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Gravity Fed: Innovation in Pipeline Maintenance

Jason Weiss with an Argus Multi-Pig Launcher
Jason Weiss with an Argus Multi-Pig Launcher

An Interview with Argus' Vice President of Innovation and Technology, Jason Weiss

You can go to war with gravity, but attrition will always beat you. Instead of defying gravity, Argus Engineering discovered a way to partner up with the force. By collaborating instead of fighting, they overcame gravity's obstacles and adopted its best qualities: reliability, consistency, and effectiveness.

Argus is a Canadian manufacturing and engineering company specializing in pipeline products, premium threading, and custom manufacturing services. Argus is well-recognized in the pipeline construction and maintenance industry for its pigging solutions, products, and modules, which are of the highest quality and most innovative designs available today. Behind that quality and innovations is Jason Weiss, Vice President of Innovation and Technology at Argus. I was fortunate to sit down with Jason to discuss Argus and some of its fascinating product lines, including a product that utilizes gravity to enhance efficiency.

How did your career at Argus begin?

I like to begin by learning a little more about you and your tenure at Argus.
Tell me how you started with Argus and your path to Vice President of Innovation & Technology? 

"Yeah, certainly. I started my career at Argus over 20 years ago as a third-year mechanical engineering student. I always joke with people that since then, I have never left because I have never needed to leave. Argus has continually challenged me, and it's always been fun. I still, after 22 years, love coming to work.

I was a Design Engineer, which transitioned to Chief Products Engineer, then to an Engineering Manager where I had teams of people who designed innovative products. The final transition was to Vice President. I'm responsible for Argus's engineering on both our Technology & Service and Products & Innovation divisions, our overall Quality Management and Continuous Improvement teams."

What innovations have you overseen in your tenure at Argus?

Would you tell us about some of the innovations you have participated in during your tenure?

"I have had the privilege of working on many different cross-functional teams at Argus, where innovative solutions have been born. Some of those highlights would be the Argus Pig Valve. We've been manufacturing pig valves since 1994. When I joined Argus, we had a line of pig valves and our first multiple pig launcher from two to eight inches. I led the teams that developed a complete pigging solution line from two to 20 inches. These solutions included our different models of pigging valves, our multiple pig launcher, and then onto the automated launching packages.”

What is the function of the Argus Multi-Launcher, and how does it benefit pipeline integrity?

Tell me a little about the Argus Multi-Launcher? What is it, and how does it help pipelines continue to operate?

“It allows our customers to send pipeline-cleaning pigs remotely. Conventionally, when you pig, you send operators to the field every time. With Argus’ Multi-Pig Launcher, you stack seven or eleven pigs, depending on the size and have human intervention only once per those seven or eleven pigs, when loading.

Our solution was first developed for remote locations where customer sites were either inaccessible or didn't have road access seasonally. It was very costly to get to the site. The Argus multiple pig launcher provides an automated solution where you only go to the site every seven or eleven pigs.

"Now we're focusing a lot in gas gathering to solve the problem of high-frequency pigging. Rather than tie up a human operator four times a day, every day of the week, or every three days, the operator loads the pigs and then goes among their other routine business in between."

Why do customers need to pig with such high frequency?

You mention focusing on helping natural gas companies that require high-frequency pigging. Why do these companies need to pig so frequently?

"When you have water in your steel pipeline, it's a good spot for corrosion to start. By regularly pigging, you sweep the water out of low-lying areas. it's part of your corrosion inhibition. From a production optimization standpoint, you choke off your pipe as the water sits in low-lying pipeline areas. So regularly pigging in these wet, gas-producing areas means higher production and less demand on downstream processes to remove the higher volume of water. More dollars at the end of the day and a higher bottom line.”

How does the Multi-Pig Launcher improve upon the Traditional Pig Launchers?

Traditionally, cleaning and inspection pigs are sent using barrel pig trapping systems. How does the Argus Multi-Pig Launcher improve upon this conventional method? 

“Our system offers enhanced safety to the operations personnel. It reduces the environmental impact through a significant reduction in GHG emissions. And, in many cases, you get a significant reduction in the upfront capital and a reduction of ongoing operational costs to our customers.

The barrel is also quite large, with many different components. Our equipment gets us in spaces that are typically unpiggable with barrels."

Why is the design vertical instead of horizontal?

I cannot help but notice the Multi-Pig Launcher is vertical, not horizontal. Is there a reason for that?

"Essentially, we want to keep the operation of the multiple pig launcher simple.

We want to use gravity to our advantage, and not try to fight gravity. So by going to a vertical system where our pig stack is in a barrel on top of our pigging valve, we basically have a free-fall system where gravity feeds the pigs. And what that allows us to do is not need complex mechanisms in the pipeline media, that can be prone to failure."

What is the MPL Cost and Emissions Calculator?

Argus has developed a consultation tool for the Multi-Pig Launcher. What is the tool and what it calculates? 

"It is an analysis tool that our sales team can use with customers, to wrap their head around upfront cost versus ongoing operational cost, as well as fully appreciate the reduction of environmental impact, and the costs now associated with emissions of greenhouse gases."

What is Next for Argus? 

Lastly, I would like to ask what is next for Argus. How do you see the company moving forward?

"It is an exciting time for us. We continue to work with our customers across the industry in providing unique Pigging Solutions. Our Engineering and Sales Team members directly interact with our customers and understand their unique or challenging pigging needs. Our ability to work directly with our customers as partners and design and build pigging solutions locally in North America, which solve their problems or elevate their operations, is crucial to our success and allows Argus to be an Authority on Pigging.

We also continue to evolve our product and service offering both in our product line and our service offering through custom manufacturing. We're moving into different spaces, expanding beyond our conventional oil and gas business, and doing some unique things in the transportation and hydrogen industries."

I want to thank Jason Weiss for taking the time to sit down and teach us more about Argus and the exciting innovations coming from his team and the company.

If you are interested in receiving a consultation, you can contact Argus at: https://www.argusinnovates.com/contact  

Or, if you want to learn more about the Multi-Pig Launcher and its benefits, you can find more information at: https://www.argusinnovates.com/products/view-product/multi-pig-launchers

Interview by: Nicolaas Ainsworth

Argus' Multi-Pig Launcher