SUPER-WATER®, Berkeley Chemical Research, Inc. and W. Glenn Howells.

From 1963 - 67, Glenn was employed by Chevron Research Company (CRC) in the Chemicals Division where he specialised in the chemistry of surfactants (SURFace ACTive AgeNTS) or detergents.

For 3 years he studied carboxylic surfactants (naphthenic acids) which occur in one particular Midway Sunset, California crude oil.

Because CRC is adjacent to Chevron's largest Refinery at Richmond, California, which had Midway Sunset crude included in its feedstock, Glenn would often visit the Refinery Naphthenic Acid plant to obtain samples for comparative studies.

Much later in 1973, by which time Glenn was an Associate Research Chemist at the University of California at Berkeley, he was consulted by the maintenance and chemical cleaning department at the Richmond Refinery to assist in waterjet cleaning of equipment involving wax, oil and grease.

SUPER-CLEAN? was formulated and completely solved the problem(s) and is still being used today.

In 1974, the same maintenance and chemical cleaning department was beset by the difficult task of dismantling and cleaning a Hydro-Processing (ISOMAX) reactor exchanger for the first time since it was installed. Over 1500 U-shaped tubes were clogged or nearly closed with extremely hard deposits of fused coke.

After being out of commission for 3 months, the Hydro-Processing reactor was finally put back into service.

Obviously, heat exchangers out of service for 3 months could not be tolerated.

Therefore alternative cleaning methods were investigated.

In 1973, Russian workers had reported the destruction of metal objects by a jet of dilute polymer solution. This report in Nature, was "unearthed" by Glenn's former colleague at CRC's Exploration and Production Laboratory at La Habra, California, Dr. Carl E. Johnson Jr.

The Nature paper ultimately served as an incentive to form an unofficial alliance between a water jet cleaning contractor (Jess Keopke of MWCC), a chemical supply company (Berkeley Chemical Research) and the maintenance and chemical cleaning group at Chevron. The alliance's objective was to develop a polymer blasting method to remove hard deposits in refinery equipment.

After 6 months of research, a product, now named SUPER-WATER?, method of application and solution were developed.
When metered continuously at 0.3% to a jet stream of water, SUPER-WATER? increased the cleaning efficiency from 2 to 50 times depending on the nature of the material being removed.

Now rather than taking 3 months the ISOMAX unit was cleaned in 24 hours.

In 1977 the Chevron Richmond maintenance and chemical cleaning group arranged a demonstration of SUPER-WATER? for staff from other Chevron refineries as well as for members of ARAMCO.

The demonstration utilized an automatic heat exchanger bundle cleaner with carefully controlled traversal rates and stand off distances. Various target materials were cut first with plain water under well defined and accurate pump conditions. Parallel cuts, which could be readily photographed, were then made using the same conditions with another identical pump using 0.3% SUPER-WATER?.

The SUPER-WATER? cuts were far more incisive (smaller kerf width) and markedly deeper.

The target materials, including red brick, yellow firestone brick, block ice, rubber sheeting, concrete* slab, oolitic Indiana limestone**, plywood, volcanic rock and asphalt were all tested and showed the same striking difference between water and the SUPER-WATER? solution.

Because these demonstrations involved a comparison of cuts it became very clear that cutting would be the next application of SUPER-WATER?.

The first use of this was by Goldsmith in the early 1980's (but not published until 1990 in Jet News) who found in installing vents and pipes he could cut through 10-inch concrete* walls at 10,000 psi some 3 times as fast, or possible more, with SUPER-WATER?.

In 1984, Summers, who had provided the limestone** sample, used SUPER-WATER? at 15,000 psi to cut granite in making a half-scale model of Stonehenge located at Rolla, Missouri.

In 1988, Imlay began to use SUPER-WATER? (at the US Shoe Company,
Indiana) for cutting clay rubber shoe soles in 2 layers at 50,000 psi. This industrial cutting continued until 1995 when Nine West bought US Shoe and transferred operations to Brazil or Malaysia where jet cutting was not used.

All these advances were achieved with solutions of SUPER-WATER?. However in 1989 Hollinger reported the use of SUPER-WATER? in which abrasive was suspended. This technique now termed the SWASJ (SUPER-WATER? Abrasive Suspension Jet) technique, furnished the most precise cutting ever attained and at only 7,000 psi.

In 1997, Hashish employing the SWASJ technique at 50,000 psi, very effectively cut the hardest known ceramics and carbides.

The latest advance is SUPER-WATER? 5,000 psi SWASJ drilling in reinforced concrete and is described in "Foundation Evaluation with Micro Intrusion Testing" by Graettinger, Johnson, Sewell and Wagner.

This report is on the internet at

(A paper on this work will be presented at the next WJTA Conference in Houston, August 2003.)

The results are astounding.

For example, Figure 5.5 shows a number 10 steel rebar (diameter = 1?-inches) with a hole (diameter = 3/16-inch) drilled horizontally through its center.

Quite incredibly the drilling did not require FLOW, Ingersoll-Rand, JETECH or other intensifiers, OMAX crankshaft ultra-high pressure units, Aqua-Dyne, Gardner Denver, NLB or other high pressure pumps.

No indeed. A pressure washer was used at 5,000 psi.

The SUPER-WATER? cost was 1.2 % ($173.12) of the total drill unit's cost of $13,981.11