Cleaning The Impossible: Cracking The Ethane Cracker


The company converts ethane gas with its world-scale ethane cracker to 1.3 million tons of ethylene per year. It then uses this ethylene to produce easy processing polyethylene (EPPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and mono ethylene glycol (MEG).


A train of sixteen fin fans annually lose heat transfer efficiency and experience reduced flow loss. Each exchanger is 288 tubes and the fouling was a very heavy tar type substance. The client attempted to clean these exchangers using multiple methods and contractors including hydro blasting up to 20,000 PSI and chemical cleaning after introducing steam to soften the foulant. Unfortunately, after 90 days having attempted with five contractors with various types of cleaning tools and solutions the company was unable to clean even one exchanger to the desired MFL inspection level. The client was further disappointed that after repeated attempts all national contractors refused to bid for this work. The client really needed a solution as they had been experiencing the same problem annually.


The client remembered us when we had previously conducted a presentation of our services and requested we perform an immediate job walk. The client explained that the minimum requirement is that they expect to at least perform MFL level inspection on these exchangers. Considering all previous contractors had failed no time frame to complete the cleaning of one exchanger was given.


Refinery Solutions proposed our proprietary Hydrokinetics method to unplug and descale the tubes to achieve the desired cleaning level to perform MFL inspection. We first manufactured tube inserts and receivers to allow our projectile devices to travel through the header boxes and make a seal with the tubes. Once we introduced the projectiles we were able to clean the tubes in one pass utilizing our Hydrokinetics method.


Having never utlised the technology previously initially the customer was sceptical and sometimes cautiously optimistic with the capabilities of the Hydrokinetics service. We cleaned the tubes in one pass and cleaning to execute MFL inspection was achieved in two less than two shifts. Containment was not a problem and we did not foul the exterior of the equipment as other contractors had done previously. All waste effluent was collected in a catch pan on the exit side.

The client was delighted and relieved to finally discover a cleaning solution for these problematic exchangers that they awarded the cleaning of the remaining 15 exchangers immediately. In addition, they awarded a long term contract to clean these exchangers annually as well as identifying other problem equipment which we successfully cleaned.

Have a no-obligation consultation with our experts

Connect Now