A brief background on the conditions which gave rise to this new market.
Petrochemical plants have traditionally depended upon outside environmental firms to come onto their property and perform cleaning operations on heat ex-changers. These regular scheduled cleanings help the facility maintain efficient heat transfer and thus keep production BTU costs at a minimum. The environmental firms which engage in this sort of service employ highly trained, safety orientated personnel and specialized mobile hydro blasting equipment. There are stringent lockout, flange blinding, air quality monitoring and fail safe procedures in place to protect the environmental firm personnel and the capital equipment. However, the possibility for equipment damage or a lost time accident always exists. Therefore, both the facility and environmental firm must have sufficient insurance coverage to minimize their exposure to these risks. For the purpose of this discussion, we can refer to the first motivating factor for a new market as Decreased Liability for the petrochemical plant.
The primary method of cleaning heat ex-changers is hydro blasting. Hydro blasting is essentially a “super pressure washer” operating in the 40,000psi range. This process is effective, but of course produces a waste water stream. The materials removed from the heat ex-changer will generally precipitate as solids which are characteristically hazardous waste or K listed waste (in the case of most refineries). A “PRODUCT” becomes a “WASTE” the minute it hits the ground during a cleaning procedure. The place or facility where that product hits the ground is called the “Generator”. In cases where the waste is considered hazardous, the Generator must compile with the stringent reporting, handling and disposal procedures set forth by their state DEQ. Additionally, many states are incorporating mandatory hazardous waste reduction programs for their large Quantity Generators. Reference the Texas P2 Plan as great example of this trend. In the case of outsourced heat ex-changer cleaning, the cleaning facility is considered the Generator, not the origin facility. We can refer to the second primary driver for a new market as Decreased Hazardous Waste Production for the petrochemical facility.
The two primary motivating factors for a new market in off-site heat ex-changer cleaning:
Decreased Hazardous Waste Production
Blue Sphere customer Cleanco Systems recognized the potential for a shift in how heat ex-changers are cleaned and the resultant waste is handled. As the early innovator in the market, the Houston TX area based Cleanco, invested significant capital in a ground up facility dedicated solely to hydro-blasting heat ex-changers and producing as little hazardous waste as possible in the process. This business model was well accepted by the major refineries and has been quickly copied by other heat ex-changer service companies. Significant capital is flowing into the construction and operation of heat ex-changer cleaning facilities throughout the Gulf Coast.