Skip to main content

The new rules for pigging

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Pipelines,

Lauren Westwood, KBL, USA, discusses offering pigging services with a technological edge in a regulated world.

The new rules for pigging

In the modern age of growing oil and natural gas demand and comprehensive safety mandates, pipeline pigging has become integral to the maintenance and operation of pipeline assets. ‘Pigging’, originally named for the squealing sound the device made as it passed through the line, has developed over many decades in the oil and gas industry and continues to grow in application and popularity.

The use of the pigging tools should act as a method to predict, prevent, and avoid accidental pipeline disruptions. A pig is a cylindrical or disk-shaped tool that is launched into a pipeline with the flow of hydrocarbons. Consistent use of pigging is essential to the optimisation of pipeline operations. It’s the ideal method to keep the line clean and remove buildup that reduces flow. This in turn reduces energy consumption and the time it takes for the product to make from one point to another.

Additionally, inspection pigs can analyse data to assess the structural integrity of the pipeline as well as detect corrosion or weak points that could potentially lead to leaks or other accidents. These unforeseen mishaps are detrimental to the environment and revenue margins – and are also heavily scrutinised by the media and regulating agencies. So regulated, in fact, that many regulatory bodies require pipeline operators to perform regular inspections and maintenance to ensure compliance with safety and environmental standards.

By cleaning and regularly inspecting, pipeline owners can realise a tangible value added with increased optimisation, decreased loss risk, and preemptive measures to meet operating regulations.

Considering its many uses and benefits, oil and natural gas pipeline operators have been using various forms of pigs for almost as long as they’ve been using pipelines to move hydrocarbons. Though their design and utilities have changed over the years, pigging has been a reliable tool for various pipeline needs. However, as the needs of the industry have grown, so has the importance of the functionality of the pigging tool being deployed.

Not all pigs are created equal

Utilising the right pig for the job on a consistent schedule will improve the efficiency and safety of the pipeline. There are four categories of pigs used in the oil and natural gas pipeline industry.

Cleaning pigs are inserted into a pipeline to remove debris, sediment, and any other accumulations that block the efficient flow of the product. Inspection pigs, also referred to as ‘smart pigs’ or ‘intelligent pigs’ are used in an effort to collect data and inspect the line for defects or corrosion that will inevitably impact the integrity of the pipeline. Gauging pigs are used for measuring purposes to ensure they meet relevant requirements. And finally, utility pigs are designed to conduct specific functions such as applying a corrosion inhibitor or conducting leak testing.

Pipeline regulations grow

Operators are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. They must make certain that…

To access the full version of this article and get a free trial subscription to World Pipelines, sign up here!

Read the article online at:

You might also like

Coating challenges in cold environments

David D’Ambrosio and Richard Norsworthy, Polyguard Products, USA, discuss the development of new pipeline coatings to meet the demands of extreme cold weather environments, whilst referring to girth weld coating application issues.


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):


This article has been tagged under the following:

US pipeline news