When it comes to industrial cleaning services, deciding between air blowing and steam blowing becomes critical, as your choice can significantly influence the efficiency and longevity of your facility’s piping systems. Whether you’re navigating a new project or retrofitting existing systems, understanding the nuances between air blowing and steam blowing is essential for making informed decisions that align with your desired outcomes.
What is Air Blowing?
Air blowing is the process of utilizing compressed air as an industrial cleaning method. It allows you to efficiently and effectively remove water, construction debris, sand, dirt and other waste from your piping systems with minimal disruption to surrounding work areas. Whether you need post-construction gross debris removal or target-level cleanliness on more critical systems, industrial air blow services have a wide variety of applications. It’s most commonly used on fuel, natural and other gas systems, as well as various utilities and process piping.
Which Air Blowing Method Is Best?
The three most common types of air blowing procedures are continuous air blowing, pulse air blowing and hybrid air blowing (also known as decompression air blowing). The nature of your project can help you determine the best air blowing method.
Continuous air blowing uses a compressed air source to continuously feed air into a system through a predetermined flow path and sequence. It’s most effective for cleaning small-bore piping systems, or process piping that’s two inches or less in diameter.
Pulse air blowing is most effective for cleaning small to medium-bore piping systems. To conduct pulse air blowing, we utilize a compressed air source and proprietary B&W pulse unit to store a large volume of compressed air. Then, it’s released into a system through a predetermined flow path and sequence.
Hybrid air blowing, or decompression air blowing, works well on longer runs of piping with a medium to large diameter. A compressed air source can pressurize an entire system by quickly opening a valve to release the compressed air.
Air Blowing in Action
B&W Energy Services was selected by EPC contractor Kiewit to deliver engineered air blowing and AquaLazing services for multiple systems for the Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility in southern Louisiana. The $5.8 billion project spans over 1,000 acres and is set to produce 10 million metric tons per year from 18 liquefaction trains upon completion. The facility also has a 700 megawatt 5×2 combined cycle power island with an additional 25MW aeroderivative gas turbine. We’re grateful we had another opportunity to partner with Kiewit and perform air blowing services for this project.
“At B&W, our purpose-built air blow equipment and extensive training ensure safe air blow services regardless of the size of your project.”
Air blowing can also be integrated with pulse flushing and hydrotesting programs to facilitate drying and debris removal as piping systems reach mechanical completion. This combination of services can help ensure smoother system start-up, as an operations team won’t have to deal with plugged strainers or fouled equipment when product is introduced to the piping systems.
Pros and Cons of Air Blowing
Several benefits of air blowing include minimal erosive damage and safe execution due to a lack of chemicals and lower temperatures. It also puts slightly less stress on your piping systems compared to steam blowing. Systems are hydraulically analyzed to ensure effective cleaning velocities, and air blowing often results in lower waste output and a more efficient clean than other pre-commissioning processes.
Compressed air may pose a safety hazard if not handled properly. At B&W, our purpose-built air blow equipment and extensive training ensure safe air blow services regardless of the size of your project. Another notable drawback to air blowing is if ice is present in your piping systems. If a piping system is hydrotested with glycol, air blowing won’t achieve dewpoint, and the air won’t be able to melt the ice.
What is Steam Blowing?
Steam blowing utilizes the power of steam to rid piping systems of debris and impurities. Controlled thermal cycling and high-velocity steam produced during steam blows effectively “shocks” the pipe, breaking mill scale and weld slag from pipe walls. It requires exact control of steam temperature at higher than standard operating conditions to increase equipment longevity, ensure safety and improve the overall reliability of piping systems.
Which Steam Blowing Method Is Best?
The two most common types of air blowing are continuous steam blowing and discontinuous steam blowing. Both methods apply various amounts of pressure in order to clean your piping systems.
Continuous steam blowing uses lower pressure and has the shortest duration. It’s the more commonly used steam blow procedure, with lower reaction forces and minimal support and restraint requirements.
Discontinuous steam blowing lasts longer than continuous steam blowing, requiring higher reaction forces and maximum support and restraint requirements. Valves quickly open and close to store and release pressure, creating more of a “shock” than continuous steam blows.
Steam Blowing in Action
B&W Energy Services is honored to have been chosen to contribute steam blowing and other pre-commissioning cleaning services to the Shell Prelude FLNG facility. This project was the first of its kind, located about 300 miles northeast of Broome, Western Australia. It helps identify new energy resources offshore that would have gone unreached before its construction. In 2019, it reached a significant milestone by shipping its first liquefied natural gas cargo to Asia.
Pros and Cons of Steam Blowing
Steam blowing provides a thorough, high-pressure cleaning method for your piping systems. It applies slightly more pressure compared to air blowing, helping remove harmful elements from the inner surfaces of piping systems and reducing the risk of corrosion, leaks and potential safety hazards.
Without the proper equipment, performing steam blowing services on your piping systems may result in unsafe noise levels. B&W Energy Services strives to create minimal noise pollution through our dry silencer technology. In fact, we maintain one of the largest inventories of dry silencers in the industry, allowing us to significantly reduce both project costs and environmental impact. Our collection of dry silencers can vent 900 kpph of steam while staying at or below 85 dB (the equivalent of listening to traffic from inside a car) and allows us to meet high project noise standards while minimizing water consumption.
Which is Best?
Air blowing and steam blowing both offer various advantages and disadvantages, and it ultimately depends on your project’s specifications. Whether you require high levels of cleanliness typically associated with steam blowing, lower pressure cleaning services from air blows, or a combination of both, B&W Energy Services is here to help.
We offer a full line of specialized equipment, engineering and field services required to perform both air blowing and steam blowing. B&W can also combine several services depending on your facility’s needs. Reach out today to learn more about air blowing, steam blowing and how they can benefit you.