Flare Line Cleaning to Remove Pyrophoric Iron Sulphide in South Africa

Near 100% Cleanliness Required for Flare Line Decommission

The flare line on this South African refinery had been in place since the refinery was commissioned in the 1960’s. A section of the 36” carbon steel pipe needed to be cleaned in preparation for decommissioning / replacement. The client required specialist cleaning techniques due to the risk of pyrophoric deposits and odour problems in the community once open to the atmosphere. Tube Tech therefore treated the contract as a “Live” flare line cleaning project and achieved a near 100% cleanliness standard as required by the client.

The Challenge

  • Safety – Risk of fire due to pyrophoric iron sulphide, hydrocarbon condensates and gases in the line.
  • Environment – Risk of pipeline emitting strong odour into the neighbouring community.
  • Waste – Potential of crude oil vacuum residue in the line from a previous relief incident.
  • Integrity – A section of pipe had recently been wrapped with glass reinforced polymer to prevent leaks that had appeared a few years earlier.
  • Access – Line was supported on trestles approximately 6m off the ground and supported a 10” line that hung below it.
  • Cleanliness – Line needed to be cleaned since it was to remain open to atmosphere for 18 months before being demolished and removed from site.
  • Inspection – Client believed most deposit was located on the base of the pipe but no inspection of the line had taken place to confirm this.


  • To prepare as if cleaning the flare line, Live and on-line, to contain pyrophoric material and odour ensuring safety was paramount.
  • Bespoke access modifications designed to ensure cleaning avoided ingress of air.
  • Using an advanced high pressure, high temperature water jetting techniques, several existing access points allowed the line to be cleaned to the level specified by the client, in the time allowed.

Tube Tech Comment

Mike Watson, Managing Director: “What a challenge. We’ve been asked to decontaminate nicotine from similar sized process lines to avoid vapour and odour but the additional risk here was of course the pyrophoric nature of the iron sulphides. Good information and communication with the client culminated in a successful project.”

Images and videos associated with this project are available via Tube Tech International
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