Tank Cleaner Machines | Interview with Danny Chua
Alessandro Gerotto: "Hi, I'm Alessandro Gerotto, I'm Sales Manager of Company Gerotto. This is our customer from Singapore, Danny Chua.
Danny, tell us something about your company and your services, please."
Danny Chua: "Thanks a lot Alessandro, it's nice to be back here in Italy again.
My company is from Singapore, we specialize in services like tank cleaning, blasting and painting, primarily in the Oil and Gas industry. So we work with refineries, chemical producers, and any type of plant that actually uses storage tanks for storage and processing.
So we go into these tanks and we carry out the cleaning process for them."
A.G.: "Ok, thank you very much.
What encouraged you to improve a better solution for your works in the refineries?"
D.C.: "Working in the refineries is dangerous. It's even more dangerous when you're talking about chemical tanks, because in the chemical tanks you have got a lot of poisonous and dangerous gases.
So, it is a very dangerous environment and, traditionally, we are putting people in these confined space or tanks to carry out the dangerous job of cleaning. So you have to have a lot of safety procedures in place, a lot of equipments to ensure that the workers can work safely inside.
So I thought to myself that it is not possible for people to continue working in such environments, simply because we care for our people, people who work for us.
We have always believed that whoever is working for us is someone else's parent, child, spouse, whatever; so when it come to work for us, it's very important that, as their employer, we take good care of them, to make sure that every day, they return home safe and sound to their family.
Now, the only way we could do is to eliminate the type of risks that are associated with people, and the only way is to come up with robots equipments, that could actually do the job of a human being without a human being inside such dangerous environment.
So, that was the main driving point for us to embark on this new technology and to change the way we work. And we believe that not only these robots could eliminate the risk that might be associated with people; we think that there will be a lot of improvement in terms of productivity. And productivity is important because you are trying to higher reduce your costs, so that you remain competitive, but at the same time, your bottom line, the ability to make profits, is essential as well.
So what we are doing here, when we decide to embark on this technology, is not just to improve safety and to improve productivity as well, and these are the main driving points that got us moving."
A.G.: "So, thank you Dan. Where do you adopt this technology in the refinery? Especially in the refinery."
D.C.: "Yeah, we adopted this in the refinery and any kind of chemical plants. The reason why, is because in the refineries, you know, they have a lot of tanks that they need to upkeep and to maintain. And the funny thing is that every tank is different. So you need to have a type of system that is able to be customized and work for different types of tanks, in order to provide the solution."
A.G.: "Danny, what pushed you to develop these machines in Italy?"
D.C.: "It is not easy to develop such machines. I have to be honest with you. You need to produce it and make sure that it is explosion proof and in compliance with all the safety regulations and requirements for the refineries. We are not talking about the local authorities' regulation, we are also talking about the stringent safety requirements of the refineries.
So, it's not easy to produce a machine like that. A machine that is produced cannot be purchased or bought off the shelf: it has got to be customized, it has got to be custom made to fit the purpose. As I was saying, every tank has its own "personality" or "character", so it's very important that you have a machine that is able to fit inside the tank and able to carry out the job.
Why in Italy? Or, for that matter, I think you should say "why Gerotto?". I spent close to one year to find the right people in Singapore who could make a machine like that. And it is not only difficult to make, you need to have a lot of certification that comes together with the machine. So as to assure the refineries or the plant owners, that the machine is actually certified by all the notable bodies that it is safe to work in such environments.
I couldn't find any of such companies in Singapore, and any other part of the world, until I met Gerotto from Italy. So I decided to go along with them and the first time I met them here in Italy, I was deeply impressed. I have to admit that they were ready to listen to me and they were prepared to go through great lengths. Just to make sure that whatever they're about to produce is workable in the type of environment that we have.
We needed someone who could listen to us, and the machine producer Gerotto needed someone to teach them, or to tell them how to make the robots that they're looking for. So that's the reason why I decided to have this machine made here, in Italy, with Gerotto."
A.G.: "May you describe this tank cleaner, please?"
D.C.: "Sure! What you see at the back is actually two different classes of tank cleaner machines.
The one on the upper deck is otherwise known as the FTC.
Now, the FTC is actually used for smaller tanks that are normally found underground.
Underground tanks are a little bit complex, in the sense that you have very limited access into these tanks.
Traditionally, to clean such tanks we would normally deploy manpower to climb right underneath the tank and start cleaning. But with this FTC, which is actually very lightweight, it allows it to be lowered into the underground tank. And once it is inside it can actually lift up its arm remotely, and open up its three nozzles. And the nozzle can turn in 180°, which is actually very suitable for underground tanks, because they are normally cylinder tanks.
So, this is actually very useful for underground tanks and smaller tanks.
Now, the other class of tank cleaners that you are looking at behind me, is otherwise known as the Auger. Now, the Auger is very very special, because it actually caters for tanks with very tough and sticky sludge.
If you notice, in front of the auger, what you get is actually a scoop. A scoop that allows you to collect this thick, sticky sludge and then, subsequently, to be pumped back out into the vacuum truck or the disposal bins.
Now, if you are talking about the traditional method of doing it, you are talking about putting like 12 or 18 people into the tank, to use the traditional spear to scoop it up and then bring it out. But what you have here is a robot that actually does exactly the same type of job of collecting this sticky and hot sludge. And with a pump you could actually scoop it up and then get it pumped outside the tank.
So you're actually saving a lot, a lot and I really mean a lot in terms of the labour, and the number of people, because putting people in there is not just dangerous, like I mentioned, it's also a very very tedious job that we are talking about here.
But with this Auger you just have got to have only three people who deploy or who actually control this robot from outside the tank, away from the dangerous environment. And it does exactly what a human being would do in order to remove this sludge."
A.G.: "Thank you very much, Dan. It was a very good description of our tank cleaner. This is the new name that we want to give to this technology.
Listen, Dan, what are your plans for the future?"
D.C.: "It's a good question; I have got huge plans for the future. The traditional method of putting manpower in the tank is still prevalent and commonly found around the world.
I have tried these robots and it has been tried, tested and proven to be successful.
So my long term plan and goal is to actually bring these robots and introduce them to the rest of the world. Because I think that human beings shouldn't be placed in such dangerous environments to carry out such jobs. They should be done by the robots. And my long term goal is to make sure that these equipments or these new methods of working get spread around the world."
A.G.: "Thank you very much, Dan, for your time."
D.C.: "You're most welcome"
A.G.: "It was a very good interview."
D.C.: "My pleasure"
A.G.: "And a very good time together"
D.C.: "Thanks for having me here in Italy!"
A.G.: "Thank you"
D.C.: "Thank you"