USX Ethylene Reactor Cleaned 4x Faster than leading cleaning firm

Combination of cleaning systems proves successful

A European petrochemical plant operated by the world’s largest and oldest oil and petrochemical companies was struggling to clean their ethylene reactor furnace tubes. The main chemical products manufactured at the site include ethylene, propylene, cracked gas, oil, hydrogen, acetylene and benzene. A specialist petrochemical consultancy group recommended Tube Tech as an ideal alternative and innovative contractor to unblock the furnace tubes in a safe and quick manner.

The Challenge

  • 32 vertical tubes measuring 4” x 12.5 m were blocked with very hard, brittle coke deposit. Each vertical tube bifurcated at right angles into 2 horizontal, 1.5”x 2.5m sections at the top of their run.
  • Vertical straight sections were drilled from ground level then via the 2” port the 2 horizontal sections were drilled using Softdrill technology which was steered down both sides of the bifurcated tube.
  • The tubes had previously been cleaned by a major European contractor but were taking a whole day to clean just one USX tube . It was paramount that this time scale be reduced. The cleaning of the furnace tubes was part of a major site debottlenecking.


  • As world leaders in innovative cleaning techniques Tube Tech were certain they could significantly reduce the traditional 1 tube per day cleaning time.
  • Using a torque rotating drive that delivered 4000 bar and was able to drill simultaneously Tube Tech were able to unblock each tube in an amazing 30 minutes!
  • The Rotaflex cleaning system is highly flexible, adaptive technology used for the cleaning of various heat transfer equipment.
  • Developed several years ago it effectively removes hard deposits using mechanical drives and super-high water pressures of over 40,000 psi where necessary.
  • The combination of these two innovative systems meant that the reactor furnace tubes were unblocked and cleaned 4x faster than the local site contractors services.
  • Tube Tech also inspected the cleanliness with CCD video probe technology.

Tube Tech Comment

Mike Watson, Technical & Managing Director: “We knew we could clean it quicker but by how much was unknown as the deposit volume and characteristics were unknown. Every time critical challenge requires lateral thinking and by assembling and testing prototypes in house before mobilization ensures success every time. The site operator was able to notice a significant improvement immediately.”

Client Comment

Site Maintenance Co-ordinator: “The cleaning and unblocking of the furnace tubes was done in a much shorter time period than we nor I’m sure Tube Tech expected. The small 37 mm bifurcated tubes were always inaccessible to our local high pressure water jetting contractor so to see these cleaned for the first time was a relief The method used to clean the blocked tubes was innovative and well-considered”

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