ABB helps clear ice pigs for take-off
ABB is supporting the development of a technology that is set to revolutionise cleaning operations in food and drink, water, nuclear power and other process industries. Invented at the University of Bristol, "ice pigging" promises big cost reductions and environmental improvements in a wide range of cleaning operations.
ABB supplied all the flow, pressure, conductivity and suspended solids instrumentation, as well as PLCs, drives and low-voltage electrical products to help turn the research project into a practical working system. "We've got a good relationship with ABB and they've helped by providing best-in-class equipment," says ice pigging's inventor, Professor Joe Quarini, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bristol.
Ice pigging overcomes many of the drawbacks of conventional cleaning by pushing a plug of icy slurry under pressure through pipes to remove debris. Conventional pigging uses solid plugs, but these can get stuck and sometimes can't be used at all if the pipework is too complex. In contrast, ice pigs can never cause a blockage. Even if a problem did crop up, the ice would ultimately melt and drain through the system. The flow properties of ice pigs mean they can also find their way around t-junctions, u-bends and other awkward arrangements that might otherwise prevent pigging from being used.
Following great success with trials in the water industry last year, the Bristol engineers are now in the process of setting up a series of pilot schemes in different food production facilities. The potential for food applications is enormous, according to Professor Quarini.
"Conventional cleaning-in-place (CIP) circulates water and caustic for tens of minutes and the production plant is out of action for the whole time. It also generates vast quantities of contaminated waste water that needs treating. But at home you wouldn't try to wash a heavily contaminated bowl out by just rinsing it," he says. "You'd scrape it out first, and that's what the ice does. Ice pigging could have a huge impact on reducing both the cleaning time and the amount of contaminated water generated."
Ice pigging is also expected to deliver more effective transitions between production runs, because the slurry can be used to separate different products during the switch from one to another. For instance, preventing one batch of yoghurt from mixing with another of a different flavour will reduce waste substantially. And because almost all of the material pushed out ahead of the pig remains undiluted by the ice, product yields will increase.
"It may take time, but I expect ice pigging to become the standard way of cleaning pipes in a range of industries," says Professor Quarini. "These pigs will fly."
"We're thrilled to be contributing to the development of this exciting new technology," says Les Slocombe, Marketing Services Manager for ABB Measurement Products. "It's great to be able to support a British invention that promises to deliver big cost savings and environmental benefits across the process industries."
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