Author: Mike Watson, Managing Director, Tube Tech

Following a recent survey of refinery operators from across the world Tube Tech have compiled the Top 10 cleaning and inspection challenges faced by the refining industry.
As a world leading specialist industrial cleaning contractor Tube Tech have solved some of the refining sectors most challenging cleaning headaches on refineries across the globe. Tube Tech asked over 2500 refinery operators to complete their survey and the Top 10 cleaning and inspection challenges were developed as result of the survey feedback.
Below is the 10th most common cleaning and inspection challenge faced by the refining sector.

No 10 ACC (Air Cooled Condenser) Cleaning
Often used in arid regions where water is scarce or in areas where environmental rules discourage the use of water Air Cooled Condensers (ACC) are the system of choice.
The exhaust steam from the steam turbine is directly condensed by ACCs which then return the condensate to the boiler without water loss. ACCs are most often found in Power Plants, Waste to Energy Plants, the Chemical and Petrochemical Industry, Oil Refineries etc.

Challenge
• Reduced efficiency of ACC (air cooled condensers) can impact on production, cause lost time and increase maintenance costs
• Reduced efficiency is often due to debris accumulating on the fin fan units particularly if the ACC is close to agricultural land
• Airborne particles steadily clog up the cooling fins of the condenser resulting in a significant loss of efficiency
• Traditional ACC cleaning techniques often involve either rope access or the use of scaffolding with their associated costs and safety implications
• Operators report that even semi-automated cleaning systems, although moderately effective, take far too long to remove debris.

Solution
• Tube Tech provide various ACC cleaning systems and are able to offer ‘on-line’ ACC cleaning.
• A unique telescopic lance system means the Tube Tech technicians can work from manways inside the apexes – no need for scaffolding.
• Tube Tech can also provide a mobile access platform to ensure technicians can reach the top of the ACC units to make controlled passes across the surface of the fins.
• Tube Tech’s ACC cleaning systems will not damage delicate aluminium fans.
• Apex ACC Units (hen houses) are cleaned on-line while the fan is still running below the walkway. Telescopic lances extend to the very top of the apex and clean the fan head on so as not to bend the fins.
• For Hexacool Air Cooled Condenser cleaning the SafeJet™ technology is recommended.
• Tube Tech also supplies a revolutionary semi-automated in place cleaning system called the FINbrite™ Air Cooled Condenser Cleaning System

Conclusion
Air Cooled Condensers eliminate the need for water, they are emission free and there is no hot water discharge into the sea or rivers. ACCs generally require little maintenance however when they require cleaning the use of advanced cleaning techniques is recommended. Reducing the need for rope access and scaffolding ACC cleaning by Tube Tech is safe, quick and effective.