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Frequent Asked Questions Related to Pigs


What is a 'pig'?


PIGs are devices which are inserted into, and travel throughout the length of a pipeline, driven by the product flow. They fall into two categories: ‘utility’ pigs - which perform a function such as cleaning, separating or dewatering the pipeline, and in-line inspection, or more simply, ‘ILI tools’ (sometimes referred to as ‘intelligent pigs’ or ‘smart pigs’) - which provide information on the condition of the line as well as the extent and location of any problems.


How did a pig get its name?


IWell, besides it is an acronym for Pipeline Inspection Gauge, it is said that it is also because of the squealing sound they make when running through a pipe. This is especially true of the cleaning pigs used to clean pipelines.


Are Pigs only used in Oil & Gas Industry?


Although the oil and gas industry remains the largest user of the foam pig, many new industries such as municipal water and sewer, processing industries, petrochemical, mining, and other industries are now using pigs in their pipelines, realizing gains such as energy savings, increased flows, decreased pumping pressures, cleaner product, and salvaged product.



How long have pigs been around?


There are records that the first pigging operation took place around the year of 1870, a few years after Colonel Drake discovered oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Whether this is true or not, it at least indicates that pigs have been around for a long time. For more than half of a century pigs consisted of steel bodies and rubber, leather, or urethane cups or discs. They were equipped with wire brushes, scrapers, knife blades, and other devices for ploughing. Until 1960, most pipe cleaning was limited to the oil and gas industry. Then the foam bullet-shaped pig was developed; it was referred to as the Polly Pig  because it was made of polyurethane foam.

How often should a pipeline be pigged?


Pigging frequency depends largely on the contents of the pipeline. Some sales gas pipelines for example are normally never pigged. This is since there is little by way of liquid to remove or debris / corrosion products in the line. On the other hand, production oil lines can suffer from wax deposition, which must be managed in order to allow production to continue.

It is difficult to give general guidance on this, as the pigging frequency must be set for each specific pipeline. The general advice would be that a pig is a valuable flow assurance tool and a decision should be reached with the operator on the frequency of pigging based on the flow assurance analysis of the line and in conjunction with the pigging specialists. Likewise, inspection intervals should be based on discussions between integrity management and the pig vendors.

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