Manual cleaning methods can vary from man entry into the tanks, using shovels and pressure washers, to the use of more sophisticated automated systems. The risks associated with confined-space entry are well documented and any cleaning system that reduces or eliminates the need to go inside tanks significantly improves the safety of a cleaning operation.

This paper presents a case study of a tank cleaning operation on board a supply vessel that transports drilling fluids and their constituent products. The automated system installed enabled 20 to 30 tanks to be cleaned every month with exceptional results and no operational downtime. The system was safe, simple and reliable, and resulted in significant reductions in confined space entry. The volume of waste generated was only 20 m3 in 12 months of operation, achieved by using a physical separation and water recycling process. This significantly reduced the cost and improved the safety of the operation.

The case study highlights the need for optimal equipment selection and installation based on the unique features of the tank system, methods to eliminate confined space entry, achievable cleaning performance and techniques for waste minimization. The principles presented are widely applicable to tanks and vessels common throughout industry.

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