One-of-a-kind pigging facility prepares team members for pipeline inspections

Since 2020, Southern Star’s training center in Hesston, Kansas has been home to one of the only pig launcher and receiver facilities run by air in North America. In pipeline transportation, pigs are devices used to inspect a pipeline from the inside. The pigs are launched from one part of the pipeline and received at another.

“We’re always looking for ways to develop classes around a hands-on experience,” said Jeff Gorman, Training Manager in Hesston, Kansas. “When developing a pigging class with our Integrity team, it made sense to allow our team members to pig.”

The Training team at Southern Star worked with Engineering to create a design that could be used in our footprint. Then, Lance Eastep, Welder in Colby, Kansas, worked on assembling it.

The facility has a six-inch barrel and a four-inch line. When used, the pig leaves the launcher, goes about 80 feet, and makes a U-turn to come back to the receiver.

“Our facility is incredibly unique. We’ve had pigging vendors come through and look at it. We contacted industry experts while designing it. In those discussions, they told us we’re the only facility like this in North America run by air,” Jeff explained.

There are similar facilities in North America that run with water to allow for more control, but most of these facilities are designed for testing. Southern Star chose to run its facility on air to give team members a more realistic experience.

“We look at the work our Operators and Technicians have to do. We then evaluate what’s the best use of our training center to teach the tasks they perform. This was seen as a priority because we do pigging all the time,” Jeff said.

Many Southern Star team members have used the facility as part of their training. Even some people working outside of our Operations team have run pigs using the facility in order to show them how it works.

“One of the best ways to learn is by doing. When people actually have to perform an activity and think about it, their knowledge retention is much better. Our pig launcher and receiver facility provides team members a unique and valuable experience in a safe environment.”

This one-of-a-kind facility is educating team members with hands-on instruction in a controlled environment, all while improving team member performance and safety.