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What do a pig and James Bond have in common?

Reading time: 2 min

The link between them? They both work in a pipeline. If you Google the word pig, images of chubby pink animals pop up. But a pig is also a highly technical device used in pipelines – and can occasionally be seen in the movies.

Pig. James Pig

A cleaning pig is used in a pipeline.

Pigs are devices used to clean pipelines and take measurements. Pipelines have an average diameter of ten to 120 centimeters. It is primarily the large variety that inspires the imagination of filmmakers. Pigs play a major role in two James Bond movies. In The Living Daylights a pig is used to smuggle a Soviet General from Bratislava to Vienna. And in The World is Not Enough the spy himself travels through a pipeline with a pig.

Cleaning and measuring …

“The actual job of a pig may not be quite as glamorous as it is depicted in the James Bond film, but it is essential for the operation of a pipeline,” explains Patrick Hurbis, Expert Maintenance, Operation & Maintenance at the OMV subsidiary Gas Connect Austria.

An “intelligent” pig.

It is sent through pipelines under high pressure, uphill and downhill, to clean and inspect them. Cleaning pigs remove the residue from liquid hydrocarbons, rust, welding and metal particles in gas pipelines – and sometimes even lost measuring tapes.

Then the path is clear for the so-called intelligent pigs that conduct pipeline inspections along with various other functions. They check the status of corrosion, welding defects, dents in the pipe, and measure coordinates. This internal inspection is required in Austria and has to be conducted every ten years.

… at the highest level

But how does the pig get into the pipeline? It is launched into and out of the pipeline with a so-called pig launcher. There are also mobile launchers for smaller pipelines. With a flow speed of 1.5 to four meters per second, the pig is then propelled by the pressure in the pipeline. The pressure in the pipelines varies between 16 and 90 bars. Compare: A car tire has an average of 2.3 bars of pressure. Patrick Hurbis knows that successful pigging requires some fine tuning: “The important thing is that the pigging happens as smoothly and continuously as possible to achieve the most accurate measurements. That’s why our colleagues in Dispatching help by adjusting the exact pressure and amount of gas in the pipeline during each pigging.” The current position of the pig is determined using a pig transmitter and mechanical pig sensors in the stations.

Patrick Hurbis Expert Mainenance at Gas Connect Austria
With Gas Connect Austria’s 886 kilometers of gas pipelines, the pigs always have something to do.
Patrick Hurbis, Expert Maintenance, Operation & Maintenance at the OMV subsidiary Gas Connect Austria

The first intelligent pigging at Gas Connect Austria took place in 1995. Today we note when and where pigging is taking place in the ‘pig master plan.’ That almost sounds like a James Bond film.

Read more about aminal terms on a drilling site:
The Mouse at the Drilling Site – Animal Terms in the Oil Industry

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