What Are the Different Industrial Oil Tank Cleaning Methods?
The vast volume of oil waste generated in processing tanks is a serious concern for the oil industry.
It’s crucial to properly clean your industrial oil storage tanks to prevent product contamination and to avoid damaging plant equipment. You could use many different tank cleaning methods to clean your storage tank, depending on your budget and tank type.
Finding the most efficient, economical, safe, and environmentally friendly method of cleaning industrial oil storage tanks is essential to ensure that proper cleaning is available to every company in the industry.
Let’s take a look at the different methods for industrial tank cleaning.
Robotic Tank Cleaning
Robotic cleaning is an advanced technology that entered the market relatively recently, and it has been used for cleaning reservoirs and cleaning tanks in the oil industry.
Many people wanted a solution for the dangerous and exhausting physical labor in cramped quarters — not to mention the toxic atmosphere — involved with traditional tank cleaning. This new approach eliminates the need for people to work in those confined spaces by using self-directed cleaning equipment that does not require human presence.
The crucial element of this process is the remote control vehicle that are used to control cleaning robots.
These are complex machines that include hydraulic motors, cylinders, explosion-proof combustible gas detectors, explosion-proof junction boxes, proportional and flow control solenoid valves, explosion-proof infrared lights, ignition-proof cameras, water jets, wipers, shoveling, and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras.
Manual Tank Cleaning Methods
Manual cleaning is the oldest and the first method used to clean industry oil tanks, as it doesn’t involve any advanced technology. The equipment required for this process is the most basic available on the market, and the team needed to do the work can be easily trained.
This method involves staff entering tanks and using pressurized water, buckets, fire hoses, vacuum hoses and pumps to try to remove as much sludge as possible from inside the tank.
While this appears to be a simple and affordable option for tank cleaning, it has been widely criticized in recent years for its numerous drawbacks.
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The effectiveness of manual cleaning is very low, and staff that works in tight spaces can work effectively for short periods of time using heavy protective gear and a breathing apparatus. Plenty of valuable oil is lost together with sludge, resulting in large volumes of waste that later require specialized disposal.
Safety is an even bigger issue, as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concern applies while the cleaning is being performed. All of that results in a small workforce willing to do the job.
Overall, the manual cleaning method seems to have very few benefits when compared to its many downsides.
Automated Tank Cleaning Systems
Because of the negative consequences of manual tank cleaning and to safeguard the environment and staff members, the industry has been forced to adopt more stringent rules for working in confined spaces that house dangerous substances.
The demand for a safer cleaning technique for humans, the planet, and facilities gave rise to the development of automated-mechanical tank cleaning systems. This method began to take off in the commercial world in the middle of the twentieth century, with the primary goal of eliminating human entrance into tight areas with a hazardous environment.
The process of cleaning a tank with an automated system includes:
- Tank padding (blanketing)
- Cleaning and sludge extraction
- Removal of the equipment
Once everything is installed, there is no need for humans to operate the system.
A downside to this method is that the installation process takes seven days, and it can’t be done without a crane, as many elements need to be installed on the tank roof. Also, human personnel are required to enter the tank at some point in the process.
When Should You Clean Your Storage Tank?
It’s important to know when to clean your tanks so that you can protect your plant’s assets. Your industrial storage tank should last as long as your plant.
To increase the lifetime of your tanks, you must keep up with your sludge removal with preventative maintenance.
Internal industry inspections are the best form of preventative maintenance. You shouldn’t wait until you run into issues before performing an inspection.
Before inspecting your tank, you will want to clean it to get a clear picture of what the situation is. Plus, it needs to be safe and clean for the staff who will enter it for inspection.
Switching Out Products
A thorough tank cleaning is required if you want to keep a different substance in your tank.
For example, if you’re converting from an unrefined to a refined product, such as crude oil to gasoline, you need to remove all residue and contaminants before reusing the tank.
If you have identified failures in your storage tank, you probably won’t be able to fix it while it’s still in service.
Depending on the issue, you may need to empty the tank, clean it, and make it vapor-free before making the necessary repairs.
Typically, the ultimate objective of a tank cleaning is to establish a safe atmosphere for whoever comes after you, whether they’re mechanical repair staff or an inspector.
Robotic Tank Cleaning Is Your Best Option
There are three types of commercial cleaning methods — manual, automated-mechanical, and robotic.
When making a choice for your company, there are multiple factors to consider, such as safety, cost, efficiency, and environmental impact.
Robotic and automated systems are similar in efficiency and cleaning quality, with the only difference being that robotic equipment can dive in all corners, even those that are hardly accessible.
Both automated-mechanical and robotic tank cleaning systems feature closed-loop cleaning circuits and a highly efficient hydrocarbon recovery system to protect the environment. The only technique that uses an open system and does not recycle the leftover waste is manual cleaning, which places a tremendous load on people and the environment.
When it comes to safety, the robotic cleaning system is the only method that doesn’t require human staff to enter the tank, making it the safest option. Manual cleaning is the most dangerous one, while automated systems will require personnel entering the tank at one point during the cleaning procedure.