Nowadays, the high-pressure cleaning technology is widely applied in numerous industries – from the wood and paper industry, through the petrochemical, power engineering and chemical industries, to the manufacturing, food processing and construction industries. Its greatest advantages include high efficiency and speed of operation. What exactly is high-pressure cleaning and how does it improve plant operation?
The high-pressure (hydrodynamic) cleaning method utilises the power of a water stream under very high pressure, reaching up to 2,500 bar. It facilitates quick removal of even hard deposits in hard-to-reach places, e.g. in small heat exchanger tubes or inside a tank. Importantly, cleaning with water under high pressure does not damage the surface being cleaned, because water demonstrates no abrasive properties. The hydrodynamic method is also one of the most eco-friendly industrial cleaning methods, as water with impurities is the only waste to be disposed of after the entire process. What are other benefits of high-pressure cleaning and how can it improve industrial plant operation?
Product quality improvement
The hydrodynamic method facilitates cleaning industrial installations from the inside. In most production plants, pipeline systems are used to convey semi-finished products and the final product. Thus formation of sediments inside a pipeline is inevitable. Over time, substance deposits build up on pipe walls, thereby reducing the flow and decreasing the entire system efficiency. Deposits detached from the walls can also contaminate batches of conveyed materials. A similar process takes place in product storage tanks. This problem often concerns paper mills or production plants in the food processing industry. Thorough cleaning of installation interior significantly improves the product quality and prevents mixing of impurities with the substance conveyed.
The biggest advantage of high-pressure pipeline cleaning is the possibility of clearing and cleaning pipes within which hard deposits are accumulated, without the need to dismantle the entire system. Importantly, pressurised water can be used both to clean smaller pipelines with diameters not exceeding 3 cm and pipelines with diameters up to 1 m. Pipelines with smaller cross-section are cleaned with a special rotary nozzle attached to a flexible high-pressure hose. Pipelines with larger cross-sections are cleaned with a multi-arm head located in a protective cage. The head rotates inside the cage, eliminating any risk of damaging pipe walls. The largest pipelines, with a diameter exceeding 60 cm, can be cleaned with high-pressure guns handled by operators entering the pipeline interior.
System performance enhancement
The deposits built up in installation components may not only contaminate the conveyed substances, but also cause gradual reduction of the overall system efficiency. In the case of industrial heat exchangers, contaminants deposited on the heat exchange surfaces hinder the energy transfer process and reduce the heat exchange process efficiency and output.
This usually results in increasing the energy demand, thus affecting the production costs. In solid fuel fired boilers, just a 1 mm thick deposit built up inside smoke tubes discharging flue gases from above a furnace reduces the heat exchange efficiency by as much as 8 – 10 percent.
On the other hand, after cleaning the tubes using high-pressure cleaning methods, the fuel consumption drops even by 50%. Regular cleaning of installation elements, especially those responsible for heat exchange, allows to maintain correct parameters of their operation, improves system efficiency and extends their service life. In the long term, this leads to considerable savings, as heat exchanger lifetime is extended, there are fewer malfunctions, the fuel consumption decreases, and process performance is accelerated.
Rapid industrial system clearing
In extreme cases, long-term build-up of impurities causes complete clogging of a pipeline or other industrial installation elements. Most commonly, it causes standstills and entire plant shut-downs. In emergencies, hydrodynamic cleaning methods work extremely well. After locating the clogging location, it is possible to restore the plant operation in a relatively short time.
A high-pressure water jet directed at selected spots using a special rotary nozzle located at the end of a flexible hose quickly pierces the deposit build-up. Water streams are directed sideways, forwards and backwards, thanks to which the remaining deposit is washed out thoroughly.
An alternative to clearing a clogged element with high-pressure cleaning methods is its disassembly and replacement. However, this process takes much longer and requires disassembly of certain installation sections. As already mentioned above, hydrodynamic cleaning methods facilitate cleaning even small tubes from the inside, without the need to dismantle them. Moreover, such obstacles as pipeline bends and elbows or U-shaped heat exchangers do not hinder this process in any way. The hoses on which high-pressure nozzles are mounted are made of elastic and flexible but abrasion-resistant plastic. Thanks to this, their introduction into bent tubes is not a problem.
Fire risk mitigation
In plants where flammable and explosive substances are manufactured or processed, excessive deposit build-up may result in generating explosive atmospheres and fires. Ventilation and dust extraction systems do not prevent accumulation of deposits inside a system. Therefore, apart from regular removal of dust and impurities deposited on machines, production lines or structural elements of a production hall, deposits built up inside an installation should also be removed. They also pose a risk of fire breakout. Hydrodynamic cleaning methods facilitate quick and safe removal of flammable dust and deposits from the inside of pipelines, tanks and other industrial installation elements.
Technical condition assessment possibility
Industrial installations run during the ongoing plant operation of the plant are subjected to imminent wear and corrosion. This process can proceed faster in locations where the abrasive material circulates in the system, which, over time, causes damage to surfaces of individual installation elements. Accumulated, often hardened deposits make it impossible to inspect the tank coating condition or pipeline interior, e.g. during inspections conducted by the Office of Technical Inspection or on-site inspection department.
In many cases, only thorough cleaning of the installation components makes it possible to assess its technical condition. High-pressure cleaning facilitates removal of impurities and does not cause any further damage, as water does not demonstrate any abrasive properties. In this way, it is possible to clean not only installation elements made of steel, but also the ones made of concrete (e.g. open tanks).
Preparing installations for corrosion protection
Another benefit of high-pressure cleaning is the possibility to prepare an installation for corrosion protection application. In order for it to be effective, dirt, deposits and layers of old coatings should be thoroughly removed from the protected element surface. The hydrodynamic method makes it possible to clean every single installation element. If an installation is disassembled, cleaning is conducted using special high-pressure guns operated by trained operators.
Therefore, it is possible to clean the entire surface of any given element. The hydrodynamic cleaning method facilitates complete removal of paint coatings from steel surfaces and mineral or bituminous coatings from concrete.
Improving plant appearance
High-pressure cleaning is also a perfect solution for situations when dirt that does not affect the process itself, but interferes with work safety and facility appearance must be removed.
Unexpected outflows from tanks or leaks from pipelines may lead to flooding machinery or traffic routes located nearby. Some substances present outside a closed system may pose a fire hazard. Depending on a material, the resulting impurities may be very difficult to remove. Hydrodynamic cleaning methods solve this problem effectively and in a relatively short period of time.
The hydrodynamic cleaning method is one of the most well-known, effective and universal methods of industrial cleaning. Its versatile application range makes it a perfect solution improving plant operation in almost any industry. As compared to other methods, e.g. chemical cleaning or sandblasting, it is an eco-friendly method, not causing any damage to the cleaned surfaces. Note that high-pressure cleaning effectiveness is largely determined by the correct selection of equipment and pressure settings. Therefore, the experience and competence of a cleaning company is key.
About the author:
High-pressure application expert with 15 years of experience in the hydrodynamic solution industry. CEO of the AlpinJet company operating in the high-pressure cleaning sector (using mountaineering techniques) since 2008. Potholing instructor of the Polish Association of Mountaineering.