Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 16, 2013

More bang for the buck

Greenup County firm specializes in whatever-it-takes removal

Tim Preston
The Independent

GREENUP — Employees of North American Industrial Services face some of the toughest, dirtiest cleaning jobs imaginable. And, when high-pressure water won’t do the trick, they are prepared to bring in small explosive charges to get the job done.

“Basically, what they can’t remove ... we remove,” said regional manager Danny Holcomb. He said the Greenup County-based company specializes in services including “deslagging” and removal of deposits and debris that accumulate during industrial processes, such as the burning of coal or other fuels. Sites include power plants and paper manufacturing facilities.

The company relies upon extremely high-pressure water blasting for most jobs, as well as abrasive blasting and vacuum truck services. But some jobs are so tough, only a small package of explosives can crack the surface of the buildup inside boilers, smokestacks and cooling towers.

Some of it is easy. Some of it is brutal,” Holcomb said, explaining the company is a favorite of many industries because it has ways of getting rid of blockages without taking the plant off line.

“That means they don’t have to shut down the boiler. That makes them happy because they lose money when they are down.”

The company, which employs about 70, has developed its own “automated tooling” for most of the jobs it tackles, Holcomb said, adding employees pride themselves on their ability to respond quickly when a call comes in.

With power generation plants as priority clients, he said they tend to do most of their work at those plants during spring and fall when demand for power is lowest.

The company has recently added food processing plants, chemical plants and petrochemical refineries to a list of clients who require specialized skills to keep everything clean and running properly.

Carrying what appeared to be a collection of rocks, operations manager Scott Nolan said the objects were actually pieces of slag. The type of slag, or buildup, the company faces varies greatly from plant to plant, primarily depending on what is burned as fuel. While coal tends to be what most people think of going into a furnace to make electricity, he said island populations such as in Hawaii or Bermuda burn trash to generate their power.

“This stuff can bring a whole unit down by plugging it up and not allowing the gases to escape,” he explained, adding workers have found entire banks of equipment encased in the practically impervious slag when they reported for duty.

“You don’t know until you actually see it. You have some idea what to expect. It really depends on what they’re burning,” Nolan said.

Regardless of the task, employees are constantly surrounded by potentially life-threatening situations.

“We’ve got ash coming out looking like lava. You really couldn’t do this without a safety guy. We are always in hot zones with chemicals everywhere. Safety is always a priority, and having that good safety record really helps,” Holcomb said.

Safety training “is pretty much ongoing,” with stringent training requirements for new employees as well as continuing safety education for even the most experienced workers. A new employee must also pass drug tests and a background investigation and have a clean police record.

“We pride ourselves on the ability to do the job quickly and safely,” Holcomb said.

For more information, visit naisinc.com or call (606) 473-9100.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.