Coke Fouled Reactor Vapour Line Returned to Optimum Efficiency


With a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day, this Italian refinery produces fuels for automotive use and residential heating purposes, as well as petrochemical feedstock. The refinery contains an FCC reactor with advanced technology, two coking plants for the conversion of low grade feedstock and vacuum conversion of heavy residues. Tube Tech was contracted during a recent shutdown to clean the fin fan units as well as a vapor line which transports flue gas and catalyst particles from the FCC.

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  • The coke build up within the 140 meter long 36” diameter, reactor vapour line had been increasing over time and was having a detrimental effect on the normal 155mph passage of gas flue and catalyst particles
  • The client advised that coke deposits were expected within the two vertical sections of pipe but expected fouling to be “slightly” worse in the horizontal sections.
  • The coke deposit was not expected to be any thicker than 80mm, located on the base of the pipe line.
  • In reality the vapour line was severely fouled with extremely hard coke up to 250mm thick around the total circumference of the pipe, reducing the bore by up to 50% in a ‘Wave Like’ structure.


  • The customer requested specialist equipment to clean the vapour line to an 80% production standard and advised that the deposits were fairly thin and flaky measuring approximately 20 mm although no one on site was really sure.
  • As a result Tube Tech mobilised with 3 different cleaning technologies suitable for different degrees of fouling to cover worst-case scenario, which was just as well, as the coke deposits had increased up to 500 mm in thickness.
  • The coke was removed in small pieces to avoid large lumps falling 40m to the lower pipe bend and damaging the bend.
  • Cleaning standard achieved was in excess of 95% in less than five days.

Customer Comment:

“I doubt any other global industrial cleaning contractor would have been able to clean such a heavily coke fouled reactor vapour line remotely”

Tube Tech Comment:

Mike Watson, Managing Director. “….It pays dividends to develop bespoke solutions each and every time for critical path projects such as this and take several cleaning solutions along to cover worst case scenario. These are typically blind projects which even the client doesn’t know what’s inside until its opened up, so you have to come prepared”

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