What pigging is and how it works

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What Is Pigging from HPS:

Expert consultants in Pigging Systems

Pigging technology has been around in different forms since the early part of the twentieth century.

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Today, a wide variety of sectors, industries and applications that process liquids use pigging (more accurately described as ‘Liquid Product Recovery’ or ‘pipeline product recovery’) to reclaim liquids from pipelines and tubing. The main purpose of pigging is to reduce waste, increase yields and capacity, and improve the efficiency of manufacturing and production processes.

Despite it being in common use in factories and production facilities throughout the world, we’re often asked to give an explanation of what pigging is, what’s the purpose of pigging, and describe what pigging does.

hygienic pigging part


In the process industries, pigging refers to technology that uses specialist projectiles to recover, rather than waste, residual liquid in pipelines or industrial tubing. It has progressed from basic equipment used to clean oil pipes, to advanced, fully automated industrial pipeline product recovery and liquid transfer technology used today.

HPS are Hygienic and Sanitary Pipeline Product Recovery Experts.

what is pigging and how it works

Where Is Pigging Used?

If you drink wine, beer, spirits, fruit juices, cola or other types of soft drinks; if you eat chocolate, sweets, candy, yoghurt, soup, honey, sauces, ready meals or dips; or if you use paint, varnish, shampoo, shaving gel, cosmetics, toothpaste, washing up liquid or other household product, then the chances are you’ve drunk, eaten or used something that’s been “pigged”. In other words, pigging has been used at some point during its processing or production.

Some of the Industries Which Use Our Pigging Systems



In its simplest form, a pigging system consists of a solid projectile or plug (the ‘pig’) with a diameter slightly larger than the pipeline or tubing that is transporting the liquid. Pigging works by introducing this pig into the pipeline and pushing it through the pipe. Sometimes it is introduced manually but more commonly automatically. Pigs are introduced, housed and returned using pig launchers and pig receivers. After pigging, liquid is then collected or continues being processed.

Pigging System Design

HPS liquid processing equipment

Why Do Companies Use Pigging?

The main reasons organisations in process industries use it is to recover product, which increases yields and reduces waste. Process industries also use pigging to remove nearly all residual product from the inside of pipes and tubing, which in turn reduces the use of cleaning fluids, uses less water, saves time, improves process efficiency and ultimately increases profits. In addition, because pipeline product recovery using pigging saves resources, it also helps towards sustainability.

Learn more about the benefits of pigging

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How pigging works

  • What happens during the pigging process?

    To ‘pig’ a system, HPS pigs are propelled through the pipe by pressurizing the pipe work behind it. There are different ways to propel pigs, but usually compressed air, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen, clean water or even the next product (depending on the application) provide the pressure. Instead of being flushed to drain, waste treatment or collection areas, the liquid residue in the pipe is recovered: pushed by the Pig and forced to the destination filler or tank to continue processing along with the rest of the product.


  • How fast is the pigging process?

    What many people don’t realise is that pigging is an extremely quick process. The precise speed at which a pig travels depends on a number of factors; however, the process is nearly always a lot quicker than many people think. This is great because it saves time and labour with reduced CIP and speeds up changeovers. Here’s a video which shows how fast a pig travels through a pipeline or tube. Note how there’s no product left on the clear tube after pigging and how fast the pig travels; it’s all done in an instant!

  • What are the parts and components of pigging systems?

    A pigging system is made up of a variety of different parts and components. These include pig launchers, receivers, detectors, storage, housings, propellant sources, PLCs, HMI’s, control software, and various valves, supports and fittings.

    Pigging system components are often fitted on existing process equipment or can be built into new designs. However, the most important component is the pig itself. The operational efficiency, effectiveness and ultimately the success of a pigging project depends on a reliable, high-performance, well designed, good quality pig.

    Learn more about the key components of a pigging system

  • What are the key industries benefiting from pigging?

    There’s a massive range of liquid products and processes that use pigging. Examples of these include food and beverages (which use hygienic or sanitary pigs and hygienic or sanitary tubing), as well as household, personal care, cosmetics, paints and pet food production.

    While pigging is used in a wide variety of different industries and sectors to achieve different results and goals, the main purpose of pigging usually centres on product recovery, product transfer, environmental sustainability and operational efficiency.

    Read our pigging case studies

  • Is pigging used in industrial processes?

    While many industrial process applications use pigging, it’s also used in utility industries, such as oil, gas and water. However, while the principles are similar, there are big differences between industrial process pigging and utility pigging.

  • Are pigging system designed with automatic control?

    Most HPS pigging systems are either partly or fully automated. Pigging systems with fully automated pigging process control have a wide range of benefits. These include increasing process speed, productivity, and efficiency. Automation also enhances safety and decreases the chances of human error.

  • Pigging in Practice

    Here’s a typical example to illustrate why many industrial processes use pigging.

    A company that manufactures say paint needs to change the type or colour of paint it processes several times a day (while using the same pipeline). When changing from one type of paint to another, there will always be paint remaining in the pipeline or tubing from the previous run. This is because some of the paint will cling to the walls or remain in other areas of the pipe. It is important that all this previous product is removed prior to changeover. It has to be removed to prevent contamination of the next product. More importantly, it’s perfectly usable product, so if it’s flushed away, it’s wasted rather than being processed, packaged or sold. Flushing good product away is bad for sustainability and the environment, expensive, and incurs disposal costs.

    Without a pigging process, the pipe or tube would typically be flushed through using water or other cleaning fluid (and some cleaning fluids are highly toxic). Not only does this take time, labour and uses a lot of water and cleaning fluid, it results in the fluid that stayed in the pipe being flushed to waste. Pigging saves this product in useable form. HPS pigs typically recover up to 99.5% of product!

    We’ve used paint here just as an example. However, it’s by no means limited to paint – there’s a massive range of liquid products and processes that use pigging.

homecare production pigging case study

Case STudy on pigging systems

saving a consumer goods company around 160 gallons of a popular homecare product

Here’s how much pigging can save. The automatic pigging systems are also reducing waste, increasing efficiency, speeding up changeover times and improving environmental sustainability in homecare liquid production.

Read Full Case Study

Use a Specialist

Pigs are dense objects working in pressurised systems that travel through pipes at high speed. So, pigging system safety must be given the highest priority to mitigate and minimise risks. There are many physical, electronic and procedural safety measures you can put in place to do this. The most important is to use an experienced provider like HPS. Our systems have exceptionally high levels of safety and an excellent track record.

Although the principles of pigging are fairly straightforward, it takes many years of experience and high levels of expertise to successfully design, implement and commission an effective pigging system, and fully understand the nuances of how pigging works. That’s why, if you’re considering a pigging solution for your company, you should always work with a specialist company such as HPS Product Recovery Solutions.

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why COMPANIES USE pigging



increased yields and margins

Instead of flushing residual product to waste, pigging systems mean you can continue to process it, or pack, store or sell it.


reduced waste processing

By increasing product yields through pigging, there’s less product to send to waste. In addition, the cleaning and changeover processes also use less cleaning fluids and water.



Because pigging saves product, cleaning agents and water, it’s much kinder to the environment. Not only are you using less overall, but there’s also less waste to treat, saving resources and energy, as well as less waste to transport, so fewer trucks on the road going to treatment plants and disposal facilities.


Increased efficiency and PRODUCTIVITY

Pigging systems improve productivity and efficiency. This is through increased yields, higher capacity, faster changeover times, reduced flushing and so on.

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