New, more efficient frac-tank washing system helps Texas company get more work done in less time and with fewer hands.

Doing the same amount of work with less equipment and manpower — and at a lower cost to customers — may sound like a business pipe dream. But that scenario is a reality at EnviroCleanse Operating LLC, thanks to a portable, custom-built, frac-tank cleanout trailer manufactured by Marsh Industrial.

Before the Fort Worth, Texas-based EnviroCleanse started using the cleanout trailer, the company cleaned frac tanks and mud pits in Pennsylvania gas and oil fields with a skid-mounted pressure washer and a vacuum truck. During crunch-time night work, it also required a portable generator to power lighting units. Maximum manpower required: Up to eight workers, says John Nicholson, a gas and oil wastewater consultant for the company.

"But with this unit, we went from two or three pieces of equipment down to just one, with a maximum crew size of five," Nicholson explains. That breaks down into two workers inside the tank, two outside the tank to maintain the safety harnesses required for confined-space work and one to operate the unit.

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While manpower needs decreased, productivity increased, Nicholson says, noting the unit can clean out a typical frac tank in about 45 minutes to an hour.

"It used to take us about 60 equipment hours to clean out a battery of 10 tanks," he continues. "Now it takes about 10 to 12 equipment hours. That provides us with a huge boost in efficiency, which allows us to service our customers at a considerably lower cost."

A Western Star tractor with a 525 hp Detroit Diesel engine pulls the unit, which workers nicknamed "Mr. Piggy" because it works in a lot of slop. The unit features a 3,360-gallon steel, epoxy-lined freshwater tank, which provides the capacity to clean 15 to 18 average-size frac tanks before refilling; two pressure washer wands made by Giant Industries, rated at 1,800 psi at 20 gpm and powered by a CAT 2510 pump; and a 3,780-gallon steel, epoxy-lined waste tank that can be raised with a Mailhot Industries hydraulic hoist for easy dumping through a rear open door. The complete unit is DOT 407/412 compliant and ASME certified for handling hazardous waste.

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Both tanks sit on a Marsh-fabricated, 50-foot-long trailer that Nicholson describes as a lowboy without a deck. Crews can employ extra lift axles at the trailer's rear and under the tractor to maintain compliance with federal bridge laws while hauling heavier loads. A catwalk system provides easy access for cleaning and inspecting the tanks.

On the raised section of the trailer, behind the tractor cab, stands a metal sound-deadened, weatherproof enclosure that holds a skid-mounted, 260 kW generator, manufactured by Cummins Power Generation. That unit powers everything on the trailer: a 125 hp Toshiba electric motor that drives a 1,800 cfm blower, made by National Vacuum Equipment Inc., and capable of handling solids and liquids; a 25 hp Toshiba electric motor that powers the pressure washers; and all the unit's hydraulic systems and lights.

Under the trailer unit are handy storage baskets for fittings, hoses, wands and aluminum toolboxes for other equipment.

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"We designed it as a skid unit with the theory that if something happened to it, we'd have a standby skid ready that could easily be hooked up with quick-connects," he says. "The generator basically powers everything on the unit, which not only dramatically reduces diesel-fuel consumption, but eliminates all that extra exhaust, too, by dropping down from four or five engines to just one," he adds.

"In addition, the power unit is built on a fully enclosed skid, so if there's any kind of malfunction or leak, it catches fluids before they can hit the ground."

The unit also provides a quieter working environment, Nicholson says, which comes in handy when crews work at night in residential areas. And it enhances worker safety. First of all, it reduces the amount of manpower required on-site, which minimizes exposure to safety risks. It's also equipped with four different emergency shutdowns.

"If there was any type of emergency — say, someone gets hung up on the end of suction hose, or a line blows on a pressure washer — someone just hits the button and it all shuts down," Nicholson says.

So far, customer reaction to the cleanout trailer has been "phenomenal," Nicholson says. In fact, EnviroCleanse — which also operates in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas — took delivery of a second unit, which has a patent pending, in April and is ordering up to nine more units from Marsh Industrial. And making that productivity and profitability pipe dream an even stronger reality, one unit at a time.

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