Robotic Cleaning of Ethylene Heater Convection Banks Leads to Substantial Performance Increase

Rapid response adds to higher margins

A Netherlands-based petrochemical needed to remove fouling from the external surfaces of their finned convection tube banks. Bespoke Robotic technology achieve a quick and significant performance increase for the client.

The Challenge
  • The Fired Heater / Furnace constructed with finned and bare convection tube banks.
  • Cleaned alongside a ‘live’ furnace so access and heat had to be overcome.
  • Compacted hydrocarbon and refractory deposits combined with friable scale coating the majority of convection tubes and fins.
  • Thickness of deposit up to 5mm with some bridging between tubes and fins.
  • Increased fouling on lower banks having dropped from upper sections.
  • Had to be cleaned quickly as plant needed welding repairs before start up.
The Solution

Robots required rapid re-configuration in order to clean various convection bank designs.

  • Access to furnace solved by use of cat ladders and removing floor.
  • Mobilisation in under 10 days from enquiry, robot modification, to start.
Client Comment

Assistant Maintenance Supervisor comments: “Hereby my reference for the cleaning the convection section of our furnace. To summarize it short, it was a very successful job. Thank you for your work. Safety is very important and Tube Tech proved to be aware of all safety requirements and worked accordingly. Applying a high safety standard themselves and open to suggestions for improvement. The job was executed without any safety issues.

The convection tubes cleaned by your robots contributed to the performance increase. For the same furnace severity (P/E ratio) with similar burner condition (measured O2 level in stack) we see an increase of feed throughput. In addition, a cleaner convection also see a higher efficiency burner. Improvement of 16 deg C in stack temperature means more burning efficiency. That adds up the higher obtained margin. The cleaning job executed was an opportunity driven by already unplanned furnace outage. Tube Tech managed to be able to mobilize and be on site 1.5week after our first meeting. Furthermore, the execution of the job was smoothly. It is a considerable task to perform all the cleaning in only 5 days; even with some setbacks due to weather. The team managed to keep focused to make up for the time lost and managed to finish the job in the agreed time window.

The costs stayed within the agreed price up front. No additional costs were made. However, Tube Tech is more expensive than our house cleaning contractor, the specialized technique makes up for it. The improved performance of the furnace justified the higher costs.”


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