Catalyst Reactor (Tubular) Cleaned in 72 Hours

Inside reactor bottom skirt Inside top skirt Drilling through catalyst reactor Drilling through catalyst reactor Morning cleaning information

Innovative rotary drill and polish system removes nickel catalyst

Downtime for catalyst reactor cleaning was reduced dramatically. An original estimate of 60 days was reduced to just 72 hours thanks to the specialist catalyst reactor cleaning techniques of Tube Tech. The contract was completed at a major oil refinery/chemicals manufacturing site in the Netherlands.


  • More than 200 tubes of a catalyst reactor were blocked with fused nickel.
  • Other European based catalyst handling contractors had quoted unacceptable downtime estimates of between 60 and 120 days.
  • The vertical catalyst reactor tubes, 10cm (2 inches) in diameter and 10 metres in length, were blocked with fused nickel catalyst.
  • A leading catalyst handling expert was working at a rate of just one tube per day using vacuum hoses and tickling rods from above and below.
  • High pressure water jetting of the hardened mass blocking the tubes was not an option as the potenital of damaging the tubes was too great.
  • Shot blasting can also be counterproductive as it is known to erode and etch the first few metres of the tubes’ internal surfaces which can detrimentally provide a key for deposits and accelerate build-up for the future.


  • Tube Tech cleaned up to 40 tubes per day with a unique dry procedure.
  • The catalyst reactor was cleaned using multiple, extendable rotary drills with polishing heads, in tandem with mechanical percussion and air blast.
  • The polishing action of the drill heads meant there was no necessity for follow-up shot blasting.
  • This solution had been successfully pioneered on other tubular reactors in the UK.

Tube Tech Comment

Mike Watson, Technical & Managing Director: “There were many advantages to using our own unique drilling system to clean this catalyst reactor, not least that we reduced downtime substantially. Logistically we had to maintain a constant supply of spare cleaning tips in order to adapt to changes in deposit characteristics.”

Client Comment

“Tube Tech used all their expertise in a highly critical situation. The catalyst reactor tubes were so severely blocked it was unclear how long it would have taken without Tube Tech’s intervention. The work was carried out safely, proactively and faster than expected.”

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

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