Outside the Box Thinking Helps Company Resolve Customers’ Challenges

Finding innovative solutions to difficult problems has been a driving force behind Thompson Industrial Services’ success

Outside the Box Thinking Helps Company Resolve Customers’ Challenges

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Developing innovative solutions that help solve customers’ problems has been a key growth factor at Thompson Industrial Services, based in Sumter, South Carolina.

As an example, consider the role the company played three years ago during the construction of a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas plant in Texas. The project went sideways when officials discovered that roughly 10 miles of pipe was lined internally with a paintlike coating, rendering all of it unusable, says Josh Chambers, CEO.

Cleaning the pipes was complicated by the fact that many of them were preassembled in sections with bends and turns and couldn’t be taken apart because of time constraints.

“They tried hydroblasting the pipes, but that didn’t work,” Chambers says. “So they called us and asked if we could do anything.”

Turns out the company could. Engineers developed a unique solution by combining sponge-blasting technology from Sponge-Jet with robotic crawlers. After a successful demonstration, the propane company asked for 100 workers on the job as quickly as possible.

“We developed a plan around how to apply this technology,” Chambers says. “We used robots that crawled through the pipes and pulled hoses that sprayed the abrasive sponge media. Then we vacuumed the debris inside the pipes.

“We did a job they were afraid would take a couple of years in just three months. We looked at the problem, customized an innovative solution, mobilized the manpower and saved a ton of time and money for the customer. They were dead in the water, but we got them moving again.”

Another example centers on combined cycle and cogeneration power plants, which use the heated exhaust from natural-gas-powered turbines to produce steam. That steam then powers more turbines that generate even more electricity. The only problem? Converting the waste heat into steam requires heat-recovery steam generators, or HRSG, that are difficult to clean because of the way they’re configured, Chambers says.

To solve the problem, the company licensed and applied technology from PowerPlus Cleaning Systems to develop an automated system that uses pulsation shock waves to deep-clean the finned tubes in the boilers.

The process, which the company calls EPIC, also saves customers money. For example, a recent project at a major Southeast utility resulted in a payback of just 41 days, based on full production, Chambers says.

“The power plants use far less gas in the units because the heat transfer in the HRSGs is so much more efficient after they’re cleaned,” he says. “This technology application will keep us in power markets for a long time and at the end of three years could be a significant business segment for us.”

Read more about Thompson Industrial Services in the September/October 2020 issue of Dig Different magazine.


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