Transport, a Clintonville company that hauls everything from wind-tower poles to tanks, will transport each generator on a 19-axle, 185-foot-long semitrailer truck.


Each generator is crane-lifted onto the trailer, which is designed to distribute the weight across all 19 axles.


Still, the state Department of Transportation doesn't want all that weight moseying over Interstate bridges at 35 mph.


For each trip, Badger Transport surveys a possible route in advance and then submits a route plan to the DOT. If it's approved, the company gets the necessary permits for the counties and communities it plans to travel through, explained Tony Tischauser, operations manager for Badger Transport.


For this trip, the truck will follow primarily county and town roads, which raises an obvious question: How do you get a 185-foot-long truck around a corner in a rural township?


It turns out that the truck has a group of three axles in the front and two groups of three-axle sets that all can be steered independently.


It takes about two days for the truck to get to Milwaukee. The state usually allows such large loads to travel between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.


From Milwaukee, the generator will travel to the Illinois River in Chicago, down to the Mississippi and then to Singapore. In Singapore, the generators will be placed on the oil rig and floated to an oil field in Brazil.


The total distance as the crow flies from Darien to Singapore to Brazil is 20,927 miles.



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