Intelligent Pigging

Last update: Jan 13, 2017

Intelligent Pigging is an inspection technique whereby an inspection probe, often referred to as a smart pig, is propelled through a pipeline while gathering important data, such as the presence and location of corrosion or other irregularities on the inner walls of the pipe. 

Traditionally, pigging was used purely as a way to clean pipelines. The pig was simply placed in one end of a pipeline and pushed through the line by the product flow. It scrapes the sides of the pipe as it travels, removing dirt and debris as it goes. [2,3]

What makes intelligent pigging different is that smart pigs are capable of performing advanced inspection activities as they travel along the pipe, in addition to just cleaning it. [1]  Smart pigs use nondestructive examination techniques such as ultrasonic testing [1,2,4,5] and magnetic flux leakage testing to inspect for erosion corrosion, metal loss, pitting, weld anomalies, and hydrogen induced cracking, among others. [2,5] They are also able to gather data on the pipeline's diameter, curvature, bends, and temperature. [2]

Smart pigging provides a number of advantages over traditional forms of pipeline inspection. It allows pipelines to be cleaned and inspected without having to stop the flow of product.[3] It also allows the a pipeline to be completely inspected without having to send inspectors down its entire length. Finally, it provides cleaning and inspection services at the same time, saving companies both time and money.




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Choosing the Right Smart Pigging Technology – Lessons Learned
September/October 2016 Inspectioneering Journal
By Tim Haugen at Quest Integrity Group

Although all ultrasonic smart pigging providers claim the ability to detect wall thinning and tube deformations to some degree, the inspection surface coverage, resolution, minimum wall thickness detection and reporting capabilities may vary drastically from one service provider to the next. Knowing your provider’s capabilities is crucial for ensuring the integrity of your assets, as one refinery recently discovered.

The Current State of Pipeline Integrity Management
September/October 2014 Inspectioneering Journal
By John Tiratsoo at Pipelines International

The pigging industry has developed a tremendous range of techniques and technologies, and it is probably fair to say that there are few pipelines in the world that cannot be cleaned and inspected, although the success of such operations will often depend on the available budget.

Heater Tube Inspection and Remaining Life Evaluation
May/June 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

The following interview with Rich Roberts provides answers to some of the questions our readers have about small, specially designed pigs carrying NDE technologies that can inspect nearly every area of a tube from the coils interior surface.

Q&A with B.J. Lowe and John Tiratsoo, Co-Producers of PPIM
Online Article
February 7, 2014

Inspectioneering is honored to partner up with John Tiratsoo (left) and BJ Lowe (right), co-producers of the Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management Conference (PPIM), to put together this special edition issue. For 20+ years, John and BJ have initiated a number of successful conference series, dealing with pipeline pigging, pipeline integrity, and pipeline risk management and reliability. These events are now held in Houston and elsewhere, and are combined with an increasingly-successful series of industry-based training courses. We were recently able to sit down...

Executive Q&A with Tom Wanzeck, Vice President, Integrity Services, Willbros Group, Inc.
November/December 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspectioneering recently had the privilege of speaking with Tom Wanzeck, Vice President of Integrity Services with Willbros Group, Inc. Tom spent more than 20 years managing assets on the owner-operator side before making the leap to the service industry, in which he now manages and facilitates world-class asset and pipeline integrity management programs for clients.

Inspection of Individual Serpentine Coils in Fired Heaters Connected to Common Headers
May/June 2013 Inspectioneering Journal
By Richard D. Roberts at Quest Integrity Group

Refineries and chemical plants own and operate numerous process heaters (e.g. gas reformers, CCRs, etc.) as part of the standard assets throughout the facilities. Many heater coil configuration designs are flanged at both ends; however, there are also coil designs which contain common headers, linking the individual coil passes together at the inlet, outlet, or even at both ends in some cases.

Partner Content

InVista is a lightweight, hand-held ultrasonic in-line inspection tool (intelligent pig) capable of detecting pipeline wall loss and corrosion in unpiggable or difficult-to-inspect pipelines. The pipeline geometry inspection data captured by the InVista tool is exceptionally powerful when combined with the LifeQuest™ Pipeline fitness-for-service capabilities, providing an integrated solution set for the pipeline industry.

New Technology Allows Access to Coils with Common Headers in the Process Industry
November/December 2012 Inspectioneering Journal
By Richard D. Roberts at Quest Integrity Group

Various fired heater designs in refineries and chemical plants contain common headers (e.g. Arbor coil configurations, CCRs, etc.) as part of their overall serpentine coil design. Accessing the interior of individual coils through the common header is challenging; however, advanced engineering firms and mechanical decoking companies have developed unique common header snorkel delivery systems.

Global Refining Industry Utilizes Ultrasonic Inspection Technology
September/October 2012 Inspectioneering Journal
By Richard D. Roberts at Quest Integrity Group

The refining industry has applied ultrasonic-based intelligent pigging to inspect serpentine coils in fired heaters since the 1990s. Today, thousands of serpentine coils in fired heaters are inspected annually at process facilities around the globe.