Industrial Cleaning for the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear facilities require an increased attention to detail, higher qualifications, and greater commitment.

Professional Industrial Cleaning Services

We hold ourselves to the highest standards of safety, quality and integrity.

Specialized Equipment, Technology and Personnel

Few can match our twenty plus years of experience, customization and diversity.

Industrial Cleaning for the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear facilities require an increased attention to detail, higher qualifications, and greater commitment.

Professional Industrial Cleaning Services

We hold ourselves to the highest standards of safety, quality and integrity.

Recent Posts

June 5, 2017

Automated Hydroblasting: Trust the Numbers


When you are trying to choose between different service providers for a large-scale industrial equipment cleaning need, you probably don’t make your decision based on which company has the flashiest logo, the most personable project managers, or the best-looking website. Those things are great, but you most want to see real results of past work, reported without spin and clearly showing what the service provider is capable of. In other words, you want to see numbers! Our automated hydroblasting and other technology-based applications generate some numbers that cause many of our potential clients to do a double-take. Could advances in cleaning technology really produce those kinds of results? Here are a few of our favorite examples, which show how facilities of all types around the country are enjoying faster, safer, and far more complete cleanings than ever before thanks to Thompson Industrial Services.

Automated Hydroblasting at a Paper Mill

Last year, we conducted an automated hydroblasting job at a large paper mill. When we first met the client and found out about their cleaning need, they had some idea of what to expect, since the cleaning had been performed by other providers in the past. Their benchmark was a 130-hour time span, involving fourteen technicians and two water pumps. One major reason for the extensive downtime was the element of confined space entry. Our automated hydroblasting solutions specialize in accelerating projects involving confined spaces, and we were able to complete the job much more quickly and affordably than previous methods had allowed. Here are the numbers:
  • ·         40 hours instead of 130 (70 percent faster)
  • ·         8 technicians instead of 14
  • ·         Estimated $60,000 saved

Our heat exchanger cleaning services are extremely fast and extremely thorough

 
A Petrochemical Plant Success Story

An unexpected problem at a petrochemical plant forced a shutdown on short notice, during one of the plant’s busiest periods of the year. Plant managers were eager to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible, but the estimated time needed for the cleaning was eight days, during which the production line would be shut down. A team from Thompson Industrial Services created a plan that incorporated hydroblasting and vacuum services to clean the equipment completely and quickly. Some creativity on the part of our technicians solved a particularly difficult element of the job, allowing the team to clean a reactor on the seventh floor of the building and saving the company thousands of dollars on that particular phase of the project. Here are the numbers for the rest of this successful cleaning project:

  • ·         Six days instead of the estimated eight
  • ·         Cooler tubes 75 percent blocked: completely cleared
  • ·         $10,000 saved by seventh-floor reactor cleaning solution
Automated Hydroblasting: Pushing for Better Numbers

Developing a cleaning solution that gets the job done efficiently isn’t seen as the final goal at Thompson Industrial Services: it’s just a starting point. We constantly monitor advances in the industry to discover the most useful breakthroughs, and we operate our own research division to develop better tools and approaches for industrial equipment cleaning. 

When a packaging company asked us to perform a fan rotor cleaning at their facility, the estimated time needed for the project based on our past performance was 24-36 hours. During the planning phase, however, our technicians explored the possibility of using a different abrasive than they had used in previous projects. After scrutinizing the safety and other considerations related to the new abrasive, they went ahead with the new approach. The choice to do something new paid off in a big way; the fan rotor cleaning only took half the estimated time and got the equipment completely clean. This downtime reduction was a huge success and is now informing our technicians’ service for similar cleaning projects with other clients.

The surprising results of our automated hydroblasting, vacuum, and other cleaning services do not happen “automatically.” They are the product of constant research, innovation, and searching for better ways to do what we already do well. Our commitment at Thompson Industrial Services is to continue giving our clients the best possible service available today, slashing downtime and cleaning costs while investigating the newest products and approaches for even more savings.

If you are impressed by the numbers described here, please email or call today. Put our technicians’ creativity and expertise to work for your facility’s equipment.

March 23, 2017

Heat Exchanger Cleaning and an “Impossible” Problem

We know from our decades of experience in industrial equipment cleaning that there are manufacturing facilities, power plants, and other facilities all over the country with certain “problem” pieces of equipment. We’re talking about units or pipelines that very rarely get a complete cleaning, because they were installed in such a way that getting access to them is extremely difficult. In fact, we’ve helped some facilities clean equipment that has really never been thoroughly cleaned since the day it was put in several decades ago!
Recently, we handled a heat exchanger cleaning project that was in a similar category. As you’ll see, without the automated heat exchanger cleaning services that Thompson Industrial Services offers, this equipment would probably have had to be left in an inefficient, only partly-maintained condition. Yet another success story and another great reason to work with our automated cleaning teams.
A horizontal heat exchanger being cleaned with our automated equipment

Equipment Issues
Our client for this project was a chemical plant in North Carolina. The plant was looking for a better method for cleaning three horizontal heat exchangers than the traditional hand-lancing method. Normally these units would not present an excessive challenge, but an issue with the equipment was causing serious complications. Over time, some of the 18-foot exchanger tubes had warped, creating a route that was not completely straight. This situation was not necessarily a problem for the day-to-day operation of the equipment, but when it came to maintenance, some critical safety regulations on manual heat exchanger cleaning made it impossible to completely clean it.
Safety Regulations
During hand-lancing of heat exchanger tubes, safety regulations dictate the use of a rigid lance that is at least three feet long. This rigid lance was unable to make it to the end of the warped exchanger tubes, leaving the end of those tubes insufficiently clean. For a responsible industrial equipment cleaning company, there is no way around safety regulations, and so the only option was to leave the warped tubes only partially clean and continue operations.
Automated Heat Exchanger Cleaning Services
This is where the automated lancing solutions developed by Thompson Industrial Services showed just how powerful they can be. Because the equipment is not manipulated by hand, the regulation for using a 3-foot rigid lance does not apply. The cleaning tools used by our automated positioners are flexible and able to make it all the way through even the warped exchanger tubes, performing a complete cleaning. For this particular project, our team used an automated two-lance machine, accelerating the process by cleaning multiple tubes at the same time.
Speed and Safety (Again)
A common theme in the automated equipment success stories that we share with you is speed. We routinely cut traditional cleaning times by percentages of 40 percent and higher, getting plants and equipment back online with much less downtime and lost production than ever before. With this heat exchanger cleaning project, our team was finished in seven hours, which was about 40 percent less time than it would have taken a team using hand-lancing methods. When you factor in the consideration that the hand-lancing option would not have achieved a thorough cleaning as the automated approach did, the benefits are much greater than a simple 40 percent reduction in downtime.
Customized Services for Each Job
The flexibility of our automated boiler, heat exchanger, and other equipment cleaning services gives us the great ability to completely customize our equipment and approach to every job. For a unique issue like the warped exchanger tubes in this project, our team and expert planners analyze the situation, discuss what automated tooling and positioners are best suited for it, and devise a solution that will accomplish the objectives most efficiently, safely, and affordably—while keeping the client updated on a constant basis. Whether the challenge is a tank with decades of hardened mineral buildup or a bundle of boiler tubes that is impossible to access with manual cleaning equipment, our highly trained professionals are ready to quickly assess the needs and put our automated solutions to work solving them.
Please get in touch with us to discuss your industrial cleaning needs, whether they are simple, complex, or seemingly impossible. Our experts are ready to meet the challenge with the highest possible levels of efficiency and safety!

February 22, 2017

Automated Hydroblast Technology Gets More Sophisticated

The continual improvements that the research teams at Thompson Industrial Services make to our automated hydroblast systems carry huge benefits for our clients. True, it’s a lot of pressure for our researchers to keep pushing the boundaries of a technique that is already at the cutting edge in our field, but if anyone is up to the task, they are. Today, we tell you about the most recent technology update to our automated service, which gives our experienced hydroblasting technicians more control, speed, and efficiency in boiler tube cleaning than ever before.
Our automated heat exchanger cleaning equipment in action

Some Key Numbers
We know that numbers always tend to attract attention, so we’ll start off our discussion with some powerful statistics from a recent job that our hydroblast technicians handled for a client. The job was jetting tubes for two heat exchangers at a major refinery, a job that took another industrial cleaning service slightly more than 100 hours total just about a year ago. Using the new advancement we are talking about today, our hydroblasting equipment accomplished the entire job in less than 24 hours. That’s over 75 hours of downtime cut, for a value of about $13,000 for the client.
Between the two heat exchangers, there were a total of 1,156 tubes that needed to be cleaned. The key benefit of our improved hydroblasting service was the ability to move very quickly from one of those tubes to another, cutting downtime and providing our client with those very welcome financial savings.
Smart Indexing System
The basis of our hydroblast service for this job was our triple lance automation system, which accomplishes the cleaning far more quickly, safely, and precisely than water blasting by hand. The new Smart Indexing System, an addition to our remotely controlled equipment, makes it possible for our technicians to manipulate the equipment using a tablet via bluetooth. It also increases the positioner’s speed in moving the hydroblasting tip from one hole to the next, without losing any accuracy or power.
In a further effort to remove human error from the equation, the Smart Indexing System notifies the technician if he moves the hydroblasting tool to a boiler tube that has already been cleaned. This is a helpful, potentially time-saving feature during a cleaning that involves over 1,000 tubes! This smart indexing system is calibrated to fit your particular exchanger. In addition, we offer capabilities for heat exchangers and domed evaporators with confined spaces. Every automation job is customized to your facility’s specific needs.
Superior Boiler Tube/Heat Exchanger Cleaning Services
Thompson Industrial Services has spent decades providing superior cleaning services for heat exchangers and boilers throughout the southeastern and central United States. Continual advances in technology, including the incorporation of the Smart Indexing System, are a large part of the reason that our clients in the Southeast and throughout the United States trust us with their equipment: they know that we are doing everything possible to save them time and money with each cleaning job while keeping operators safe. Clients like the one we told you about at the beginning of this article, that previously worked with other industrial cleaning providers for their maintenance needs, immediately recognize the difference in Thompson Industrial Services’ commitment to safety and quality. That’s hard to argue with when a boiler tube cleaning cuts over 75 hours of downtime from the job!
Other Hydroblast Applications
The automated positioning systems that we use to hydroblast boiler and exchanger tubes are also integral parts of our other hydroblasting services. When cutting through reactor heads or steel walls, for instance, the precision of this equipment makes it possible for our technicians to quickly execute perfectly round, perfectly sized cuts with beveled edges for easy rewelding. Each project that incorporates our robotic equipment gets a fully customized approach, with the emphasis on planning and understanding the equipment, requirements, and challenges that is a long tradition at Thompson Industrial Services.
If your manufacturing facility, refinery, or plant requires heat exchanger or other major equipment cleaning, we want to make your project our next impressive success story! If maintenance on your equipment is long overdue because of restricted access or a setting that is hazardous for human technicians, it’s even more important that you contact us to learn more about our automated hydroblast solutions; they are versatile enough to fit into virtually any application and perform a complete, fast cleaning. We will be glad to talk with you soon!

January 25, 2017

High Pressure Water Blasting: Cutting Applications

At Thompson Industrial Services, our automated hydroblasting equipment has been a major focus for some time. The robotic equipment used to position and manipulate hydroblasters, controlled remotely by highly skilled technicians, opens up many doors to more efficient, complete, and versatile cleaning projects. But under extreme pressure and with the addition of an abrasive, water can do even more than that. Today, we’re giving you some insight into our high pressure water blasting application, which is capable of quickly, safely cutting through surfaces that may surprise you.
A precision hydro-cutting project at a Virginia refinery

High Pressure Water Blasting Benefits
Our technicians use our high pressure water blasting methods to cut through steel and concrete with three main benefits over competing methods:
Precision
The automated tools that we use to manipulate water blasting equipment are fully customizable, so our technicians are able to build a specific solution for each job’s exact needs. Once the equipment is in place, it cuts with absolute precision. The result is a smooth, straight cut, including a beveled edge for specialized applications. Just take a look at the photo below for an example of the precision work that our automated high pressure water blasting equipment is capable of.
Speed
The project illustrated in the photo below took place at a Virginia refinery. The job took just one hour, a great example of the speed that automation brings to this kind of service. When the cutting phase is this efficient, cleaning jobs can progress more quickly, safety hazards can be mitigated sooner, and downtime can be minimized to get processes back online.
Safety
Traditional methods used to cut steel and concrete are unacceptable in sensitive contexts, such as power plants and other areas where potentially flammable debris or vapors are present. The water and the abrasive used in our high pressure water blasting service are environmentally friendly and non-toxic, so there is zero risk to human workers, nearby equipment, and the surrounding ecosystem.
Application Examples
There is a wide range of contexts in which high pressure water blasting excels. These include cutting through pipe, rebar, and concrete for demolition purposes; cutting through columns and smoke stacks; and creating manways and doorsheets in a variety of settings. For circular holes, our radius and circle cutters offer incredible precision and speed. If an opening cut by our hydroblasting service must later be welded shut again—for instance, after inspection of a tank or reactor—we cut with a beveled edge that reduces door sheet pressure.
Our ultra-high pressure water blasting equipment (up to 40K) is powerful enough to cut through up to 3 feet of concrete and rebar, and up to eight inches of steel. The process creates no temperature increase or hot sparks; the only substances used for the application are water and garnet, a fine grade abrasive that our equipment injects into the water stream.
The speed of this specialty cutting method is particularly important when our technicians are addressing emergency situations. A Thompson Industrial Services team responding to an urgent service request was able to cut through a chemical plant’s failed vessel an astonishing 24 hours more quickly than competing cutting methods. Although there were flammable vapors in the area during the cutting, there was no risk of explosion with our water blasting approach.
Automation: The Future of Hydroblasting
After years of building our automated equipment and applying it to our various hydroblasting services, it is our firm belief that there is no turning back! The superior precision, speed, and safety of our high pressure water blasting projects over hands-on operation are extremely beneficial to our industrial clients, especially when you factor in our ability to completely customize our solutions to match the shape, size, and nature of each job. One thing has not changed, though, despite the dramatic technology improvements: the importance of our technicians’ training, experience, and respect for safety protocols. Even though our team members may be using a remote control instead of holding a hydroblaster, they keep the same careful, safety-conscious approach to our clients’ equipment that has made Thompson Industrial Services a trusted name in our field throughout the United States and abroad.
Email us today to learn more about high pressure water blasting and our other powerful, cost-saving services.

December 23, 2016

Two New Hydro Vacuum Excavation Projects

The hydro vacuum excavation services that our company offers come in handy in many different contexts, for many different types of clients. That’s because these services are totally safe for buried utilities, even sensitive lines like fiber optic cables. Over the years, Thompson Industrial Services has conducted many hydro vacuum excavation projects and has never yet damaged a utility line—despite the fact that we uncover those lines during nearly every project! This month, we wanted to highlight two recent projects that illustrate two very different applications for this flexible excavation approach.
Locating a water pipe leak using hydro vacuum excavation

Making Way for a Pipeline
Digging two holes in preparation for laying a new pipeline may not sound like a project that would require a specialized excavation approach. But it definitely is when the pipeline is being laid at a power plant! For the sake of safety, the preparation could not make use of traditional digging equipment, and that meant calling in the Thompson Industrial Services safe excavation team. Our job was to dig two holes, each measuring four feet deep and twelve feet in diameter, one hole at each end of the new pipeline at the point where it would tie into existing pipe. Clearly, it was very important to dig the holes without causing any damage to the pipe that was already in place. Our digging method, which uses pressurized water to loosen soil and then vacuums it away from the excavation site, quickly  and safely did the job. There was an additional factor that threatened to complicate the project, though: once our team dug the holes, water began to fill them again. Fortunately, our hydro vacuum excavation equipment is also equipped to remove water from the excavation site, so we kept the holes clear and dry while workers installed the new pipeline. The client was very pleased with the results and has indicated an interest in working with Thompson in the future!
Finding a Water Leak
The second of our hydro vacuum excavation projects involved, not a new pipeline installation, but locating a leak in an existing water pipeline. At another power plant, a water leak was negatively affecting production and it was essential to locate it quickly. Again, mechanical digging equipment was not an option, since it could easily damage pipelines even further. There were also buried power lines at risk, which would be disastrous to strike with a backhoe or even a hand shovel. Our hydro vacuum excavation team got to work, digging near the pipeline to pin down exactly where the leak was located. At one point along the pipeline, it was necessary to dig through a sidewalk—no problem for the highly pressurized water that we use in our excavation process. As of this blogpost’s writing, the project is still underway, although our team believes it has identified the source of the leak. Feedback from the client during the project has been very positive; as with most of our jobs, the employees at the facility have been surprised at the safety and speed with which our team has worked.
Safe Digging for Different Projects
These two jobs illustrate the value of hydro vacuum excavation for projects at power plants, where mechanical equipment may not be used to dig on the property. But any time there are known utilities buried in the area, or there is the possibility that they may exist, our services can accomplish the necessary excavation without jeopardizing the lines. Another important application of this service is excavating in contamination-sensitive environments. As soil is loosened and removed from the site, our vacuum equipment contains and removes it, storing it for later disposal or for replacement once the work at the excavation site is complete.
The companion application to our hydro vacuum excavation service is pneumatic vacuum excavation. This process comes into play when an environment is so sensitive that even the moisture created by pressurized water blasting is a problem. Pneumatic digging uses pressurized air instead of water and is also extremely gentle on utilities and communication lines.
Contact us at Thompson Industrial Services for all of your safe excavation needs. Our experienced pneumatic and hydro vacuum excavation technicians are ready to assess your project and propose the safest, most efficient approach.

November 23, 2016

Taking Boiler Tube Cleaning into the Future

At Thompson Industrial Services, our innovation in automated cleaning solutions has transformed many of our processes, whether they involve hydroblasting, chemical cleaning, or spraying a specialized product like FINFOAM. In each application, replacing a hands-on approach with remotely controlled robotic tooling has helped us make important progress in safety, speed, accuracy, and power. Boiler tube cleaning provides what may be the clearest example of just how much progress is possible when we make the best use of automated technology. If this is a maintenance topic that has always been a “thorn in the side” of your facility, keep reading—Thompson Industrial Services can help!


Automated boiler tube cleaning transforms this core maintenance task.

Automated Boiler Tube Cleaning Equipment
The equipment we use for automated boiler tube cleaning is compact—it’s small enough to be inserted through the mud drum manway, gaining access to boiler tubes very quickly as it is manipulated remotely by one of our expert, highly trained technicians. Once the unit is in place, a camera system allows the technician to clearly see what the cleaning needs are, track progress, and document the results once the cleaning job is complete.
The automated tooling is expertly designed to clean boiler tubes completely, safely, and quickly, delivering up to 50 pounds of push force to clear plugging. One important factor in the speed of this cleaning approach is the fact that the tooling cleans in both directions as it is manipulated—essentially performing twice as much work as a human technician would be able to perform through a hands-on cleaning approach.
Customized for Your Equipment
Each boiler tube cleaning job is unique, and we customize our flexible automated equipment in order to bring the highest possible level of service to each of those jobs. This is an incredible efficiency benefit for each of our clients; the more closely the solution is customized for a piece of equipment, the more thoroughly the unit will be cleaned and the more effective it will be when it is back online.
Our teams use a detailed, careful project planning approach before beginning any job. No matter how “routine” a cleaning job may seem, a creative solution may be able to remove tough, years-old deposits that previous cleanings were not able to touch. It may also cut downtime by hours or even days, thanks to increased cleaning power and the ability to keep human workers out of harm’s way throughout the job. This commitment to look at each project through the lens of innovation and to never be content with the way things have always been done is part of the integrity that our clients value in our industrial cleaning teams.
Boiler Tube Cleaning Expertise
This state-of-the-art automated boiler tube cleaning equipment is powered by decades of experience. Our technicians understand the capabilities of the tools they use to clean boiler tubes and other industrial equipment, and they carefully determine the safest, most effective solutions for each cleaning project. If a client’s proposed boiler tube cleaning method—or the one that other service providers have used in the past—does not appear to be the optimal one, our team will propose an alternative that may preserve the client’s equipment and lead to better results for the long term.
Waste containment during any boiler tube cleaning job is an aspect that our technicians take very seriously as well. The debris and chemicals removed from equipment are often hazardous to the environment and to human workers, and we use advanced equipment and methods to safely dispose of them. In some cases, the client’s facility policies even require that we collect all debris, fluids, and chemicals produced during a cleaning job and transport them off site without allowing any to escape. Our experience and advanced equipment, including vacuum technology and high-capacity units, allow us to meet these expectations while still minimizing downtime for the client’s process lines.
Automated boiler tube cleaning may be an incredibly valuable service for your facility, and our teams are uniquely qualified to perform it safely and quickly. We encourage you to contact us and tell us about your cleaning needs, as well as safe excavation, combustible dust removal, wet and dry waste vacuuming, and other complex industrial cleaning services.

October 26, 2016

Automated Hydroblasting Benefits a Paper Mill

If you ask any of our clients what they like most about working with Thompson Industrial Services, there will undoubtedly be a few common answers. Our commitment to safety is one of the most mentioned factors during follow-up conversations. Another big one is our integrity and the many accountability measures we implement during each job, including reports detailing improvements in efficiency following a job. A third popular benefit is the fact that our continually developing automation methods cut down on the amount of downtime needed for routine maintenance tasks. At a paper mill in Georgia, this minimized downtime was on display during a recent evaporator cleaning job. Since we had performed the same process in the past using hands-on techniques, it was easy for us to compare those results with those of our automated approach, and there was quite a difference, as you will see.
Automated hydroblasting improves both safety and performance at once.

Evaporator Tube Hydroblasting
At the paper mill in question, two evaporators had lost efficiency due to plugging. Our task, as before, was to unplug the evaporator tubes during scheduled downtime and get the equipment running normally again. Each evaporator has about 2,000 tubes, and 60 and 20 percent of the tubes, respectively, were plugged. The time-consuming, tedious nature of clearing the tubes is already obvious, but the situation is made worse by the fact that the tubes are only accessible through confined spaces. During hydroblasting by hand, these confined spaces create a serious safety hazard for the technician and slow down the cleaning process quite a bit.
In the past, the job required seven to eight twelve-hour shifts, with ten technicians on each shift and two water pumps operating the entire time. While manufacturing plants have largely grown accustomed to these lengthy outages for routine maintenance, in many cases our technology is changing the game and getting equipment back online much more quickly.
Automated Hydroblasting Cuts Downtime Drastically
Instead of hydroblasting by hand, this time our team implemented a complex system of powerful hydroblasting equipment, manipulated by a triple flex lance machine. Our operators controlled the equipment from a distance, keeping them out of the hazardous confined spaces and actually giving them greater control over the tooling.
Because the automated hydroblasting does most of the work, we only needed four men per shift instead of ten. In addition, we only ran one pump instead of two. And because the automated equipment cleans with full pressure on both the upward and downward stroke, our team actually performed twice as much cleaning in total as they would with a hands-on approach. The savings associated with this manpower and equipment reduction alone for the paper mill totaled $60,000.
Even better, the cleaning work was completely finished in less than five twelve-hour shifts instead of eight. By the time our team left the site, the evaporator tubes were 100% clear and ready to resume normal operations. Many factors resulted in the shorter timeframe; for instance, with no confined space entry by our personnel, we avoided the associated safety precautions. Additionally, the automated positioners are so precise and powerful that the actual hydroblasting work takes place much more quickly than when the equipment is in the hands of human technicians.
Important Benefits for Paper Mills
These dramatic cost-saving results have attracted the attention of those in the pulp and paper mill industry, particularly in the southeastern U.S. These facilities often rely on units with confined spaces, long-neglected cleaning needs, and debris buildup that is very difficult to remove. Automated hydroblasting solutions like the one we used at the Georgia paper mill often present ideal answers to questions that paper mill managers have been asking for decades.
This story is just one example of the many solutions that our researchers are constantly developing in order to better serve our industrial and commercial clients. Every time we are able to accelerate a boiler, evaporator, or heat exchanger cleaning project using automated tooling, we save thousands of dollars for our clients without sacrificing anything in the way of quality. In fact, the more powerful equipment and higher level of precision gets equipment more thoroughly clean than ever before.
We invite you to read through our blog’s archives for many more accounts of maintenance calls dramatically shortened through automated approaches. To discuss your facility’s industrial cleaning, clean excavation, or waste vacuum needs, get in touch with us today.