Ice Pigging: New Water, Sewer Pigging Method Offers Unique Benefits

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | January 2013, Vol. 68, No. 1
Ice exiting the water main through the dechlorination box. It just shows how dirty the ice is after pigging operations.

A new breed of pipeline “pig” has arrived in the United States.

“Pigging” to clean pipelines is an accepted procedure used by utility pipeline owners. The process is relatively simple: a device (pig) is inserted into a pipe where pressure forces it through the pipe, scraping the inside sidewalls and carrying debris to an exit point out of the pipe. A variety of pig designs are available.

A new type of pigging became available in the U.S. and Canada early in 2012 when Utility Service Co., Atlanta, GA, became the exclusive license holder for ice pigging for water and wastewater applications in the U.S. and Canada.

The ice pigging process pumps ice slurry -- the pig -- into a pipe, filling it to 10 to 20 percent of its volume capacity. System pressure carries the ice downstream to an exit point.

“The ice works much like a glacier,” said Kirt Ervin, P.E., Utility Service’s vice president of water quality. “It does not bulldoze the sediment; rather it picks up the sediments within the slurry and carries them out of the main, greatly reducing the amount of water used in the process. Cleaning by ice pigging is comparable to swabbing, and it provides up to 1,000 times more cleaning effectiveness than using water alone.”

An ice pig being disposed of in a sanitary sewer with ice accumulated in the bottom.

Ice pigging can be used to clean pipe in diameters from 1/4 to 24-inches.

Utility Service Co. provides ice pigging services directly to water and wastewater utility system operators, but also will work with engineers and general contractors where appropriate or as part of a larger project, said Ervin. The company does not provide pipe rehabilitation or installation services.

Education challenges

Clearly the need for large quantities of ice sets this type of pigging apart from other pipe cleaning technologies, and educating potential customers is a primary activity of the company.

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