Robotic Fired Heater Convection Bank Cleaning in Trinidad


High pressure air lancing had proven to be ineffective at removing hard deposits residing in between studded and bare convection tubes within a fired heater. The refinery chose Tube Tech’s advanced robotic system as it guaranteed the removal of deposits to improve heat transfer, reduce stack temperatures and fuel consumption, and improve overall throughput.

The Challenge
  • The two convection tube banks, each with 40 studded tubes, were previously cleaned once per year with high pressure air.
  • Standard cleaning companies could not access the lower level tubes.
  • The client described the deposit on the 40ft long tubes as a very hard layer of mud approximately 1.5″ (37mm) thick.
  • The deposit was compacted between the studs.
  • Both triangular and square tube banks required cleaning.
  • As part of a vacuum distillation unit turnaround, the convection tube banks had to be cleaned within a very short window.
  • The client requested a production standard clean (80%) even though Tube Tech offered an IRIS inspection cleaning standard (98%).
The Solution
  • Tube Tech met all the client’s health and safety requirements before mobilising.
  • The studs were longer than indicated by the clients drawings. However, the “Remote Controlled Furnace Robot” was quickly re-calibrated to suit the new dimensions.
  • The deposits consistency was closer to cement than mud but the robot was adapted to clear deposits from between the studded rows within the convection cell.
Tube Tech Comment

“€8m energy saving is not an uncommon client benefit after robotic cleaning of their Ethylene Fired Heater. Our Robots unlock this hidden and previously inaccessible saving by the removal of 90%+ fouling compared to 1% from conventional methods,” says Christian Chanel, Technical Sales.

“Every fired heater project has its unique challenges whether due to limited access, unknown fouling levels even design changes omitted from client drawings.

All credit to our R+D team and site operators who proactively overcame every obstacle”.

Due to the huge financial and Co2 benefits I strongly recommend a yearly “Fouling preventative” clean as 1mm of fouling reduces overall heater performance by 10%!

Tube Tech’s Project Manager, said: “This was the first time our robot had been used on studded tubes as normally we encounter finned or bare tubes. The client’s drawings were very old where dimensions were inaccurate but our team adapted well and achieved a higher than expected standard of clean.”


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