Far from our highly intelligent and adorable pink friends, pipeline pigs refer to large cylindrical objects that clean pipelines. The name “pig” which seems slightly bizarre considering their shape and use, came about as a result of the original design of these cleaning objects. Being made from straw and wrapped in wire, these original pigs made a squealing noise as they travelled through pipelines, which appropriately gave rise to the industry standard term of “pigs” as it used now.

These modern pigs have also contributed positively to the environment – historically, pipelines required flushing with solvents, water and in some cases additional product. After this procedure, solvents were recovered and treated, or product needed to be disposed of. The modern pigging completely eliminates this process, ensuring an efficient and cost-effective approach to pipeline cleaning. 

Modern Pigging

The purpose of the pig is to clean both large diameter and more recently smaller diameter industrial pipelines. Debris in pipelines has the potential to reduce product flow, which directly impacts the efficiency of your pipeline – a run through with a pig, for example, ensures that water pressure is significantly increased.

Pigs are typically loaded into launching stations, and the pressure of the product in the pipeline effectively carries the pig along the pipeline until it reaches the “pig catcher” (the receiving station). Differently sizes and densities of pigs are used to complement differently sized pipelines, ensuring that debris is appropriately managed. 

Pigs designed for a wide variety of industries

For industries that transport products (oils, chemicals, gas, and even foodstuffs), pigging is usually performed at the beginning and conclusion of each batch (and occasionally performed in the middle of a batch) to allow for pipelines to be emptied of product, or for pipelines to be cleaned in preparation for a new batch of product.

There are also pigs used in oil and gas pipelines. These intelligent pigs are used to test whether pipelines have any defects, such as leaks, which have the potential to be environmentally dangerous. These smart pigs also allow for the easy de-contamination of mercury, an otherwise highly difficult procedure.  

Time to invest in pig cleaning?

Regular pipeline maintenance is highly important, as is the cleaning of pre-commission and de-commissioning pipelines. To ensure that the pipeline that you manage is performing at its best, schedule an inspection with Toxfree today. Our complete process is outlined and signed off on by our clients to ensure the utmost transparency. Enquire today to learn more!

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