Why Do We Need Pipeline Pigs?

Pipelines are an important part of our everyday lives – they are necessary in transporting crude oil and natural gas from the ground to the refineries that process them into useful products.

When pipes are damaged, clogged or at risk of cross-contamination, companies can face a large monetary loss. Then in turn can adversely affect the price of the products created from these substances such as the gasoline that fuels our vehicles or the plastic that make up so many common products.

For this reason, pipeline pigs are used to ensure that the pipelines remain in fit condition to transport these liquids.

What are pipeline pigs?

The practice of pipeline pigging involves the use of devices called “pigs” to perform maintenance operations on pipelines without stopping the flow of product. They are a bullet-shaped instrument typically made of foam but can range in size and material.

Early pigs were made from materials such as straw, barbed wire and leather and made a squealing sound while traveling through the pipes – for this reason, they were eventually called “pigs”. The name eventually became an acronym for “Pipeline Inspection Gauge” or “Pipeline Intervention Gauge”.

How do pipeline pigs work?

Pipelines are constructed to feature launching and receiving stations designed specifically to insert and remove pipeline pigs.

A pig is then inserted into the launching station, also known as the “pig launcher” or “pig trap”, and pushed through the pipe using pressure from the well.

The pig moves through the pipeline until it reaches the receiving station, or “pig catcher”, where it is removed along with any unwanted residue from the pipe.

Why are pipeline pigs used?

Pipeline pigs play a crucial role in the maintenance of pipelines to ensure optimal production from the source well.

The use of pipeline pigs can save a company time and money, from keeping pipes clean and flow steady to identifying potential issues before they become costly.

Cleaning and Maintenance

When a pig is launched through a pipeline, it scrapes away buildup and debris from the pipes. This helps to improve efficiency of flow and prevent damage to the pipes.


When pipes are used to transport different types of products, there is a risk of cross-contamination. Since pigs effectively clean the pipes, cross-contamination (and spoiled product) can be avoided.

Product Movement

Pipeline pigs are also useful in emptying pipes into the product tank or sending product back to its original tank.

Inspection, Positioning and Monitoring

“Smart pigs” are special devices designed to record information about the internal condition of the pipe by measuring aspects such as restrictions, deformations and metal loss.

Obtaining such information is vital in preventing leaks and avoiding environmental damage and explosions.

The pig can locate the defect and monitor its condition over time. This is useful in knowing exactly where the defective pipe is before digging. Likewise, if the damage does not need immediate repair, the pig can be used to monitor its condition.

Types of Pipeline Pigs

Apache Pipeline Products offers 4 types of pipeline pigs:

  • Steel Mandral: Steel Mandral pigs are used for cleaning as well as batching, displacement and bi-directional applications.
  • All Urethane: This style of pig is lightweight and works well in tight bend applications.
  • Foam: Foam pigs are used for scraping, cleaning and drying.
  • Specialty Pigs: For more difficult cleaning and corrosion issues, specialty pigs are used to tackle tough cleaning jobs.

Want to learn more about pipeline pigs and how they work? Contact our experts today for more information!



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