Ice pigs might fly for drug industry says newly acquired tech firm

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Picture credit flickr/petpiggies
Picture credit flickr/petpiggies
The company behind a new pipe cleaning technology known as ‘ice pigging’ has been bought by the UK arm of Spanish water treatment firm Agbar.

Bristol, UK-headquartered University spinout PCIP – which was acquired by fellow Westcountry-based firm Aqualogy this week for an undisclosed sum – developed ‘ice pigging’ as an alternative to pipe cleaning methods that employ disinfectants.

The approach involves replacing the solid objects – or pigs – usually forced through pipes during industrial cleaning operations with slush ice, which clears the channels and walls in a less abrasive and more effective manner according to PCIP.

A spokeswoman for PCIP told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: "We have had tentative demonstrations from some major global manufacturers in the pharmaceutical sector​" adding that "we expect Ice Pigging will be adopted as a product separator for low risk materials where the ice ‘pig’ can be used to separate one product from another without stopping production.

"Ice Pigging will make its biggest contribution as part of a pre-CIP [Clean-In-Place] process to remove material from complex pipe work ducts and process equipment" she continued, adding that "the ice ‘pig’ will efficiently and effectively go through complex units such as plate heat exchangers​."

Cost savings

Aqualogy has been providing the technique to customers under license for the past five years.

A spokesman for the firm told us "Ice Pigging is more effective than other cleaning methods for industrial cleaning applications due to its unique rheological properties. The ‘pig’ of slushed ice flows like a semi solid and can exert wall shear rates 1000 times higher than those which can be achieved by traditional solutions such as water flowing, at the same volume flow rates.

"Ice Pigging is therefore able to achieve unprecedented levels of 'clean' whilst producing small and easy to handle effluent volume. Once melted, the ice is simply water, and so the process is exceptionally low risk​."

He added that: "The cost savings associated with Ice Pigging are one of the key benefits. Part of the cost savings will be derived from reduced effluent treatment costs, additional savings will also come from product recovery and perhaps the greatest financial benefit will arise from reduced cleaning cycle times.​"

Aqualogy is already "working with one of the major global pharmaceutical manufacturers in the UK and have worked with a number of clients elsewhere globally​" he added.

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