Texas Tower (VCFE Catalytic Reformer) Tube Side Clean in Germany

Tube Bore Unblocking and Cleaning

This was Critical Path. The client was aware that traditional water jetting contractors had their limitations when it comes to removing fouling from the tubes of a UOP CCR type catalytic reformer, especially when access to the tubes was only via a 24” man-way. Performance had dropped off but no-one knew whether the tubes or shell side was fouled. They took the choice of “let’s be ready for worst case scenario”. They needed a company with technology that could remotely drill severe blockages. Tube Tech’s research and development reputation to solve impossible cleaning problems helped make that decision especially as they believed that an incorrect feed had inadvertently passed through the tubes.

The Challenge

  • Tube bundle replaced in 2000 and inspected every 5 years.
  • Client believed the Texas Tower was not designed for the feed that inadvertently passed through it.
  • 2749 tubes fouled with a layer of deposit.
  • Exchanger located in an area with possible explosive atmosphere.
  • Access available with 24” man way on top of VCFE.


  • The client invested in Tube Tech R&D department to develop a bespoke drilling system to remotely clean the VCFE heat exchanger in-situ without man entry.
  • Tube Tech fabricated a scale size replica of the top half at their UK head office to provide proof of concept.
  • A 3 tier cleaning system ensured all tubes were cleaned in-situ and safely in light of the potentially explosive atmosphere.
  • A substantial increase in production was achieved due to full tube bore recovery however heat exchange was limited as the shell side had not been cleaned.

Tube Tech Comment

Mike Watson, Managing and Technical Director: “On critical projects we always plan for fouling access or deposit anomalies. The clients decision was made easier by our commitment to fabricate a replica and demonstrate our ideas. We put ourselves out all the time and it really pays off.”

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