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Automating Heat Exchanger Cleaning for Best Results

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The precision needed for effective heat exchanger tube cleaning makes the application ideal for an automated hydroblasting solution. At Thompson Industrial Services, we have been developing automated approaches for years, aiming to benefit our clients by minimizing the time it takes to perform a cleaning job, optimizing efficiency and substantially improving all facets of safety. A recent heat exchanger cleaning project illustrates just how well our automated systems accomplish these goals.

An automated heat exchanger cleaning job in progress

Benefit #1: Reduced Manpower

A major paper mill in Florida contracted Thompson Industrial Services to clean a set of large, vertical evaporator heat exchangers, using our advanced automated solutions. We used a simultaneous triple- lance arrangement, mounted on our specialized “X-Y” axis equipment and controlled remotely by our highly experienced team members. The first benefit of this approach for the paper mill was the dramatic reduction in manpower required for the job. In fact, the team that performed the job was only half as large as the team that would have been needed for a traditional heat exchanger cleaning. Fewer technicians on the job meant less interruption to the facility’s operations as a whole and a lower chance of injury, with fewer people involved.

The risk of injury was further lowered, as it always is with automated equipment, by removing the technician from the immediate vicinity of our powerful hydroblasting tools. One of the most visible benefits of our automated solutions is the way it keeps our employees and those of our client facilities as safe as possible.

Benefit #2: Reduced Downtime

Not only was this hydroblasting job safer, but it was also quicker than a traditional heat exchanger cleaning. The estimated length of a non-automated cleaning is 16-20 hours, but our team was able to complete the Florida paper mill cleaning in 9.5 hours—about half the time! The most obvious benefit of the shorter job is the cost savings for the mill. Not only is the final invoice for the cleaning lower, but the heat exchanger itself spends less time offline for maintenance and production can resume more quickly.

Benefit #3: Cleaner Heat Exchangers

Taking the human element out of the direct manipulation of heat exchanger cleaning equipment increases the precision and power of our service. We can use higher water pressures, practice fewer safety measures needed to protect human workers, and increase cleaning duration by 100% with full-pressure use with both the inlet and exit strokes and complemented by more precise targeting when we control robotic positioners from a distance. The end result is a heat exchanger that has often been cleaned more thoroughly than ever before in its service life. Our clients regularly provide feedback to that effect, expressing their surprise at the clean condition of their equipment and its dramatically increased efficiency after an automated cleaning by Thompson Industrial Services.

Benefit #4: Expansion of Automated Services to Other Equipment

One result of our successful automated heat exchanger cleaning at the Florida paper mill was the plant’s decision to use Thompson Industrial Services for all of its automated cleaning needs. The facility quickly scheduled another appointment to have our technicians clean a boiler—another service in which automation dramatically reduces or eliminates downtime, increases precision and thoroughness, and protects the safety of our crew members. Our new clients very often become returning clients once they experience the financial and efficiency benefits of our automated solutions, and our returning clients come to rely on our high level of service.

The commitment to safety, integrity, and effectiveness that drives our automated hydroblasting and heat exchanger cleaning services extends throughout the other services offered by Thompson Industrial Services. We also conduct chemical cleaning, dry ice cleaning, combustible dust removal, high volume/automated hydroblasting, and our industry-changing in-situ SCR catalyst cleaning with speed and quality unmatched in the industrial cleaning field. Regularly scheduled maintenance comprises the bulk of our activity, but we also keep a highly trained team on hand to respond to emergency situations via our 24-hour hotline (1-800-849-8040). Wet and dry vacuuming, including dangerous waste materials such as hot fly ash, is one of our emergency cleaning specialties.


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  • Emily Martin
  • Marketing Manager
  • 100 N. Main Street
  • Sumter, SC 29150

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