Innovative Pipeline Cleaning Through “Leading with Chemistry”

June 2013, Vol. 240, No. 6

Lowell McLeroy, Technical Advisor-Global Pipeline Services

Online and offline pipeline chemical cleaning process inefficiencies can be a major cause of cost increases and pipeline downtime in maintenance projects. M-I SWACO Pipeline Services (M-I PLS) in Houston have developed advanced evaluation methods and patented formulated chemical products that significantly improve the effectiveness of any pipeline cleaning requirements.

Through analytical identification of line contaminants and advanced evaluations of the pipeline system’s condition, customized chemical and mechanical cleaning regimens are devised. Additionally, eco-friendly methods for handling, processing and disposing of waste materials from the cleaning runs have been established. This, in turn, allows for the effective usage of the chemicals, minimization of waste cost and reducing environmental impact concerns.

By adopting both scientific and engineered approaches to each project, M-I PLS has established progressive techniques needed to dramatically improve the effectiveness of the pipeline chemical cleaning process in even the most difficult lines. This methodical approach to pipeline cleaning is known as “Leading with Chemistry”.

The “Leading with Chemistry” for successful pipeline cleaning outcomes is a tiered process. The process starts with project assignments and then a detailed analytical investigation of the pipeline’s contaminant material is undertaken. Recommendations for specific pumping and receiving equipment, pigs and chemical formulations are established. The final process is the project execution and concludes with post-job evaluations.

Developing the customized cleaning chemistry and mechanical process is prepared on a case-by-case approach. M-I PLS devotes a team of experts in the fields of chemistry, engineering and pipeline cleaning to coordinate and design the exact protocols needed for that specific project.

Another benefit to “Leading with Chemistry” is the capability to evaluate the cleaning effectiveness at the job site utilizing specified analytical monitoring. If the process is demonstrating to be ineffective, chemical formulations can be adjusted and blended on-site to ensure successful cleaning will occur.

An important aspect to consider in pipeline cleaning projects is the management of waste byproduct materials. In most cases it is difficult to calculate the amount of waste material that will be produced and the total cost of handling and disposal. If the pipeline waste is deemed hazardous under regulatory categories, the cost for disposal is expensive, requires additional permitting processes and added fees. A key economic factor in M-I PLS pipeline projects is the capability to treat the waste material to mitigate disposal costs.

To deal with disposal concerns, M-I PLS has initiated a pioneering process with regards to waste management from spent cleaning products and byproducts from pipelines. By means of integrating chemicals, application techniques, engineering and specific fluids/solids processing equipment from M-I SWACO Production Waste Management, a treatment and reclaiming process can be integrated into any pipeline project.

The discarded byproducts from the pipeline will be transferred to specialized treatment units that process the fluids and solids. This practice of waste management is intended to reduce disposal costs, enhance environmental protection and promote the recycling of carrier fluids and chemical products.

For more information about “Leading with Chemistry” and “pig-the-unpiggable” through chemistry visit

Lowell McLeroy is Technical Advisor-Global Pipeline Services, M-I SWACO | A Schlumberger Company, Houston, TX. He can be reached at