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Largest fibre-reinforced polymer lock gates

News International-French

20 Jan 2016

The largest fibre-reinforced polymer lock gates were installed in the new Number III lock on the Wilhelminakanaal in Tilburg.

Never before have such large (6.2 x 12.9 m) lock gates made of fibre-reinforced polymer been used. The mitre gates were manufactured using the worldwide patented InfraCore Inside technology, and can withstand a height difference in water levels of no less than 7.9m. The project to widen the Wilhelminakanaal, being implemented by the Rijkswaterstaat (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), has achieved a sustainable innovation with these gates.

Extended life thanks to InfraCore Inside technology
InfraCore Inside is a safe and strong construction material. It weighs much less than traditional materials, making these gates light, sustainable and easy to install. The glass fibres which reinforce the structure are constructed using InfraCore Inside technology, which makes it possible to build fibre-reinforced polymer sandwich constructions whereby the upper and lower shell are inextricably linked, meaning they are capable of bearing very heavy loads. The gates have a yellow protective coating and will require minimal maintenance.

One important sustainability factor is that because fibre-reinforced polymer does not decay, these lock gates have a predicted life two or three times that of conventional wooden or steel gates. And because the gates have roughly the same specific gravity as water, there will also be much less wear and tear on the pivoting points. Research has shown that fibre-reinforced polymer is an excellent alternative to concrete, wood and steel. In comparison it is ten times stronger and with a lifespan for over 100 years it scores excellent in terms of CO2 emissions and energy consumption.

Water Innovation Award
In 2014, the Unie van Waterschappen awarded the Water Innovation Award to these fibre-reinforced polymer lock gates. The jury report called them 'a powerful and effective innovation'. The superior quality of the product was also highlighted, as was its sustainability and cost effectiveness. The jury were also impressed by the fact that the lock gates demonstrated these benefit for an application on such a large scale. 'Thanks to its scale and the expertise that has been gained as a result it has a potential for export'.


International interest
During the Smart Rivers Conference in Buenos Aires in September 2015 it was clear that the lock gates were attracting a good deal of international attention, and government bodies and producers attending the congress followed Rijkswaterstaat’s presentation on the gates with great interest. Indeed, this innovation has prompted PIANC (the organisers of the conference) to set up a new, international working group – Composites for Hydraulic Structures – in which representatives include Rijkswaterstaat, as well as the American government and other parties.

The choice to install fibre-reinforced polymer lock gates was a joint initiative of the province of Noord-Brabant, Rijkswaterstaat, and the building group combination Heijmans/Boskalis. The lock gates were manufactured by the Dutch company FiberCore Europe and the installation was carried out by the construction company Hillebrand. Smaller lock gates (5 x 6.2 m) had already been installed in lock III in October last year.

Widening the Wilhelminakanaal
The Wilhelminakanaal has been both widened and made deeper near Tilburg. In addition, the existing locks II and III have been replaced by a single new lock, and new sheet piling installed together with the laying out of more environmentally friendly banks. There will also be a swinging basin where vessels can turn. To achieve all this, Rijkswaterstaat has worked in collaboration with the municipality of Tilburg, the province of Noord-Brabant and Combinatie Heijmans/Boskalis to realise improved navigability of the Wilhelminakanaal. A wider and deeper canal will make Brabant more sustainable and improve its accessibility by water. Once the project has been completed, larger ships (class IV vessels) will be able to sail this section of Wilhelminakanaal in Tilburg more quickly. This will means a decrease in heavy traffic on the roads, less congestion and reduced emissions of CO₂ and particulates. The improvements to the canal are also bound to create economic opportunities in Brabant. Many businesses are increasingly making use of the Brabant canal network for the supply and delivery of their products.