3 min read

Heat Exchanger Cleaning and an “Impossible” Problem

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We know from our decades of experience in industrial equipment cleaning that there are manufacturing facilities, power plants, and other facilities all over the country with certain “problem” pieces of equipment. We’re talking about units or pipelines that very rarely get a complete cleaning, because they were installed in such a way that getting access to them is extremely difficult. In fact, we’ve helped some facilities clean equipment that has really never been thoroughly cleaned since the day it was put in several decades ago!

Automated Equipment Cleaning Success

Recently, we handled a heat exchanger cleaning project that was in a similar category. As you’ll see, without the automated heat exchanger cleaning services that Thompson Industrial Services offers, this equipment would probably have had to be left in an inefficient, only partly-maintained condition. Yet another success story and another great reason to work with our automated cleaning teams.

A horizontal heat exchanger being cleaned with our automated equipment

Equipment Issues

Our client for this project was a chemical plant in North Carolina. The plant was looking for a better method for cleaning three horizontal heat exchangers than the traditional hand-lancing method. Normally these units would not present an excessive challenge, but an issue with the equipment was causing serious complications. Over time, some of the 18-foot exchanger tubes had warped, creating a route that was not completely straight. This situation was not necessarily a problem for the day-to-day operation of the equipment, but when it came to maintenance, some critical safety regulations on manual heat exchanger cleaning made it impossible to completely clean it.

Safety Regulations

During hand-lancing of heat exchanger tubes, safety regulations dictate the use of a rigid lance that is at least three feet long. This rigid lance was unable to make it to the end of the warped exchanger tubes, leaving the end of those tubes insufficiently clean. For a responsible industrial equipment cleaning company, there is no way around safety regulations, and so the only option was to leave the warped tubes only partially clean and continue operations.

Automated Heat Exchanger Cleaning Services

This is where the automated lancing solutions developed by Thompson Industrial Services showed just how powerful they can be. Because the equipment is not manipulated by hand, the regulation for using a 3-foot rigid lance does not apply. The cleaning tools used by our automated positioners are flexible and able to make it all the way through even the warped exchanger tubes, performing a complete cleaning. For this particular project, our team used an automated two-lance machine, accelerating the process by cleaning multiple tubes at the same time.

Speed and Safety (Again)

A common theme in the automated equipment success stories that we share with you is speed. We routinely cut traditional cleaning times by percentages of 40 percent and higher, getting plants and equipment back online with much less downtime and lost production than ever before. With this heat exchanger cleaning project, our team was finished in seven hours, which was about 40 percent less time than it would have taken a team using hand-lancing methods. When you factor in the consideration that the hand-lancing option would not have achieved a thorough cleaning as the automated approach did, the benefits are much greater than a simple 40 percent reduction in downtime.

Customized Services for Each Job

The flexibility of our automated boiler, heat exchanger, and other equipment cleaning services gives us the great ability to completely customize our equipment and approach to every job. For a unique issue like the warped exchanger tubes in this project, our team and expert planners analyze the situation, discuss what automated tooling and positioners are best suited for it, and devise a solution that will accomplish the objectives most efficiently, safely, and affordably—while keeping the client updated on a constant basis. Whether the challenge is a tank with decades of hardened mineral buildup or a bundle of boiler tubes that is impossible to access with manual cleaning equipment, our highly trained professionals are ready to quickly assess the needs and put our automated solutions to work solving them.

Please get in touch with us to discuss your industrial cleaning needs, whether they are simple, complex, or seemingly impossible. Our experts are ready to meet the challenge with the highest possible levels of efficiency and safety!


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

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