What is Pipeline Pigging and How Does it Work?

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What is Pipeline Pigging and How Does it Work?
What is Pipeline Pigging and How Does it Work?

Image caption: Historic project photo from FTL Technology. Read the Case Study here. 

The engineers at FTL Technology know all too well the various demands of pigging and how increasingly complex pipeline systems are becoming.

We’ve worked in the oil and gas sector for many years and understand the importance of providing pipeline pigs with increased flexibility, adaptability, operational repeatability and improved efficiency.

It is for this very reason why we developed a multi-diameter pigging system that is capable to meet these increased challenges in ‘difficult to pig’ pipelines.

So, what exactly is pipeline pigging?

Pigging refers to the practice of using mechanical devices known as ‘pigs’ to perform maintenance operations in pipelines; scrubbing the insides of the lines in order to clean them.

The ‘pigs’ are inserted into the line via pig traps, and without interrupting the product flow, the pig is then forced through the pipes- sweeping the inside walls along the way by scraping the sides and pushing along any debris with it.

But pigs have other functions in addition to pipeline cleaning. As they travel along the line they can also help inspect the interior pipeline condition to prevent and detect problems such as corrosion, deformations and metal loss.

Pipeline pigs are used across various industries not just oil & gas, including chemical plants and hygienic applications such as pharmaceutical or food.

Why is pipeline pigging important?

Image caption: Historic project photo from FTL Technology

Build-up in a pipeline can cause product transmission to slow but plugs in a line, cracks or flaws can be dangerous.

Sweeping the line walls helps remove built up solids like wax and/or precipitated water to help prevent a corrosive environment from occurring.

Pipeline pigging is crucial to make sure the line and the product inside it runs as smoothly as possible.

Why is it called ‘pipeline pigging’?

There are many stories online of how the term came about. Some claim ‘pig’ is an abbreviation for ‘Pipeline Intervention Gadget’ or ‘Pipeline Inspection Gauge.’

Other theories state that in the past, a pig was sent through the pipelines with leather sealing discs, which squeaked against the pie wall making it sound like a pig squealing.

Do you use or specify Pipeline Pigs? If so, you may encounter common pigging problems for example:

  • Pigging multi-diameter pipelines
  • Large % diameter pipeline changes
  • Keeping drive pressure low
  • Transitions past complex features- wyes, full bore offtakes and tees
  • Tight bends
  • Long distance pipelines

There are many challenges when it comes to pigging pipelines. From operational cleaning and high efficient dewatering to inspection technology, a pig may be required to fulfil a number of functions regularly- thus reusable assets may be needed.


How can FTL help?

VariPig is a multi-diameter pigging solution that we have developed that can solve all these problems.

It was designed and patented as a direct result of the pipeline pig functional requirements for the Statoil Åsgard Pipeline RFO commissioning project in 1998.

If you’ve got a pipeline challenge, get in touch with our experienced engineers today.

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