Pipeline Cleared of Toxic Nicotine Deposit

Collapsible and expandable cleaning crawlers used to clean suspended pipeline

The contract to clear the residue that is the by-product of tobacco processing, from pipelines was a first for Tube Tech. A heavy tobacco processing residue had built up over a long period of time in large diameter pipelines despite regular flushing with water. The result was that a heavy, sticky and toxic deposit had accumulated in the horizontal pipeline filling it to over 50% of its diameter.

  • Safety was a major concern for Tube Tech in planning the cleaning operation as the pipeline was suspended mid air by a lightweight 10mm stud bar.
  • Because of this fragile situation, only minimal additional pressure could be put on the pipe's holding brackets for fear of the stud snapping.
  • This meant lightweight equipment would be used with very low volumes of water to keep the extra weight, caused by absorbency, to a minimum.
  • Operators also had to be protected from skin contact and vapour inhalation from the highly concentrated levels of nicotine present.
  • After several visits, site discussions plus thorough digital recording of the site and its accessibility, Tube Tech set to work to clean the 1m diameter, 500m long pipeline and its smaller offshoots which contained the nicotine deposit.
  • Small 1" and 4" access points at intervals allowed some access to the pipe work.
  • Collapsible and expandable cleaning crawlers were inserted through these access points by the operators who were dressed in positive pressure are suits.
  • The crawler was then expanded into position.
  • The tank tracks pushed up against the inside wall of the pipeline and the water pressure was then applied.
  • The water pressure was pulsed so as to reduce the friction caused by the hose sitting in the base of the pipe in the deposit, which also helped the cleaning head jet hose to travel further and negotiate more bends.
  • The client achieved a highly-efficient clean in a very short space of time and the pipeline was able to go quickly back into service.
  • Because of the weight considerations the safety of the suspended pipeline was not compromised by the Tube Tech operation.

Scott Donson, Technical Sales Manager: ”This was the first time that we had dealt with this type of waste product. We took no chances and treated it as a high risk material such as would be found in a hazardous, petrochemical environment. Meticulous planning made sure the project went well. The most novel, inventive step used on this occasion was the bespoke crawler which used air-actuated tank tracks to ensure grip was maintained against the inside of the pipe wall helping us to “transport” the flex over greater distances without the usual requirement for high volume water. Previous contractors had tried and failed using traditional high pressure, due to the dangerous additional weight created by the high volume water used to propel the flexible hose, as well as the inability to clean back to bare metal surface. Once again our inventive team introduced a non-standard, cost effective solution after evaluating all the clients commercial and safety benefits.”

The Customer Business Manager said: ”The thing we liked most about Tube Tech’s service was their ability to simultaneously inspect the work they had done leaving no doubt as to the standard of their work. Working within such difficult conditions, Tube Tech not only “did what it said on the tin” but also exceeded our expectations. Tube Tech’s approach to safety, professionalism and exemplary references far outweighed the additional expense of employing their services over the less expensive and more traditional high pressure jetting contractors, who would not normally be this innovative.”

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