Clean-Ex Project

The Idea

To develop a method for ‘on-line’ cleaning of heat exchangers to significantly increase energy efficiency in the oil, gas, power and chemical process sectors.


  • The 750 refineries worldwide refine on average 87 million barrels of crude oil per day.
  • Each refinery operates 10-60 crude oil pre-heat train heat exchangers.
  • Energy demand on a typical refinery accounts for around 6-7% of oil throughput, mainly consumed in the crude oil pre-heat train.
  • Crude oil fouling accounts for around 10% of energy demand.
  • A conservative estimate indicates that 186 million barrels of crude are used worldwide per annum to offset the impact of fouling refineries.


  • Existing projectiles are unsuitable for high temperatures (300C) or for use in aggressive fluids.
  • Existing projectiles have slightly larger diameter than the heat exchangers’ tubes diameter to ensure generating sufficient shear forces. This in turn requires higher tube-side velocities for propulsion which in industry may not always be possible due to operational barriers.
  • Existing projectiles rely on random distribution which results in different fouling patterns depending on the physical location of individual tubes. Due to mal-distribution of flow in the heat exchanger headers some tubes are more likely to block due to excessive fouling.

The Clean-Ex project will develop a fully integrated, highly efficient, on-line and continuous heat exchanger fouling mitigation system providing a significant increase in heat exchangers efficiency by maintaining optimum heat transfer conditions.

Clean-Ex Project Partners

Intelligent Systems Research Institute, Tube Tech International Ltd, University of Stuttgart, Biprotech Sp.z.o.o., Shell Global Solutions.

Project Objectives

  • Projectile Technology – Development and demonstration of a corrosion and wear resistant cleaning projectile for use in aggressive fluids and elevated temperatures of up to 300C.
  • Projectile Tracking Technology – Development of a projectile detection and tracking system to monitor cleaning of individual tubes and identify potential blockages.
  • Projectile Propulsion Technology – To ensure sufficient line pressure behind the cleaning projectile a propulsion system is required.
  • Projectile Introduction and Recovery System – A system to ensure projectiles are introduced and recovered efficiently.

For more information regarding the Clean-Ex Project please contact us.