Pipeline pigs are tools that are inserted into a pipeline and pushed along the pipeline by the product flowing through the pipeline. There are many different types of ILI tools. Some are used to clean the pipeline, while others are used to inspect the pipeline for deformities or corrosion damage. Some are even used to purge different products in a multi-product pipeline. Inline inspection (ILI) pigs, also called smart pigs, gather information from within the pipeline. Smart pigs can record the location of dents, corrosion wall loss, and cracks, and the resulting information is used to repair the pipeline in advance of a failure.
During an ILI inspection, there is risk of the pig getting stuck or lodged in the pipeline. This can interrupt or stop product flow, which can lead to pipeline damage and unforeseen service disruptions. Due to this risk, it is critical to ensure pigs are accurately tracked while they are in the pipeline.
Pig tracking is a method of verifying the location or movement of the pig through a pipeline. By tracking a pig, it reduces the area that needs to be searched if a pig becomes lost or stuck in the pipeline. The standard method of pig tracking is to set up stations and move down the pipeline. This leaves smaller sections of a pipeline to search if a pig does not reach the next station.
It is a common misconception to think of pig tracking as a simple process. In reality, it can be quite challenging for field staff. Tracking the tool can be both difficult and dangerous for several reasons, which are often unexpected.
Unsafe tracking situations
There are a few common situations when pig tracking can be unsafe for field staff.
- If the pig speed increases during inspection, it causes field technicians to rush to the next tracking site. This is commonly known as “pig chasing”, and can be extremely dangerous in bad weather or high traffic situations.
- When pipelines traverse remote or inaccessible locations, it is difficult for a technician to access the pipeline to record the pig passage. This increases the risk for trackers trying to access a pipeline during a legacy tracking run. In these cases, trackers do not have enough time to safely access the tracking location, and put themselves at risk by accessing it in a rush.
- Another risk of traditional legacy pig tracking is the effect of long hours and night work on field staff. Pigs don’t stop, and can be in a pipeline for several days depending on the inspection length. Long hours and night work is tough on field teams, and can lead to safety incidents due to exhaustion or lack of attentiveness.
The safe, reliable, and efficient way to track any pig in any pipeline
In the situations mentioned above, risk can be significantly reduced by tracking the pig remotely. In remote tracking runs, a technician does not need to be at each site when the pig passes – remote tracking boxes are deployed before the run and the pig is tracked from a central location. This reduces the risk of “pig chasing” or a pig being lost if the speed increases.
Remote tracking also leads to safer access of inaccessible areas. Instead of field teams attempting to access a difficult location as the pig approaches, they are able to take the necessary time to safely deploy a remote tracking box in advance an inspection. This reduces the likelihood of an incident occurring from rushing to access a challenging or dangerous location.
The Armadillo Tracking system provides safe, reliable and efficient tracking for any type of pig or pipeline. The system can be used for both legacy tracking and remote tracking, and provides a truly customizable solution for different pig run applications. To find out more information on pig tracking, download PureHM’s white paper on the myths of pig tracking.