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Underground Fuel Tank Cleaning

The age-old method of inspecting and cleaning fuel tanks manually by man entry into them has now been revolutionized. With the introduction of Tanknology’s Petroscope Camera by LCM, the whole process has been mechanised to a large extent, making it more conducive for the operators to work with increased efficiency, without the danger of man entry into a confined space and with complete visibility of the tank which is being cleaned. For us to understand the actual importance of the LCM’s Petroscope, we shall now analyze the entire process of working with this device, which grants it with the effectiveness that it is famous for.

Firstly, the previous process of fuel tank inspection required staff to enter the fuel tank and clean and examine it. This made it an awful task to complete both in terms of time taken in removing pipework and the lid itself and the time taken to clean the tank with the important emphasis on safety, permitting and the expense of all the equipment necessary to make it safe to undertake. No operator could examine more than one tank within one day, even with minimum disruptions.

One of the philosophies of safety is to eliminate risk whenever possible. Keeping this in mind, LCM came forward with the idea of eliminating man entry. In our quest, we trialled our own system, Rotarm, but in patent searching, we came across Petroscope, a camera that aids our technicians in assessing the internal parts of the fuel tanks without any manned entry into it. This technology had been developed by Tanknology, a US company with whom we soon built a close association.

The training provided to the operators equips them to produce a detailed and precise report on the present condition of all areas of the tank, including the manlid, internal pipework, baffles and any linings in the tank. To support the information, a video file is stored if a client has a particular query on the report.

To give you a rough idea of our operations, the site clean up services provided by LCM are carried out in the following manner-

Before we begin cleaning the tank the fuel in it is uplifted and held in one of our tanker compartments, leaving just the fuel bottoms in the tank. The lower explosive limit is checked after removing the fuel from it. We can inert the tank using Nitrogen, extracted from the air around us using our own nitrogen membranes. We can also use Nanovapor if required.

Once inert or LEL reduced to less than 5%, a Petroscope camera is inserted through a 3” entry point into the tank. An initial scan is done to see the condition before cleaning.

Using a second entry point, usually the gauge riser, the tank is then cleaned using cleaning hoses and a high-pressure jet wash unit. The camera is the perfect aid to this enabling us to thoroughly clean the lower regions of the tank of sludge, debris, rust or occasionally objects that one wonders quite how they got in there!

Before the final clean is completed we will disconnect the fuel line at each pump that the tank serves and aggressively flush the fuel line so that we remove all debris, sludge and bacterial material in the line. We will reconnect the line to the pump.

Once clean the camera scans the tank for every defect including minor cracks, rust, pitting or even debris build-up inside it. Consideration of these factors enables the technician to gather sufficient information to assess the condition of the tank and to grade its condition.

Once the physical steps of fuel tank inspection are done, the technician generates a detailed report, which consists of the digital images of the tank, serving as a visual testimony of the work done and also to establish a baseline condition of the tank. This is useful to compare condition between one clean and another.

Once the tank is clean we will recharge the tank with the fuel we uplifted through a filter system to ensure that all fuel going back into the tank is clean to 10 microns.

However, when the question, “why use a Petroscope camera?” arises, the most certain answer turns out to be this!

Carrying out a manned fuel tank inspection is costly as well as time-consuming activity, which poses a hazard to the health of the workers too. A Petroscope Camera overcomes all such disadvantages and provides an expert report and recommendations of a corrosion engineer as to condition and future maintenance.

So, the next time you think your tank needs cleaning – just know that we’re all you need!