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Ice pigging at Yeo Valley

07 September 2015

Votator heat exchangers
Votator heat exchangers

Cleaning pipework can be challenging, especially when trying to limit downtime. Pigging is a well-known solution, but can ice pigging offer something new?

One major advantage to pigging is product savings, as the entire line contents can be cleared either towards the end of the pipe or back towards the source tank, enabling faster and more reliable product changeover.

Other traditional cleaning methods flush heated water through the pipes, carrying residue and remaining product away down the drain, and can result in a lot of wasted heat an energy that can be quite costly. 

Ice pigging however is an innovative method of flushing industrial pipework through the use of an ice slurry, and has been used effectively in the water industry since 2010, says Matthew Stephenson, Business Unit Director for Ice Pigging at Aqualogy UK. The system uses slush ice to clean the walls of the pipe and doesn’t require disinfecting chemicals during the cleaning process. This means that as much as 75% of the remaining product carried within the pipeline can be recovered and sold on for extra revenue, therefore increasing profit and reducing the associated waste costs.

The dairy industry is a particularly well-suited sector for ice pigging, and could discover significant savings by moving away from traditional methods for cleaning their vast manufacturing pipework. 

The technology is patented and offered by Aqualogy Environment Ltd, a subsidiary of Suez Environnement. The Aqualogy group operates in 18 countries globally and has over 140 years’ experience in the water industry.

Increased revenue and savings
Ice pigging was trialled in partnership with Yeo Valley, an organic dairy company, on their ‘Surprise’ production line successfully. Surprise is a product with a custard-like consistency. Analysis of the results showed a potential increase of £350,000 a year in revenue for the company through product recovery, compared to the traditional flushing technique employed by the company.

Savings were also highlighted for water consumption from the traditional technique, with a potential reduction of up to 25 tonnes of water per day, plus a knock on effect of a significant reduction to effluent production levels.

“As an engineer myself, I was very interested and involved in the project and could see the benefits of ice pigging straightaway compared to traditional pigging systems,” says Andy Rimell, General Manager of the Newton Abbot site at Yeo Valley. “Ice pigging technology has great potential for the dairy and food industry.”

Environmental savings
In-depth analysis conducted by the Carbon Trust has revealed that the dairy industry could make significant savings and improved profitability by introducing ice pigging into commercial dairies, as well as reducing their environmental impact through the disposal of much reduced levels of effluent and chemical waste. 

Increased production time
The need for flushing can be reduced or even removed, thanks to the cleaning action of the ice on the pipeline during transit. This means that Clean in Place (CIP) times can be dramatically reduced, which increases production times and levels.

The water industry has already widely adopted ice pigging as a cost-effective and highly efficient way of cleaning drinking water pipes globally. The semi-solid nature of ice slurry allows it to be pumped like a liquid through pipelines and can adapt to the topography of the pipes as well as large changes in diameter, but it acts as a solid cleaning element to remove sediment build-up through pressurised pipework. 

Capital savings
A fully integrated ice pigging system within a dairy facility can deliver a potential £115,000 of extra savings annually through reduced downtime for cleaning and maintenance, through increased productivity and a greater volume of product left available for sale. These increases in revenue will more than offset the initial capital investment needed to integrate ice pigging into the production facility.

Overall, the benefits of ice pigging for the food industry are:
  • Reduced downtime due to a shorter duration of cleaning process
  • An increase in product recovery
  • A reduction in water usage during the cleaning process, meaning less effluent production
  • A reduction in water treatment requirements due to less Chemical Oxygen Demand in the effluent
  • Reduced use of CIP chemicals, which benefits both the environment and bottom line profitability.

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