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PCI Abrasive Blasting

A growing number of CSB (Chemical Safety Board) investigations are bringing to light the hidden dangers of Corrosion Under Insulation, or CUI in short. Investigations into the DuPont facility in Belle, WV in 2010Chevron’s Richmond refinery fire incident in 2013, and the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery in Anacortes, WA reveal the hidden dangers.

Refineries built in the 1970’s face major environmental and explosive hazards due to CUI (Corrosion Under Insulation), pipes insulated in thick fiberglass jackets that slowly cavitate unseen to the refinery worker. This is of great concern due to explosion risks as well as potential toxic gas release.

Two years ago in response to its refinery customers concerns PCI’s (Performance Contracting, Inc.) Jacob Dralle initiated the expansion of their refinery service work that included a new abrasive blast bay and wet paint bay in PCI’s Bellingham, WA facility. Prior to installing the new surface cleaning and painting systems PCI contacted the EPA’s local representatives, Northwest Clean Air to begin the permitting process. Next, Jacob turned to Kevin Pike with Andgar to design the dust collection system and make-up air unit. Challenges included the variety of pipe PCI can blast each day – small and large bore piping for refineries that can be from 1⁄2 to 16” bore typical, ranging in length from 10’ to 15’, but with the occasional 40’ long pipe meant flexibility was a must. To help solve this problem Kevin Pike turned to AAF’s factory representative, Air Associates LLC to consult with the mechanical design team during the early planning stages to select the proper system, assure code compliance, and determine equipment sizing. 


Kevin Pike with Andgar took advantage of the drive-through abrasive blast bay shape, utilizing the roll-up doors on either end to draw dust generated by steel grit surface cleaning mill scale, rust and weld splatter towards the center of the room and into the slotted hood design. Abrasive dust traveling through the ductwork impacts the Optiflo abrasion resistant inlets that slow the conveying velocity of the air and drop out heavier dust before it comes in contact with the filters, and then light dust is filtered by AAF’s RedClean media to achieve MERV15 filter efficiency. 80% of the exhaust air is then returned into the blast bay along with 20% fresh air from outside. The end result is a safe, low energy solution that keeps PCI’s employees safe, able to visibly see the parts they are blasting while reducing their environmental impact due to less frequent filter change-outs. 

Drive Through Bay with Central inlet hood design 

Optiflo 4RC80 with Abrasion Resistant Inlets 

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Backdraft wet paint bay with return air grills