Pipeline pigging is essential for any business dealing with industrial pipelines for many reasons, from basic routine maintenance to decommissioning pipelines. Without pigging, pipes would eventually degrade and cause various problems ranging from environmental issues to reduced water quality. That being said, it is important to note that pipeline pigging has limitations, which may cause problems during the cleaning process.
Many of these challenges are generally associated with the type of pig used during the process, be it foam pigs, ice slurry, or other pigging types. Being unprepared for these problems could hinder a pigging operation from proceeding or, at worst, lead to costly repairs or replacements. As such, it is vital to know the most common pipeline problems and how to address them.
1. Stuck pigs
Pigs getting stuck somewhere along the pipeline was common in previous years, but it now rarely occurs today, given the advancements in pigging technology. That said, it can still happen with certain types of pigs, but there is usually a reason why these pigs fail to reach their destination. Some examples include insufficient propellant pressure, faults within the pipeline, leaking from a damaged pipe connection, or minor oversights like a closed valve blocking the way. Additionally, pigs can get stuck if they are damaged, worn, or ill-suited for the type of pipe being serviced.
Thankfully, the simple fix to this common pigging problem is by conducting preventative maintenance on the pipelines and never using worn or damaged pigs to prevent the issue from happening in the first place.
2. Pig product bypass issues
Product bypass is a common issue when using pigs with assembled pieces like fins and caps. When using these types of pigs, achieving effective cleaning between these assembled components in a pipeline is nigh impossible. This is because these parts allow a small amount of product to pass through, gradually causing a significant buildup throughout the project and considerably hampering product recovery rates.
Another issue with using these more complex types of pigs is the risk of their parts breaking off and causing contamination issues in the pipe. Lastly, pigs with assembled parts pale compared to other pigging types in terms of robustness, which means they might require more frequent replacements and thus drive higher maintenance costs.
A quick fix to avoiding this problem is to only use pigs with assembled parts when necessary and stick to robust, more versatile one-piece pigs with a full-contact design for most cleaning projects.
3. Pigs unable to pass through sharp bends or travel in both directions
Many pigs are not designed to easily navigate sharp bends or travel in both directions in the pipe. Therefore, cleaning projects faced with such sharp bends cannot hope to achieve their desired product recovery rates nor thoroughly clean out the pipes being serviced, making the pigging solution less effective overall.
And while unidirectional pigs work for the most part, they are not as efficient because they involve complex, time-consuming, and risky return loops where operators have to manually remove the pig and put it back into its housing once the project is complete. Unidirectional pigs are also not sanitary by design and thus pose another set of risks.
Since traditional pigging methods are typically less effective when it comes to these unique challenges, it is best to consider other solutions like ice pigging which are more suited for pipelines with bends while ensuring effective recovery rates.
By knowing what common pipeline pigging problems you can expect during a project, you can be better equipped to resolve them quickly or, better yet, keep them from happening and disrupting operations in the first place.
To ensure your pipeline pigging operations go smoothly, settle for nothing less than high-quality equipment like those we provide here at Pharmchem Engineering. As a leading industry supplier of industrial engineering parts, we guarantee that our tried and true pipeline pigging equipment solutions will meet your requirements and perform remarkably for all your needs, be it for routine maintenance or troubleshooting purposes.
Discuss your project with us to get a quotation, or browse our website to learn more about our other engineering solutions, such as dry disconnect couplings, industrial hoses, and expansion joints.