Pipeline Engineering

Pigging the unpiggable

With over 40 years experience behind it, Pipeline Engineering (PE) specialises in the more difficult application end of the pipeline pigging industry, through the manufacture, design and testing of a full range of pipeline pigs including foam pigs, polyurethane pigs, mandrel pigs and specially developed pigs.

Alongside this PE offers a comprehensive portfolio of products and services such as pig signallers, pig launchers, pig receivers and pressure vessels to assist in pipeline cleaning, protection and flow assurance in the oil, gas and other process industries.

Based in North Yorkshire, UK, PE also operates sites in Aberdeen, Singapore, the US and Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. The vast majority of the company’s products are exported across the globe to clients, which include Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Halliburton and Technip. In 2009, PE was acquired by Circor International Inc, where today it resides as part of the Circor Energy Group, Pipeline Solutions Division.

Today PE is recognised in the industry for its engineering ability through to is application-based pipeline cleaning services and technology development programmes. Every product that the company develops has a degree of engineering within it to ensure that it meets the specific requirements of the pipeline, with fully bespoke solutions offered at the top-end of the portfolio.

Commenting on PE’s most recent in-house developments, Andrew Marwood, sales and marketing director, says: “We have developed the automated multiple pig launching system (AMPL) system, which saves the operator time and money, and is far better in terms of environment and health and safety risks. It enables operators to launch pigs remotely without having to open a pressure vessel, or vent or drain hydrocarbon gases and liquids.

“We have also developed the pipeline cleanliness assessment tool (P-CAT). This is designed to determine the residual debris in pipelines to enable effective cleaning counter measures to be put in place prior to intelligent inspection. As intelligent inspection requires a high degree of pipeline cleanliness for it to be effective, this is a key development in improving the performance of pigging products.” The AMPL system is to be presented at the Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management (PPIM) conference in Houston in February, and there is a white paper release planned for the PECAT following the successful completion of its third run in December 2010.

As the oil and gas industry continues to develop new drilling techniques and deeper water operations, new technology is also required to meet these changing demands and this is something PE continuously incorporates into its service offering: “With respect to deeper drilling and subsea development we see more risk associated with pipeline pigging. If a pig fails or becomes stuck in a deepwater application at sea, the costs of remediation are clearly astronomical, so we specifically design and develop specialist pigs for these deepwater subsea systems. As part of this we locally manufacture test loops, which we physically run and dynamically test the pigs through to ensure that when that pig design is taken offshore it has been sufficiently mechanically tested to prevent failure. Some of the pipeline geometry of these deep-water systems is more unusual than normal and consequently we are designing and developing very specialised pipeline pigs for these applications,” describes Andrew.

Recently PE was awarded a multi-million pound contract, for the supply of a proprietary system to protect, export and array cables for the London Array Wind farm development in the Thames Estuary. Andrew explains how this move into the offshore power generation industry draws on many of the company’s current competencies in the oil and gas industry: “The forecast developments in deep water driller and subsequently deeper oil and gas fields means much higher requirements for polyurethane components in pipeline systems and specifically bend restrictors. These issues equally apply to offshore cables for the power generation market. Given the synergies between the production, engineering expertise and materials for these two markets, and that we already have all of these capabilities in-house, it means that we can easily tailor our services to the growing offshore power generation industry.”

In terms of the wider market, PE’s expertise in pipeline cleaning services and commitment to developing new solutions means that it continues to identify new niche sectors and applications for its services: “There are still a tremendous amount of opportunities for growth, particular in the higher end of the market where high quality engineering, designs and products are required to meet the more difficult demands of the deep-water offshore industry, and indeed the more remote onshore oilfields. On the other hand, in some of the traditional markets there is arguably a lot more competition and therefore a lot of price pressure, which can offset some of this growth,” says Andrew.

Since it was first established PE has used pioneering technology to develop many new products and it is this strategy, which continues to keep the business at the forefront of the flow assurance industry. Looking ahead, Andrew concludes with his vision for the future progression of the business: “Over the next five years I would like to see PE as the pinnacle of pipeline cleaning technology and pipeline cleaning services. To that end, at the moment we are concentrating specifically on the development of the PECAT, which enables us to truly discover the effectiveness of the current pipeline cleaning tools on the market. Consequently using this data we can work to develop more effective and suitable pipeline cleaning tools for the distinct applications of each pipeline process conditions.”

Pipeline Engineering
Products: Pipeline pigs and cleaning systems