Acoustic monitoring equipmentPigging operations have, arguably, changed pipeline operations for the better the world over – having made cleaning and investigation operations considerably easier and more economical for thousands of businesses and operations.  From clearing and proving pipelines to retrieving lost and stuck pigs, pig tracking is a crucial part of the process that should never be underestimated – after all, it may be essential for the location of a pig within a pipeline to be known at all times – particularly when it comes to diverting product flow via temporary pipework during essential maintenance.  It is also important to know the exact position of an existing and travelling pig for regular information relating to velocity and speed – and it can also provide considerable reassurance for pipelines that are new to pigging or investigation.

Certainly, tracking a pig will enable greater control over what can be done with a pipeline – as knowledge of where a pig is travelling and the work it is currently undertaking will allow a business to go ahead with work that can be completed during its journey.  Pig tracking will not only allow non-pigged pipelines to benefit from considerable support, but will also enable the user to easily track and remove any pigs that may become stuck or blocked along the way – therefore, the time and effort taken to search for the blocked pig can be cut significantly.  Stuck and trapped pigs can transmit electromagnetic data that can easily be detected.

Why it is important

Effective pig tracking depends upon strategy as much as technology – meaning that it will always be worthwhile to have tracking engineers stationed along certain areas of the pipeline, allowing them to raise a signal and move to a station further down once a pig has passed through their zone.  This technique, along with pipeline markers that can be used for onshore pipelining, will allow engineers to work hand-in-hand with tracking technology to ensure that they never lose sight of a pig despite it working its way through an internal pipeline.  It is a matter of keeping alert and keeping ‘checkpoints’ clear so that no pigs go missing during the process.  A lost pig can affect productivity and product delivery greatly, making it important that such technology is kept under scrutiny at all times.  It is also advised that thorough reconnaissance of the pipeline is undertaken by engineers ahead of any pigging work.

Pigtek provide a number of tracking solutions, utilising both acoustic and magnetic technology to ensure that pigs are kept under scrutiny at all times.  Providing that pigs are fitted with small magnets before launch, our portable technology can be used to track pigs through a depth of up to three metres, and work on the basis of changes in magnetic fields – allowing for engineers to easily locate where in the pipeline a pig is currently stationed.  The magnetic system, built for use in the field, consists of a remote sensor, a 12 volt DC battery, connecting leads and a control unit with strip chart recorder – making it an extremely versatile and useful device for tracking magnet-fitted pigs at every step of their journey.

The remote sensor can be situated near to where tracking is to take place, and the control unit can easily be fitted to a vehicle or adjacent to the location of tracking.  Tracking sensitivity can be adjusted depending upon the nature of the job, the location or the pipelines at stake.

How tracking works

The acoustic tracking solution Pigtek provides works on the basis of picking up vibration from the inside of the pipewall, which is amplified and delivered to engineers via headphones – this will therefore allow for a pig to be tracked throughout its journey with minimal ease.  Pulses are generated as the pig comes into contact with internal pipeline fittings, and this system is comprised of a control unit and sensor – the sensor is positioned onto or above the pipeline before being connected via the unit, allowing for the best possible access to tracking.  This method of tracking is particularly effective at helping monitor pigs across long distances as well as calculating pig velocity.

Using electronic transmitters, Pigtek are also able to locate stuck or stationary pigs – and by using said transmitters, a unit can detect their pulses to help locate the exact position in a given pipeline.

Pipeline pig tracking equipmentIt is suggested that pigs be fitted with permanent magnets to be able to use the magnetic tracking system, either within or on the outside of the pig itself – and transmitters will normally be fitted to the rear of a pig.  However, in the event of tight pipelines and bends, there are cases where transmitters can be fitted within pigs themselves. Suggested magnet arrangement will also differ between those used for tracking and those used for cleaning.

Pig tracking is essential to any business dependent upon maintaining pipelines and running regular product through them – and it is therefore important to work with only the best in pig tracking and investigation equipment regardless of the job at stake.  For innovative pig design and tracking options, please call Pigtek today on 01246 850220.

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Pipeline Pig Testing and Trialling