Cleaning Heaters Prior to Pigging

Refined Technology
1 min read

The Challenge

Concerned about pitting and corrosion, a large Canadian oil sands producer contracted a smart pigging service to collect data on the tubes of its inlet furnace. 

The standard pigging process involves a soap and water wash followed by a series of foam pig applications to remove as much oil as possible before passing the smart pig. It’s important to render the tubes as clean as possible to get clear, useable data.

The traditional cleaning process could take up to 72 hours with multiple pig runs necessary to collect all of the data. The facility decided to seek a new method to reduce the amount of time the furnace was out of service for pigging.

The Solution

In preparation for short maintenance-related outages, or to facilitate large turnarounds, the facility had used Refined Technologies’ QuikTurn® chemical and Vaporganic® process for removing hydrocarbons from the internals of its equipment for several years. The use of QuikTurn® for cleaning the furnace passes was a 
logical enhancement to the traditional pigging process.

Refined Technologies’ team devised a plan to inject QuikTurn® into the furnace passes shortly after oil was pulled from the unit. Using RTI’s standard, patented Vaporganic® process of heating the furnace with steam, injecting QuikTurn®, purging and venting, the cleaning process was completed in just 2 hours.

The Results

The QuikTurn® chemical and Vaporganic® process removed the residual hydrocarbon without affecting any metallurgy. The total elapsed time — from taking the furnace offline until the time that data was fully collected by the smart pig — was reduced from 96 hours to 30 hours by pre-cleaning with QuikTurn®.

Small amounts of hydrocarbon were left at the bottom bend of a couple tubes. The rest of the radiant and all of the convection sections were completely hydrocarbon-free. In the future, based upon lessons learned, all hydrocarbon will be removed by following enhanced procedures agreed upon between RTI and the client. On pass two, 100% of the smart-pig data was collected in 10 hours. Pass 3 was completed in 12 hours. The pigging company fully expects that “a few tweaks” will allow future projects to be completed in less than 6 hours per pass.

Overall, the client claimed that RTI’s QuikTurn® chemistry and Vaporganic® process was “a great value.” These results are not unique. In previous applications, RTI’s patented process has reduced the amount of steam time before pigging from 24–36 hours to just 6 hours. In each case, the pigging operation went more smoothly than ever before.

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