Tank (Bitumen Storage) Cleaned with Combination Jetting Unit

One of the two 10 metre tall bitumen storage tanks The carbonised bitumen coke layer around tank roof The bitumen layer on top of the tank had hardened into carbonised coke Extra access slots were cut into the tank roof to facilitate access to the coke Morning cleaning information

Coke and carbonized coke removed from tank

One of the world’s oldest and largest oil companies called in Tube Tech to solve a tough cleaning problem in a bitumen storage tank – removing an accumulated overhead layer of carbonised bitumen that was posing a safety hazard to routine cleaning of the tank. This global oil company’s refinery site has 20 bitumen loading tanks of similar sizes, but holding different grades of bitumen. The tanks are around 10 metres tall, 6 metres in diameter and hold 150-200 tons of bitumen, which is heated to between 190-220 Deg C.


  • Due to the fact that bitumen is stored at different temperatures, some of the tanks suffer from ‘coke’ build-up more than others.
  • Coke generally accumulates on the heating coils, of which there may be 1-3 – depending on the grade of bitumen – at the bottom of the tank.
  • More problematically, however, a coke layer had formed on top of the product, rising and falling with the tank level.
  • This resulted in the build-up over a period of years of a thick, crusty, carbonised layer – up to 1 metre wide and 1.5 metres deep – around the top of the tank, just below the roof level.
  • Another operational difficulty that the coking problem presented is obstruction of the tank level sensor, which normally floats on top of the bitumen.
  • The fouling of the tank level sensor’s connecting wire and consequent erroneous tank level readings are usually the first indication that there is a problem.
  • The standard cleaning procedure had been for operators to enter the tank and cut the coke away with pneumatic chisels, but the discovery of the overhead layer of coke meant it was impossible for work to be carried out in the tank safely, because of fears that the coke could be dislodged by vibration from the drills.
  • A different approach was clearly required. The customer had tried opening more slots in the roof to improve access, with the aim of cutting through the coke, but it remained well adhered to the tank shell.
  • Attempts were also made to lever the coke off in wedges, but they were unsuccessful.


  • The customer already knew of Tube Tech and its innovative approach to tough cleaning problems, because the company had been called in previously to clean fin-fan units and heat exchanger bundles.
  • Tube Tech believed the problem could be solved using a combination jetting unit which can convert from 1000 bar to 3000 bar within 15 minutes and a remote manipulator to direct the cleaning head to all areas inside the tank.
  • Based upon the previous year’s experience Tube Tech returned to tackle the same problem in a second tank and advised the client to carry out some minor tank roof modifications beforehand – which made the job much easier.

Tube Tech Comment

The customer stated: “Tube Tech was able to reach the coke deposits safely via the top of the tank, using safety apparatus and some very impressive Kevlar protective ‘turtle suits’, which protected them from any stray water jets during the cleaning procedure. The operators cut the coke away from the top in large chunks that then fell to the bottom of the tank for later clean-up. By successfully completing the work within the promised two days, Tube Tech was able to ensure we kept the tank clean on schedule and made it possible for the regular cleaning team to work inside safely.

For more information or to discuss your cleaning challenge call us on +44 1268 786999 or e-mail info@tubetech.com, alternatively click here to fill out our contact form.

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