Exchanger Tube ID Cleaning

Exchanger Tube Cleaning


Predictable Exchanger tube ID cleaning for Non Destructive Evaluation (NDE) – an evolution of Curran Internationals’ tube surface prep creating a revolution for Pressure Equipment Integrity (PEI).

In the course of cleaning “used” exchanger tubes for coating applications, Curran International adapted its technique to surface-prep small tubular equipment for high-integrity NDE inspections. It has become the preferred method to clean exchanger and fin fan tube IDs for improved mechanical integrity. This work is performed at refinery and petrochemical plants during turnarounds and equipment maintenance outages and has proven successful against common and enhanced forms of hydro blasting.

Typical results of conventional methods of exchanger tube ID cleaning:
  • An exchanger tube with scale adhered to tube IDs resulting with inspection companies telling you the “tube is too dirty”
  • A back and forth struggle during a turnaround between tube cleaning contractors and inspection crews
  • Days and sometimes weeks spent on trying to get exchanger and fin fan tubes clean for inspection
  • Poor and incomplete inspection results
  • Often having to go without inspection on equipment

Dirty carbon steel tube
before grit blasting
Results of Curran International’s exchanger tube cleaning offers: “Get it cleaned the first time”
  • Greater sensitivity to small defects, because the exchanger tube is actually clean
  • Faster analysis time as a result of decreased “background noise” affecting inspection data
  • Greater accuracy in sizing indications
  • Accelerated acquisition time as a result of cleaner exchanger and fin fan tubes
  • High degree of “fill factor” (larger probe diameter).
  • Cleaning of exchangers and fin fans within a unit (no need to remove equipment)
  • Dry blast, tight containment
  • No impact to other crafts working in the same unit

Same carbon steel tube
after 45 sec blast

Curran International has long served the power and energy industries, providing dry blast surface prep for NDE of steam and gas turbine fixed equipment; most of these projects are performed as critical path schedules during plant maintenance outages. Over the years, Curran International has incorporated process improvements to meet client expectations in the petrochemical sector.

Shell and tube exchangers (including U-tubes). “White metal” results the first time

Curran applies its exchanger tube cleaning methods to shell and tube exchangers (including U-tubes) both in the units and on a wash pad. Curran will set up containment to trap all of the grit and also will tie in a dust collector to eliminate any fugitive dust. Our clean, dust free process allows other crafts to continue performing their scope so as not to impact the turnaround schedule.
You will be able to perform any kind of inspection on your tubes from, IRIS to eddy current (ECT), to remote field (RFT). Curran can just clean your inspection pattern or also clean the remaining tubes for operations. Click here to see what a grit blasted clean tube can do for you.

Fin Fans/Air coolers

Cleaning the ID of fin fan (air cooler) tubes for inspection using Curran Internationals method overcomes the issues associated with hydroblasting. There is no need for:

  • Building additional decking to accommodate heavy high pressure fixed lance hydro blasting units
  • Impacting other crafts in a turnaround as a result of leaking containment and waste water

Curran’s methods allow the technicians to work from existing catwalks with only a blast hose that is hung over the railing down to the blast pot below.

Grit is kept out of the header box by Curran’s fin fan containment nozzles, used grit flows down a catch hose to waste drums below. Dust collection is set up on those drums to ensure no debris escapes.


  • Fin fan tubes cleaned for eddy current or even IRIS inspection the first time
  • Ability to have inspection crews begin working on the bank Curran just finished
    – Because of the containment, inspection crews can work side by side with Curran crews.
  • Dry media containment has minimal impact compared to imperfect water containment.
  • Quick, superior tube cleaning results

Tube cleaning for Production/Operation and performance Only (not inspection):

Curran’s tube cleaning methods essentially return a tube to new status by removing even tightly adhered scale. This has allowed some of our clients to achieve efficiencies with one client recognizing a 35% operating efficiency at start up after dry abrasive fin fan tube cleaning.

Typical scenario is that Curran will blast clean the IRIS or inspection patter or 25% and then hit the other 75% of the tubes for operation. A quick 30 second blast per tube from Curran’s exchanger tube cleaning method will result in cleaner tubes then by hydro blasting

Other tube cleaning services

  • SRU units
  • Boiler tubes
  • Claus Boilers
  • Package Boilers
  • Furnace tubes
  • All exchanger tube sizes
  • All metallurgies

Curran grit blasting method cleans down in pits

Prep for NDE inspections

  • Proven to remove hard scale
  • Clean all corrosion from IDs
  • Improve NDE data collection
  • Eliminate cleaning delays
  • Predictable NDE data


Refinery clients from the across the United States and around the world incorporate this cleaning method as part of their turnaround work scope. Here is what they have to say:

West coast Fixed equipment lead:
“I am pleased to let you know that we have been very satisfied with the quality of your work and would not hesitate in recommending your services to any of our sister refineries. You have demonstrated that you are able to work on short notice, are able to deal with changing requests and most importantly to perform all your work safely. Heat exchanger tube inspection with IRIS requires a high level of cleanliness in order to be performed correctly and your grit-blasting technique has proven itself again and again in terms of providing this magnitude of cleaning, even where high pressure H2O (36,000 PSI) will not”

Refinery PEI Engineer:
4” OD x 18’L convection furnace tubes – “…these were the cleanest tubes…quality job, timely execution…”

Gulf Coast Operations Manager – NDE company:
“As you’re aware, our ability to fully inspect internal surfaces with LOTIS is directly dependant on the cleanliness of the tubes, and there was no question that these tubes were the cleanest I’ve ever seen for this type of inspection.”

Lead Inspection Analyst – Texas petrochemical plant:
“I feel strongly that having cooling water tube side exchangers cleaned by grit blasting allows much greater confidence in determining relevant from non-relevant data.”

PEI specialist/NDE focal point, Gulf Coast refinery:
“…the results of the cleaning effort were excellent. We were never able to clean these tubes for IRIS using hydroblasting, thus were forced to use RFET….We will continue to use Curran International for cleaning when IRIS inspection is necessary.”

Maintenance Superintendent/Turnaround, West Coast refinery 
“I want to extend my appreciation for a job well done by the Curran International employees. This particular job was a real challenge, and it was very important to our operation. Curran crew worked long hours, under very tough and demanding conditions. They were interrupted numerous times to allow other critical path work to continue. Joe and his crew kept a positive attitude the whole time and helped us accomplish our goals. We wanted you to know how much we appreciated the help.”