Robotic Fired Heater Cleaning of Finned Convection Tubes

90%+ fouling removal translated into £1m of energy saving per year.

Chemical cleaning had previously failed at this UK refinery after attempting to clean a severely fouled fired heater.
Tube Tech were asked if their Robotic Cleaning System could solve their problem of removing inaccessible fouling from between every finned and bare convection tube bank.
If successful, stack temperature and energy consumption would be drastically reduced and avoiding substantial Capex and Opex saving to replace the coils.

The Challenge

  • Cleaning standard specified by client was 80% production standard cleanliness or better.
  • The triangular pitched tubes were a mixture of finned and bare tubes.
  • Client was uncertain how hard or soft the fouling was nor how deep within the fired heater, but was aware that gas flows were severely restricted and heat transfer reduced.
  • It was expected that 90% of all the finned area had compact deposits preventing heat dissipation.
  • Client stressed water was to have restricted contact with the refractory.
  • Access via 800mm x 500mm access doors on separate levels. Our Solution
  • Demonstrated client mock-up prior to mobilisation.
  • Tube Tech robots removed all fouling from every Coil on each level.
  • Refractory was not damaged. Any moisture from the cleaning process was evaporated during run up.
  • On critical path the unit was cleaned within 4 shifts as specified by the client.


  • Tube Tech adapted its robotic units to enable full reach between all the tube rows and along tube full length on each level.
  • Demonstrated to client in mock-up prior to mobilisation.
  • Operating the fired heater robot by remote control the Tube Tech technicians ensured the refractory was not in direct contact with the robot jets.
  • On the critical path the fired heater was cleaned effectively within the time frame specified by the client.

Tube Tech Comment

“Our client was really impressed with the engineered approach and standard of cleanliness achieved by the robotic units. A big safety benefit was avoiding man entry and removing the need for chemicals, therefore it is inherently safe and has less impact on the environment.

As the client put it “An ideal solution for ”severely fouled fired heater”

Images and videos associated with this project are available via Tube Tech International
Click here to request to see them.


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