Conco Technology Reduces Heat Exchanger Cleaning Time by 60% at Colombian Refinery

Case study

INDUSTRY: Petroleum Refining

COUNTRY: Colombia

CLEANING DATE: January 2019



TUBE MATERIAL: Alloy Steel and Brass


EQUIPMENT USED: ProSeries Pump, Tube Bridges, and Excaliber

CLEANERS USED: TruFit C4S, U-Tube Metal, and U-Tube Plastic


Colombia is the third largest refiner of oil in South America, following Venezuela and Brazil. This particular oil refinery holds a capacity of up to 250,000 barrels per day, accounting for more than 25% of Colombia’s entire oil refining capacity. The refinery has 29 heat exchangers of multiple types, including but not limited to cooling water, product-to-product, air-cooled, straight tubes, and U-bend tubes.


This refinery had gone eight years without a single maintenance turnaround. Its substantial share of Colombia’s refining capacity demands the refinery to not only be constantly operational but also be in impeccable condition, lest the country’s healthy downstream market be severely disrupted by a forced shutdown. Downtime is lost production and lost revenue. Therefore, it is particularly important for the refinery to accomplish a number of preventative measures, such as Eddy Current Testing on the condition of heat exchanger tubes, during shorter planned shutdowns in order to prevent longer forced ones. This refinery planned a fourteen-day shutdown, during which all 14248 tubes across 29 heat exchangers were to be cleaned and 30% of the tubes tested using the Eddy Current method. Cleaning these tubes with traditional high pressure water would require the entire fourteen days, forcing a longer shutdown to then conduct the Eddy Current Testing. Time constraints were a problem.

As well, cleaning with high pressure water does not guarantee test-ready tube-cleanliness. This refinery had issues in the past with sediment left behind after high pressure water cleaning, compromising the integrity and completeness of the Eddy Current data as well as causing irreparable damage to the testing probes. Eight years without tube maintenance meant there was likely to be extensive deposit buildup and overall tube fouling that high pressure water just could not clean, especially not within the allotted time and to the level of cleanliness demanded. Cleanliness was a problem.

Deposit type and thickness vary across the refinery’s 29 heat exchangers. The heat exchangers themselves vary in shape, size, and material. High pressure water has consistently struggled to properly and uniformly clean across such a variety of deposits and heat exchangers. For precision cleaning, U-Bend heat exchangers with brass tubes and thick mud-like deposits require a significantly different approach than a flat cooler with alloy steel tubes, a header box (creates a gap between header plug plate and tube-sheet), and thin film-like deposits. The necessity for versatile solutions was a problem.


Conco technology, featuring a wide array of mechanical cleaning systems, hands to end-users the solutions to the common problems stated above.

Conco’s mechanical tube cleaning systems significantly reduce the time required to clean condensers and heat exchangers when compared to the time required by traditional cleaning methods. This is made possible by the fact that tubes can be cleaned to test-ready cleanliness in a single pass when using Conco. With an average speed of 75 tubes cleaned per hour (inclusive of setup and teardown), Conco’s efficiency is indisputable. As well, Conco is continuously engineering new ways to reduce cleaning time. Time constraints were resolved.

 Conco is synonymous with test-ready tube-cleanliness, as guaranteed by the design of the cleaning systems. For example, Conco’s TruFit tube cleaners are manufactured for quality and designed to fit tubes perfectly within just thousandths of an inch. All TruFit tube cleaner models ensure constant outward pressure is applied to the inner diameter of the tube and the entire circumference of the inner diameter of the tube is cleaned with precision. This allows for tubes to be cleaned to test-ready cleanliness in just a single pass. The assurance of cleanliness was resolved.

Conco provides the same level of test-ready tube-cleanliness regardless of deposit type and thickness or heat exchanger shape, size, and material. This is achieved by offering a variety of mechanical cleaning systems with different and unique assets. The C2S TruFit U-Tube cleaner can provide the same level of cleanliness to a U-Bend heat exchanger as the C4S TruFit tube cleaner can provide for straight tubes. The Conco Tube Bridge quite literally bridges the gap created by header boxes on flat coolers, allowing for seamless mechanical cleaning to extend all the way to what was previously impossible. The Excaliber rotary tube cleaning system tackles the thicker, tougher deposits. These are just a few of the tools Conco provides to end-users. The necessity for versatile solutions was resolved.  


Blastingmar S.A.S. of Colombia, a certified Conco distributor and service provider, employed these solutions at the refinery. With Blastingmar’s expertise and familiarity of Conco technology, the job was executed in a timely manner and without flaw. It was also the first time mechanical tube cleaners were used on flat cooler tube bundles in Colombia. All 14248 tubes across 29 heat exchangers were cleaned to test-ready cleanliness in just six and a half days days, allowing for seven full days to conduct Eddy Current Testing on 30% of the tubes. It was deduced from this specific job that Conco reduces cleaning time by nearly 60% when compared with traditional high pressure water cleaning methods. Blastingmar completed the cleaning of all tubes an entire shift ahead of what was projected, while maintaining the highest standards of quality and safety. With zero incidents recorded, it can be concluded that Conco technology guarantees a safe work environment due to the low pressure used. As well, the low water pressure paired with tube cleaner effectiveness ultimately reduces total water consumption, reducing environmental impact. Conco means savings to the industry. With Conco technology, Blastingmar S.A.S. was able to achieve legendary success for the refinery!