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Swede success in tank cleaning operations

A tank cleaning operation in progress
A tank cleaning operation in progress
Tank Cleaning Magazine spoke to Patrik Fagerström, the CEO of Tankclean Sweden, about the success of his operations in Scandanavia.
Can you explain the work that Tankclean Sweden carries out?
Tankclean Sweden operates in six locations throughout Sweden’s petrochemical hubs – Gothenburg, Stenungsund (two locations) Kvarntorp, Stockholm, and Perstorp. All the sites carry out interior cleaning of bulk commodities, but there are also additional services carried out that differs from site to site.
In Gothenburg and Stockholm we store, for example, loaded and empty tank containers, whereas in Stenungsund and Perstorp we handle empty units.
The terminal activities are a major part of the business in Gothenburg given our location close to the port. In Stockholm, we also provide shunting between the rail terminal and our cleaning facility.
A major service for us is the heating of tank containers. We heat using steam, glycol, and electricity and we offer a full range of services related to heating activity.
In Gothenburg, for several years now, we have been approved for heating high risk products such as glacial acrylic acid and glacial methacrylic acid.
We have also built a fully equipped workshop in Gothenburg that is dedicated to tank container maintenance and repairs. Our ADR trucks with our own drivers are working from Gothenburg and Stenungsund, so we are also a haulage Company.
The company recently acquired Siloclean i Stenungsund. What was the reason for this acquisition and what are your future expansion plans?
Most readers of Tank Cleaning Magazine are probably aware that Stenungsund is the petrochemical centre in Sweden with liquid chemical production sites like Nouryon and Perstorp and dry bulk producers like Borealis and Inovyn.
As a cleaning operator, you want to be present in Stenungsund. Over the years, Tankclean has been a top choice for liquid cleaning and Siloclean for dry bulk cleaning.
We wanted to be able to expand towards the dry bulk cleaning market and following discussions with the owner of Siloclean we understood there was an interest to sell to us. For the seller, it was important to know that a dedicated cleaning company would take over and continue its work.
Can you explain your one-stopshop concept and how it works and benefits customers?
If we take our Gothenburg site as an example, we are able to carry out all the movements and handling of tank containers on the west coast of Sweden.
If a tank container operator sends a unit to Gothenburg for a delivery and in the event the tank needs to be heated prior to deliver, Tankclean can bring the unit from the port to our Gothenburg site with one of our trucks.
At the site, we can take care of the heating. When delivery is required, Tankclean can carry out the delivery with one of our trucks.
After the delivery, we can clean the unit at either our Stenungsund or Gothenburg site. In the event the customer needs to wait a couple of days for reloading, Tankclean will store the unit at any one of its sites.
If the tank needs to be pressure tested, or must undergo a periodical test or needs a repair before its next journey, Tankclean can carry out this work. When a customer wants to load, say in Stenungsund, Tankclean can do this with one of its trucks and drop it off at the port or rail station in Gothenburg.
In short, as a tank container operator with activities on the west coast of Sweden – we are a one-stop-shop.
The last time we featured your company, you had just moved to your Årsta terminal. How are things there several years later?
After moving, which was part of the acquisition of a local cleaning facility, we experienced some problems with staff leaving, which consequently caused quality issues we were not happy with. However, after new recruits came on board and underwent training by our staff from our other sites, the Stockholm site is now performing well.
We have made further investments, latest with the upgrading of the steam heating capacity. How has the company coped with the COVID-19 pandemic? Scandinavia appears to have not suffered as badly as other European nations?
If you are employed in this business, it’s difficult to do the job without being on the job. So the majority of our staff have worked more or less normally during the pandemic. Naturally the general demand to keep a distance has been enforced and also the necessity to stay at home whenever anyone has suspected COVID-19.
At our sites, protection with plexiglass between our staff and drivers has been implemented wherever possible.
For the office staff, there has been the option of working from home. Initially, we noted a decrease in volume during the spring, but this was not as bad as I feared when the pandemic first started.
We haven’t laid off staff and now that the summer holiday is over, we are seeing that volumes overall are picking up again, which is very positive.
What are the principles that set your company apart from your competitors?
Over the years when Tankclean acquired new cleaning sites it has, in most cases, been fortunate to keep its staff and has, therefore, been able to build up a good knowledge base for how to carry out the different tasks in the best way.
With our operations manager, Christer Andersson, who has been a member of the EFTCO board for several years, I would say that within Sweden the company’s collective knowhow about cleaning is virtually unmatched.
After all, there is no formal education that leads up to a degree in interior tank cleaning, so the knowledge of how to do this is accumulated internally over many years. The knowhow within the company is massive.
What developments have you implemented to increase your service level to customers? For a year now, Tankclean has had a fully equipped workshop in Gothenburg, which is dedicated to tank containers maintenance and repairs.
This is a big investment for the company and we are increasingly seeing our tank container customers taking advantage of the service we provide at the workshop. The possibility of carrying out testing or repairs on the same site where units are cleaned and stored makes this process very efficient.
The workshop has capacity to work on five tank containers indoors at the same time. At our Gothenburg site, we are currently setting up a clean by chemical service. With this equipment, we will be able to not only clean even more troublesome products, but we can also remove old residues that stick in the tanks.
We currently remove old residues, but it often involves manual work. This is naturally costly, but the major problem for our customers with this service is that it takes quite a long time for the tank container to come back into service again. With our new chemical cleaning equipment, this will be done quicker and the downtime for our customers will be reduced. In Stockholm, we also upgraded the boiler for steam heating before the summer. We can now heat more units at the same time and each tank will reach the required higher temperatures quicker. This is an investment we made after listening to our customers and their needs in the region.
Does Tankclean look for options to make the business more environmentally friendly?
Cleaning is an energy intensive business. We are moving towards more eco-friendly solutions generally, but it differs from location to location.
In Stenungsund, we used to heat the water with an electrical boiler, but last year we invested in district heating.
District heating is excess heating from industries in the area, and this is used to heat our cleaning water in our depot.
In Kvarntorp, Stenungsund and Gothenburg, we are installing solar panels to produce our own electricity this autumn. In Gothenburg, for the past two years, we have been heating most of the water with biogas. We are determined to constantly invest in better production processes.
Are there any initiatives to improve your working environment?
he principle of continuous improvements is emphasised within our working environment and has led to various upgrades of safety equipment for all staff. Our safety, health, environment, and quality manager Karolin Johannesson works across all our sites and is leading this task. Currently, we are doing a study to find the best breathing protection for our cleaning staff. It’s relatively easy to find equipment that protects staff from poor air quality, but it has to be suitable for use in a cleaning bay with high temperatures and in steam and foggy conditions. z For more information: Visit: tanclean.se
A tank cleaning operation in progress