Top 10 Cleaning and Inspection Challenges: No. 5


External Shell Side Heat Exchanger Cleaning

Based on an extensive survey of 500 refinery operators, external shell side heat exchanger cleaning ranks fifth among the most prevalent cleaning challenges. In this in-depth discussion, we will explore the issues around shell side fouling and solutions to restore efficiency and maximise productivity.

The Problem

Refinery and petrochemical sectors face a recurring issue with process deposits. These deposits, often found in areas with limited access, pose a significant obstacle as they reduce heat transfer efficiency and production throughput.

Both maintenance professionals and jetting contractors primarily focus on removing deposits from the inside of straight heat exchanger tube bores. The reason behind this is quite simple – the external shell side tube surface of shell and tube exchangers tends to be inaccessible, making traditional bundle blasting methods ineffective.

The Challenge

However, the real challenge lies in finding a solution that can effectively remove process deposits from the external shell side tube surface of shell and tube heat exchangers, with cleaning lanes of 4-6mm. This is particularly crucial in fouling environments, such as crude and polymer processes, where deposits can accumulate and harden over time. Additionally, care must be taken to avoid pushing deposits further into the tube bundle, where they can cause further issues.

Tube Tech’s ShellJeTT™ and BladeSpec™ Technologies

Tube Tech’s ShellJeTT™ has been proven effective in tackling even the most extreme shell and tube exchangers across various industry sectors. With cleaning lanes from as narrow as 4mm, our cleaning process ensures the removal of deposits using a powerful combination of 60,000 psi water pressure (4000 bar), ultrasound, and mechanical rotary shear, all without causing any tube damage. Safety is paramount, which is why ShellJeTT™ can be operated remotely, keeping operators out of harm’s way.

Accurate Fouling Assessment with BladeSpec™

Our CCTV inspection system, BladeSpec™, takes fouling assessment to the next level. By sliding between the 6mm cleaning lanes, BladeSpec™ inspects the fouling levels before and after cleaning the external tube surface. This benchmarking step is crucial for maintaining future standards and ensuring that your heat exchangers operate at peak performance.

Quantify Energy and Production Losses

One of the key benefits of Tube Tech’s technologies is the ability to quantify energy and production losses caused by fouling. By recording and comparing the weight of your heat exchangers before and after cleaning, you can accurately calculate the weight of the remaining fouling. Any weight exceeding the design weight after cleaning indicates that fouling has not been successfully removed, resulting in ongoing energy and production losses. However, this excess weight measurement will enable you to assess the impact on heat transfer, production, and energy loss, effectively justifying the utilization of ShellJeTT™.

Extend the Lifetime of Your Assets

Tube Tech’s advanced cleaning and inspection technologies ensure that your heat exchangers are restored to as new condition on both the shell and tube side. By removing fouling deep within the tube bundle, right down to bare metal, the external shell side tube surface can efficiently transfer heat, leading to improved performance, extended asset life, and enhanced productivity.


Don’t let fouling hinder the efficiency of your heat exchangers. With Tube Tech’s ShellJeTT™ and BladeSpec™ technologies, you can achieve 90%+ cleanliness and superior heat transfer, resulting in enhanced energy efficiency, increased production output, and prolonged asset life. Contact Tube Tech today and experience the unique capabilities of our innovative heat exchanger cleaning and inspection techniques.