Dry Ice Blasting to Remove Bitumen
The petrochem industry faces many challenges to keep machinery clean and in working order. A recent challenge Optimum Dry Ice Blasting faced was coming up with a plan to use dry ice blasting in removing bitumen from process machinery for a large Petrochem company.
The challenge was to remove the heavy bitumen contamination from a conveyor process, whilst the machinery was still operational.
The downtime taken to dismantle the cyclic conveyor (120 linear meters) and 3200 suction couplings (6” diameter aluminium/plastic cups), clean them and re-assemble was far too expensive in terms of lost production. On the flip side, due to bitumen clogging up the internal workings, the machinery drives were using up to 3 times more electricity to keep the track moving. They were also only a matter of weeks away from grinding to a burn out (and a costly replacement exercise).
After 2 weeks of discussion and planning, a robust method was put into place of using dry ice blasting and high powered air to fully clean down the drives and cyclic belt area of the bitumen production area, all while the machines were still running.
The main challenges were controlling the waste stream so the bitumen would not ‘stick back’ to the other side of the cyclic cups once removed by dry ice blasting. High power air was utilised to effectively force the contaminant backwards once removed. We believe we are the first dry ice blasting company to use this method successfully.
A fixed point jig was designed and built to hold a blast gun and air flow in place, so the operative could safely control the process without needing to be in the immediate vicinity of moving machinery. Optimum deployed and constructed one of our MCU (machinery containment units) to cover a 5-meter area of the bitumen process machinery.
The results were outstanding with a 100% bitumen removal rate achieved and a huge drop in electricity usage. The track didn’t stop once, also resulting in saved costs incurred through the normal planned downtime. The bitumen waste was successfully controlled and removed with zero cross contamination.
The result was so successful that the customer is now building a permanent dry ice blasting area for us to carry out bitumen removal on a monthly basis, with a 3-year contract now in place. They are also looking to roll out the system to their other UK and worldwide sites and believe this is a first for removing bitumen in the Petrochem industry
Again another great example of dry ice blasting saving companies thousands (roughly £27,000.00 in this case) by keeping machinery clean and well maintained and therefore, continued production.
By Ian Reynolds