Although industrial processes vary broadly, in any plant dusts, grease, slag, metals, residues and cementitious particulates generated during manufacturing can make their way into the wastewater stream, accumulate and even harden in underground pipelines. As a result, plants conduct periodic maintenance to flush debris and sediment from pipes, including breaking up hardened obstructions, to prevent blockage and protect downstream wastewater treatment equipment from excessive loading.
“Many plants were built 40 to 80 years ago with most of the pipes underground, so they are old, hard to access and can accumulate excessive, hardened debris that must be removed,” says Bill Benner, senior project manager for Ventilation Power Cleaning (VPC), a Seattle firm that provides vacuum truck services to remove various industrial debris in the form of solids, liquids, sludges and slurries.
“If this kind of debris is transported by pipe to onsite clarifiers, digesters, sewer vaults or treatment plants, it can disrupt and overburden the process as it collects and hardens,” Benner adds. “A similar problem occurs when rain washes debris in outdoor processing or storage areas into basins, ponds or reservoirs prior to transport through pipes for further treatment.”
The task of industrial pipe cleaning typically falls to third party cleaning companies like VPC, which come to facilities with a vacuum truck and perform the work periodically, unless emergency debris removal is required.
According to Benner, most wastewater pipes are typically 300 to 500 feet long and 12 to 46 inches in diameter. Special nozzles are used to propel a hose connected to a vacuum truck down the pipeline and back using water jets. The nozzle must supply enough force to dislodge any debris and carry it back using water pressure to be suctioned out by the vacuum truck.
“Industrial plants cannot afford production downtime, so we rely on high-performance nozzles to get the job done quickly and reliably. Using the right nozzle and technique can be the difference between cleaning out a pipe within 20 minutes or having it take hours, days or fail completely,” says Benner.
Fortunately, an assortment of high-performance hose nozzles is available to expedite the removal of any debris buildup in the pipes of facilities such as refineries, cement plants, chemical plants, steel mills or pulp and paper mills. This can help to prevent a range of problems including regulatory fines, process disruption and unscheduled downtime.