19 Mar 2020

Pushing the Pig: How to Get Your Pipelines Online Sooner

pipeline in front of Aggreko equipment

Are you getting frustrated with how long it takes to cool water for crucial hydrotests during summer months? Or striving for faster, safer ways to get all the water and humidity out of your pipes so you can commission ahead of schedule?  

Getting your pipelines tested and ready for use is one of the last and most important hurdles in any new commissioning project, but there are so many small details that can slow you down. 

After all, you’re talking about extremely long stretches of pipeline that need to be completely clear of any foreign materials by the time you start running your product through them. That’s tricky to achieve when you can’t exactly see what you’re doing - and if you miss anything, this could be incredibly dangerous and costly later on.

Let’s take a look at the primary challenges and how you can address these to get your pipeline online quickly.

Cleaning Out Your Pipelines

The first thing you need to do is clear stagnant water and any other dirt and debris out of your pipelines. 

The best way to do this is with cleaning pigs. You blast them through the entire length of the pipes using compressors, boosters and other equipment, and the brushes push out anything lingering inside. The more powerful your compressors, the faster you’ll be able to achieve this.

Checking for Leaks

Any leaks in your pipes would obviously be an expensive, destructive disaster. This makes it essential that you run a thorough hydrotest, flooding and pressurizing water through the pipes to make sure nothing gets through the walls and connections.

This poses a problem. The water needs to be cool enough to pass through the pipes without causing damage and to meet regulations, but when ambient temperatures are high, your test water can quickly shoot up to as much as 110°F. That means you either need to wait for it to naturally cool down or cool it quickly with chillers and other surface equipment before you can use it.

Allowing the water to cool naturally can take up to 10 days - and no one wants to rack up the costs of hanging around, paying the crew to do nothing while they wait. You can tackle this quickly and easily, though, using generator-powered chillers to create a rapid cooling system that brings water down to the desired temperature within a matter of hours. 

This is especially effective if you link this up to a pressurization system that floods the water straight into the pipes and collects it back in the original tanks once used. Not only will that fix your problem, but it may also cut several days off your production schedule. 

Drying the Pipelines

Next, you need to dry your pipelines thoroughly. Again, you can do this using 100% oil-free air compressors, dryers and dehumidifiers that force out any remaining moisture. If you set this up as part of the system described above you’ll get things done even faster! 

Purging and Inerting

Lastly, if you’re laying natural gas pipelines, you need to purge all the air inside before you start using them. Any oxygen left inside could cause rust or worse, mix with the natural gas and lead to an explosion. A combination of nitrogen generators and compressors can be used to complete this purging process.

Final Thoughts

There are not many safe shortcuts to getting these processes right. Meanwhile, a small rental expense for the best possible technology will help you finish the testing and commissioning job much sooner. Just make sure you work with a partner that understands all the tasks you need to check off during pre-commissioning and can design a streamlined solution that helps you tackle all of them as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible!