Can Sandblasting Boost Your Drain Cleaning Business?

If your drain cleaning company experiences a slow season or you just want to expand your menu of services, perhaps you should consider sandblasting.
Can Sandblasting Boost Your Drain Cleaning Business?
Left, a storage tank before sandblasting. Right, a storage tank after being sandblasted.

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Whether you're located in an area that's booming from oil and gas production and you want to cash in on that market, or you're just interested in new services to give customers more options, sandblasting services are gaining momentum from companies interested in saving money, time and labor, says Michael Romines, one of the owners of Acme Oil Service and Repair, based in Tyler, Texas. This year, he’s adding a second two-man crew to keep up with work in northeast Texas. 

Acme crews sandblast heater treaters, separators, free water knockouts and all surface production equipment, but the majority of work is repairing production tanks that have leaks. The main reason is apparent — cost savings. For example, instead of buying, transporting and installing a new 400-barrel tank for $20,000-plus, Romines’ crews sandblast, weld leaks and internally coat the old tank with a two-part epoxy for about $2,500 to $3,500. With a one-year warranty, the repair typically adds five to 10 years of life to the equipment. In addition to saving money, sandblasting reduces downtime. 

An important piece of equipment for Acme is the sandblast trailer with a 500-pound blasting pot, Ingersoll Rand 185 compressor and 56:1 Graco Airless Spray rig. The unit is perfect for field repairs on tanks, heater treaters, free water knock-outs and any other production equipment, and it helps the blast and coat/paint crew save customers valuable downtime.

Insuring quality

“A lot of customers don’t know you can repair tanks,” says Todd Carr, Acme sales manager. Many tanks in the region are a couple decades old and good candidates for sandblasting. 

Corrosion from oil and saltwater production comes with the industry, but the amount of corrosion varies from site to site. Acme sandblasters typically work on equipment from 6 to 20 years old. 

“It’s not the age, but what’s inside the tank,” Romines says. 

Carr explains that contents of the tank is not the only factor that determines sandblasting needs. “Within Texas, it’s not geographic, but the geological formation that speeds erosion,” he says. “In an East Texas field you can have a corrosive fluid that’s heavy with sand that’s constantly wearing on surface equipment. Down the street you have clean gas coming out, and with modern technology and coatings, the equipment lasts for 20-25 years.” 

Experienced sandblasters can look at a tank (or use special measuring equipment) to determine if it’s worth restoring. If it is, Acme workers offer two types of blasts — a commercial blast or white blast, which blasts all the way to bare metal. Acme uses an Ingersoll Rand compressor with a 500-pound sandblast pot and a 56:1 Graco airless sprayer. Workers blast with sand, or in some cases, a synthetic slag that is 100 percent silica free. 

Beware of sandblasters who offer a cheaper dusting grade blast, Carr says, as it doesn’t eliminate the bad metal. It only provides texture for paint to adhere to. 

Because Acme is a full-service company, Romines notes that his crews take care of the entire process: from site preparation to cleanup, finishing most tanks in three to four days.

The 5 percent of Acme’s work that needs additional fabrication is transported back to the shop, but most work is done onsite. 

Good looking too

“We’ve seen a growth in sandblasting not only for operational, but also cosmetic reasons due to urban sprawl,” Romines notes. “People don’t want to see a rusted ‘bucket.’” To keep landowners, neighbors and environmental people happy, companies hire Acme to sandblast and paint tanks in populated or visible areas. 

Repeat business from customers indicates that the sandblasting services Acme offers are a good investment, Romines says. His crews are up to challenges on all types of equipment in both confined and open spaces. They have the experience and equipment to save customers money and minimize downtime, he says. 

Find out more about Romines’ oil service and repair business at www.gomcmag.com/editorial/2014/05/a_one_stop_shop.



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