Cleaning and Inspection Challenges No.5

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 and petrochemical sectors most difficult cleaning challenges. 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 5th most common cleaning and inspection challenge faced by the refining sector.

External shell side fouling before cleaning


No 5     External Shell Side Heat Exchanger Cleaning

The main headache within all refinery and petrochemical sectors is removing process deposits, where access is limited especially where fouling reduces heat transfer and production throughput.

Maintenance professionals and jetting contractors alike focus on removing deposits from inside the straight heat exchanger tube bores. Why? Simply because the external shell side tube surface of heat shell and tube exchangers is invariably inaccessible and therefore un-cleanable using traditional bundle blasting methods.



  • To remove all process deposits from the external, shell side tube surface of Shell and Tube heat exchangers with cleaning lanes of 4 to 6mm, within medium and heavily fouling environments such as crude and polymer processes. In addition, avoid deposits being pushed further into the tube bundle where they remain and harden over time.



  • Tube Tech recommend Clients weigh their heat exchangers before and after cleaning. Anything over design weight “after cleaning” means fouling has not been removed and therefore energy and production losses will continue as the asset life continues to depreciate.
  • Tube Tech have developed a unique heat exchanger cleaning process that completely removes any and all external tube surface fouling from any shell and tube heat exchanger with cleaning lanes from as little as 4mm. Clients can, for the first time ever, achieve near 100% heat exchanger cleanliness, regardless of fouling characteristics and return them to service as good as new ensuring a quick and substantial return on investment (ROI). Quantifying these losses helps justify the use of ShellJett.
  • ShellJeTT is well proven in the field on the most extreme Shell and Tube Exchangers across a number of industry sectors. It works as the operator inserts the mechanism between the narrow 4 to 6mm tube space (cleaning lanes). Deposits are removed using a combination of 60,000 psi water pressure (4000 bar), combined with ultrasound and mechanical rotary shear with no tube damage. ShellJett can be operated remotely ensuring operator safety.
  • A CCTV inspection system called BladeSpec slides in between the 6mm cleaning lanes and inspects the fouling levels before and after cleaning the external tube surface of the heat exchanger which is recommended in order to provide a benchmark of “How Clean Is Clean”. This is crucial to ensure future standards are maintained.



By ensuring your crane operators record the weight of your exchangers, before and after cleaning, it will help you calculate the weight of fouling that remains. Anything over design weight “after cleaning” means the fouling has not been removed successfully and therefore energy and production losses will continue as will the lifetime of the asset. However, the good news is that by measuring this excess weight, allows you to quantify the impact on heat transfer, production and energy loss thereby justifying the use of Shell Jett. By removing fouling deep within the tube bundle back to bare metal, the external shell side tube surface of your heat exchangers will transfer heat far better, run for longer and extend asset life. Tube Tech’s ShellJeTT and BladeSpec combined cleaning and inspection technologies are unique to the market and ensure your heat exchangers are cleaned back to “As New” condition on both shell and tube side. First time – every time.