Business takes 'AIMM' at Kenai

Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Texas-based industrial pipe- and tank-cleaning company, AIMM Technologies, which conducts business around the world and counts members of Alaska’s petroleum industry among its customers, has established an office in Kenai.

The company’s list of customers reads like a Fortune 500 list, and includes DuPont and ExxonMobil, as well as Chevron, Marathon and ConocoPhillips. It has ongoing operations at Kuparak, Alpine and at Drift River.

When sending workers to Alaska all the way from Houston became too costly, the company moved to establish the Kenai office, purchasing the vacuum truck division of S&R Enterprises, a local firm engaged in refuse disposal. It also bought half of S&R’s facility on the Kenai Spur Highway.

“Our volume got to such a point that we felt we needed a local presence,” AIMM CEO Brooks Bradford Sr. said in an interview Monday. “We’re trying to put a Kenai face on our business.”

Initially, AIMM’s local office will employ nine, including seven new hires; five are locals, Bradford said. Supervisor Jeff Deese, who has been working for the company in Alaska for more than three years, will manage the office.

About a third of AIMM’s business is in industrial tank cleaning. The rest involves a relatively new technology for cleaning the chemical deposits built up inside pipes, like those in heat exchangers, that can rob the machines of much of their efficiency, and along with that, their owners’ profits.

AIMM uses a patented process called Hydrokinetics that sets up a sonic resonance in the water column within a pipe or tube and breaks the bond between the pipe material and the chemical deposits causing the clog. The procedure is designed to not damage the system itself.

The company, founded in 1991 in LaMarque, Texas, went commercial with Hydrokinetics in 1996 and now holds four patents on the process, Bradford said.

AIMM says it has been successful at cleaning deposits from equipment in far less time and at far less cost than other technologies, such as hydro-blasting and chemical application, the dominant industrial cleaning methods.

Hydrokinetics is environmentally safer than other processes, Bradford said, among other things, producing far less wastewater because it uses “90 percent less water than other methods,” he said.

Loosened material typically emerges from the once-clogged pipe “like toothpaste,” Bradford said, making it a relatively easy waste product to handle. Customers are responsible for proper disposal, he said.

Hydrokinetics is also inherently safe for operators, Bradford noted. In the decade that AIMM’s process has been on the market, the company has had no lost-time accidents.

AIMM has four domestic depots and a dozen more around the world, and pipe and tank cleaning are pretty much the same everywhere, Bradford said. Here in Alaska, however, there are challenges.

“The environmental aspect is more stringent here than, say, in certain foreign countries,” he said. “We can’t even drop oil on the floor.”

While the new Kenai office will start out small, it may eventually employ 25, the normal work force at AIMM depots.

“That could fluctuate up to as many as 60,” Bradford said.

AIMM Technologies has “a loyal following” among the companies it regularly serves, Bradford noted. But the company is looking for more business.

His son, Brooks Bradford Jr., a mechanical engineer and the company’s president, will conduct presentations on the Hydrokinetic process to Alaska companies in an effort to find more customers.

“We are hungry for activity,” Bradford said. “Anything that is in our field, we would certainly do. We’re here for the long haul.”

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