Yup. Pigs are critical to the safety and integrity of pipelines. Some are your basic utilitarian pigs, while others are quite smart, if not downright cool. No, these are not the pigs down on the farm. Instead, these pigs are devices run through pipes to clean, inspect, and support “batching” on hydrocarbon pipeline networks. They help ensure the safe and efficient transportation of crude oil, NGLs, petroleum products, and natural gas through more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline in the U.S. If you’re interested in energy and energy delivery, you’ve gotta know about pigs, and that's just what we'll be discussing in today’s blog.
There are lots of stories out there about why these contraptions are called pigs. One that seems logical is that “pig” is an acronym for “pipeline inspection gauge” or “pipeline integrity gauge.” But maybe they got their name from the squealing sound they make when traveling through a pipeline, or the fact that, after traveling through a pipe, they look like pigs, covered in muck? Yet another story is how, in the late 1800s, balls of pig leather (and other things) were used to clean pipes, which were then made from wood. No one really knows for sure.
What we do know is that pipeline pigs perform tens of thousands of pipeline inspections a year; and that they are used in pipelines for three main reasons:
- Cleaning: Better flow, more throughput, efficiency, corrosion control.
- Batching and Separation: Separating product batches such as diesel and gasoline to keep them from mixing.
- Inspection: Safe product flow and mapping.
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