This is a story about two little pigs and their smart partner. Actually, make that PIGs, which stands for Pipeline Inspection Gauges. PIGs are devices that are sent through pipelines to clean them, make sure they meet design specifications and are structurally sound. Two main lines that were “pigged” at the Legacy site in August and October last year passed their tests with flying colours.
“The results were excellent,” says Marian Pietrasik, Superintendent of Reliability at K+S Potash Canada (KSPC). Pietrasik says the 18- and 24-inch pipelines in question are situated about three metres underground – beneath the frost line – and run 6.7 kilometres from the wellfield to the process plant. Each has as an aboveground “launcher” and “receiver” for PIGs. After the cleaning PIG is sent through the pipe as many times as is required, the gauging and sizing PIG is sent through via water pressure. Data generated is interpreted to determine whether it’s then safe to launch a “smart” PIG through the line. The smart PIGs – there was one to fit each pipe – employ sophisticated technology enabling contracted engineers to check for flaws and anomalies in the conduit.
Pietrasik says it’s important that the data from the first two PIGs be accurately assessed to ensure the smart PIG does not become damaged or lodged in the pipe, which would require excavation of the line as well as extrication and possibly replacement of the expensive tool. “These smart PIGs are the brains of the operation,” he says. “They’re worth a minimum $500,000 each.”
Pietrasik says the “pigging” process took five days per pipeline and represents the final step in proving the validity and integrity of the lines to the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment. He says there are several more underground pipelines that