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Ln-place stability and integrity of offshore

pipelines crossing or resting on active
bedforms or loose or soft soils

Article · September 2014


0 233

4 authors:

Roberto Bruschi Sabrina Bughi

Saipem S.p.A. Saipem S.p.A.


Michele Drago Floriano Gianfelici

Saipem S.p.A. Saipem S.p.A.


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September, 2014 Vol.13, No.3

Journal of
Pipeline Engineering
The Journal of Pipeline Integrity

Great Southern Press Clarion Technical Publishers

Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Editorial Board – 2014

Dr Husain Al-Muslim, Pipeline Engineer, Consulting Services Department,

Saudi Aramco, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Mohd Nazmi Ali Napiah, Pipeline Engineer, Petronas Gas, Segamat, Malaysia
Prof. Abul-Fazal M Arif, Director, Stress Analysis Laboratory, and Professor,
Department of Mechanical Engineering, King Fahd University of Petroleum and
Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Dr-Ing Michael Beller, Rosen Engineering, Karlsruhe, Germany
Jorge Bonnetto, Operations Director TGS (retired), TGS, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dr Andrew Cosham, Atkins, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Dr Sreekanta Das, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, University of Windsor, ON, Canada
Leigh Fletcher, Welding and Pipeline Integrity, Braidwood, NSW, Australia
Daniel Hamburger, Pipeline Maintenance Manager, Kinder Morgan, Birmingham, AL,
Dr Stijn Hertele, Universiteit Gent – Laboratory Soete, Gent, Belgium
Dr Phil Hopkins, Executive Director, Penspen Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Michael Istre, Chief Engineer, Project Consulting Services, Houston, TX, USA
Dr Shawn Kenny, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Faculty of Engineering and Design, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Dr Gerhard Knauf, Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung GmbH, Duisburg, Germany
Prof. Andrew Palmer, Dept of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore,
Prof. Dimitri Pavlou, Department of Mechanical/Structural Engineering and Materials
Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway
Dr Julia Race, Dept of Naval Architecture, Ocean, and Marine Engineering,
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
Dr John Smart, John Smart & Associates, Houston, TX, USA
Jan Spiekhout, DNV GL, Groningen, Netherlands
Prof. Sviatoslav Timashev, Russian Academy of Sciences,
Science & Engineering Centre, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Patrick Vieth, President, Dynamic Risk, The Woodlands, TX, USA
Dr Honggang Zhou, Center for Reliable Energy Systems, Dublin, OH, USA
Dr Joe Zhou, Technology Leader, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd, Calgary, Canada
Dr Xian-Kui Zhu, Principal Engineer, Edison Welding Institute, Columbus, OH, USA

3rd Quarter, 2014 145

The Journal of
Pipeline Engineering

The Journal of Pipeline Integrity

Volume 13, No 3 • Third Quarter, 2014

Prof. Shawn Kenny ................................................................................................................................................. 147
Guest editorial

Jason Cosford, Dave van Zeyl, and Lynden Penner ............................................................................................... 149
Terrain analysis for pipeline design, construction, and operation

Roberto Bruschi, Sabrina Bughi, Michele Drago, and Floriano Gianfelici ......................................................... 167
In-place stability and integrity of offshore pipelines crossing or resting on active bedforms or loose or soft soils

Kenton Pike, Prof. Shawn Kenny, and Prof. Bipul Hawlader ............................................................................. 201
Numerical and constitutive model development to aid design against pipeline geohazards

Nobuhisa Suzuki ..................................................................................................................................................... 211

An overview of strain-based seismic design of high-pressure gas pipelines

The Journal of Pipeline

Engineering has been
accepted by the Scopus
OUR COVER PHOTO is a section of Fig.3 from the paper on pages 149-165, Content Selection &
Advisory Board (CSAB) to
showing challenging terrain for pipeline routeing represented in a 3D visualization be part of the SciVerse Scopus
created from satellite imagery. database and index.
146 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

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3rd Quarter, 2014 147

Guest editorial
A special edition of the Journal of Pipeline Engineering on the
importance of integrating terrain analysis, geotechnical engineering,
and geohazard assessment, in the engineering framework

E NERGY PIPELINES ARE an efficient and reliable

mode of transport to deliver hydrocarbon products over
long distances from field development areas to industrial and
the first paper on Terrain analysis for pipeline design, construction
and operations.

civilian end users. These pipeline systems are an integral The vast majority of onshore pipelines are buried in prepared
component of national economies that promote our quality trenches with engineering requirements on the type, quality,
of life. For example, in 2012, the Canadian Energy Pipeline and strength characteristics of the pipe bedding and soil
Association estimated the pipeline industry contributed more trench backfill. Offshore pipelines may be placed in backfilled
than $8.8 billion to the Canadian Gross Domestic Product trenches in near-shore regions to mitigate hydrodynamic
(GDP) and more than $84 billion of hydrocarbon products loads (from wave forces, currents) and potential load effects
for export. The pipeline network can be significant in terms from third-party interference (such as impact by anchors and
of the total system length, where in Canada there is an mobile fishing gear). In deeper waters, the offshore pipeline
estimated 830,000 km network of onshore gathering, is preferably laid directly on top of the seabed to minimize
transmission, and distribution pipelines servicing the oil and construction costs associated with intervention activities, such
gas energy industry. The total length of the onshore natural as pre-sweeping, trenching, and span rectification. Depending
gas transmission pipeline network is over 477,000 km in the on the soil conditions, the pipeline may become partially
United States, and 200,000 km within continental Europe. embedded within the surficial sediments.

These individual pipeline systems navigate through The terrain analysis, geotechnical site characterization and
geographical regions with varied terrain units, topography geohazard assessment process evolves through the project life-
(bathymetry), physical environment, geological and cycle that supports engineering design activities. For example,
geotechnical conditions, and hydrological (onshore) or marine the pipeline route may pass through regions with sensitive
(offshore) characteristics. The pipeline may cross national or clays, mining activities (including ground subsidence and acid-
international borders with different political environments, rock drainage), active slope failures (such as debris flows and
socio-economic conditions, legal jurisdictions, and regulatory long-term movement), seismic fault zones (including fault
frameworks. As with other linear infrastructure, in the civil- movement and soil liquefaction), and discontinuous
built environment (for example highways, electrical permafrost (including frost heave and thaw settlement), or
transmission lines), geotechnical site characterization and offshore ice gouging for northern pipelines.
geohazard assessment are integral components of the terrain-
analysis and route-selection processes in support of pipeline- Offshore pipelines may be located in regions with dynamic,
engineering design and construction activities. active seabed conditions (including erosion and deposition
mechanisms, and sand-wave formation and migration) in
The scope and level of detail required is dependent on a response to hydrodynamic loads that may shape the bedform
number of route-specific factors (including pipeline length, (the seabed topography) in the short-term (such as a single
variability in physical conditions, geohazard type, frequency, storm event) or long-term, over several years. The pipeline may
and intensity, project-level design philosophy, lack of data or also be routed through stable regions with limited long-term
uncertainty) and project phase (such as concept selection, evolution or regions with semi-permanent bedforms, which
FEED, detailed design). From a geotechnical perspective, one may include pockmarks and paleo-channels. Traditional
of the key issues is to establish an alignment that mitigates engineering design concepts addressed soil mechanics, and
terrain effects and impact of geohazards on the pipeline pipeline stability and integrity, from a more-simplistic
design, construction, and operations within the permitted framework. The conventional technical approach did not
right-of-way. The technical approach is multi-disciplinary in appreciate the significance of a dynamic environment, such as
nature that integrates the data and analysis, and links this changes in the boundary conditions associated with the
knowledge with other engineering activities (design, logistics, bedform and bedline (the seabed elevation profile in relation
management) in order to support effective decision-making to contact conditions with the pipeline) on the load-transfer
throughout the project life-cycle. These concepts are further processes (the pipeline/soil interaction) and load effects, such
explored in detail, based on practical working knowledge, in as the pipeline’s mechanical response.
148 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Based on practical experience, acquired over the past 30 research studies provide the basis for verification, these tools
years, these concepts are critically assessed in the second paper will become commonplace and integrated as industry state-of-
on In-place stability and integrity of offshore pipelines crossing/ practice, which has already occurred at project-specific levels.
resting on active bedforms or loose/soft soils. The importance of
addressing the dynamic nature of the offshore environment For small-deformation loading events, the pipeline/soil
(the active bedforms) and corresponding load effects (the interaction response is primarily governed by equations of
changing boundary conditions) on the pipeline’s mechanical equilibrium with elastic mechanical behaviour. Current
response and integrity is recognized as a key issue to be industry practice generally provides adequate guidance on
addressed when advancing design and operational strategies stress-based design of pipeline systems with respect to system
for offshore pipelines. Other geotechnical issues, such as the demand and capacity. Natural geohazards, such as long-term
presence of loose or soft soils – which relate to vertical stability slope movement, landslides, seismic fault movements, and
– and significance of geohazards on pipeline integrity are also offshore ice gouging, may result in pipelines experiencing large
examined. deformations with local plastic behaviour and instability
mechanisms (such as buckling, fracture, and plastic collapse).
The load-transfer mechanisms and load effects during pipeline/ There is limited guidance on industry best practices for these
soil interaction events, however, must be evaluated to provide events where the laws of compatibility govern the mechanical
a quantitative context in support of the engineering design of response. Consequently, these large-deformation geohazards
the pipeline system. The mechanical-response analysis can be drive technology-development programmes to assess system
used to assess pipeline integrity with respect to specified design response and capacity with respect to manufacturing processes
criteria such as serviceability (operational) and ultimate (for example, for high-strength steel or clad pipe) and design
(strength) limit-state conditions. For relatively simple pipeline procedures (including limit-states’ frameworks and strain-
configurations (including alignment and elevation profiles), based criteria). From this perspective, the final paper An
loading conditions (such as internal pressure, temperature, overview of strain-based seismic design of high-pressure gas pipelines
pure lateral bearing) and, generally, small deformation addresses these concepts with application to pipelines located
problems, current industry practice provides a practical and in the earthquake-prone Pacific-rim region. Improvements in
cost-effective technical framework for simulating pipeline/ the current state-of-practice examine the capacity of pipelines
soil interaction events. The technical approach is based on to resist large-deformation ground movement events are
structural finite-element modelling procedures where the explored.
pipe/soil continuum behaviour is idealized through a series
of discrete beam and spring elements that represent the In closing, the papers presented in this special edition of the
mechanical response. Journal of Pipeline Engineering have covered a range of
technical issues that the pipeline engineer must address with
Modern pipeline systems are being design for demanding a focus on the importance of integrating terrain analysis,
service conditions often involving high temperatures and geotechnical engineering, and geohazard assessment in the
pressures or aggressive fluids, with the potential for global engineering framework. The contributions by each author in
instability (upheaval and lateral buckling, for instance) and their respective fields of expertise are greatly appreciated. In
local damage mechanisms (axial ratcheting and low-cycle my opinion, the current state-of-practice will advance and
fatigue). Harsh environments, such as in ultra deepwater and evolve from the idealized structural-modelling basis towards
the Arctic, may be associated with large-deformation a more-robust and comprehensive technology framework to
geohazards which include slope instability, frost heave, thaw address industry needs for cost-effective and reliable design
settlement, and ice gouging. The use of advanced continuum- solutions with predictable outcomes to assess geotechnical
finite-element methods, supported by laboratory load effects on pipeline systems. Furthermore, the significance
investigations and physical models, is needed to adequately of addressing dynamic conditions (for example, mobile
address the technical limitations and model uncertainty seabeds, climate change, cumulative effects) and the integration
associated with conventional structural pipe/soil interaction of multi-disciplinary fields with inherent multi-faceted
models. In the third paper on Numerical and constitutive model perspectives will have greater importance as a more-
development to aid design against pipeline geohazards, the technical comprehensive and holistic engineering-systems’ framework
framework to develop and verify advanced simulation tools evolves.
is presented. The discussion argues that the simple structural
beam/spring models cannot address the complex soil- Prof. Shawn Kenny
deformation and failure mechanisms, load-transfer processes, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
and load effects, so as with confidence to predict reliable Carleton University
outcomes for the pipeline’s mechanical response. As the Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
software and hardware technology platforms advance and email: shawn.kenny@carleton.ca
3rd Quarter, 2014 149

Terrain analysis for pipeline

design, construction, and
by Jason Cosford*, Dave van Zeyl, and Lynden Penner
J.D.Mollard and Associates (2010) Ltd, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

T ERRAIN ANALYSIS INVOLVES interpreting the earth’s landforms, surface materials, topography,
hydrology, and land cover, and predicting their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics and
properties to support engineering, environmental, and resource and infrastructure development applications.
In the context of pipeline engineering, terrain analysis plays an important role by combining traditional,
newly developed, and emerging tools and techniques, with a broad understanding of earth landforms,
processes, and material properties to address geotechnical issues. As such, it is an essential and cost-
effective component of early studies to evaluate alternative pipeline routes, avoid terrain and related
problem areas, and generate geotechnical data and maps to support the successful design, construction,
and operation of pipelines. Terrain analysis draws information from traditional airphoto interpretation,
satellite imagery, digital elevation data derived from satellite and airborne sensors, existing geospatial
datasets, and field studies. Geographic-information system (GIS) mapping tools and 3D visualization can
improve pipeline planning and design, and aid effective communication of information to members of the
project team, contractors, regulators, and affected stakeholders. This paper provides an overview of terrain
analysis for pipeline projects and presents selected examples that illustrate the application of terrain analysis
for particular pipeline routeing and design issues. These include features related to permafrost, peatlands,
slope stability, iceberg scour, fluvial processes, and environmental susceptibility to stress-corrosion

P IPELINES ARE ESSENTIAL infrastructure used by the

oil and gas industry to transport various fuels from a
geological source to refinery and production facilities, and by
analysis is an essential and cost-effective component of early
studies to evaluate alternative pipeline routes, to avoid problem
areas, and to generate geotechnical data and maps to support
utilities to carry water from reservoirs and treatment plants, the successful design, construction, and operation of pipelines.
and then ultimately to consumers. For most of its history, the It is, therefore, the purpose of this paper to provide a general
energy pipeline industry was able to route, construct, and overview of the application of terrain analysis to pipeline
operate pipelines based primarily on geological conditions projects and to offer examples (for example, permafrost,
and economic constrains [1-3]; in recent years, however, peatlands, and geohazards) where terrain analysis can be
increased emphasis has been placed on environmental particularly important to pipeline routeing, design,
sensitivity, public safety, and risk management, all of which construction, and operation.
have limited the options for routeing and constructing pipelines
[4, 5].
Application of terrain analysis to
Among the tools used to meet the challenges of pipeline
engineering is terrain analysis, which is the practice of pipeline projects
interpreting landforms and surficial characteristics (earth
materials, topography, hydrology, land cover, etc.) from Stereoscopic and 3D renderings of airphotos, satellite images,
remotely-sensed data and existing maps to predict physical, and digital-elevation models (DEM), supported by reference
chemical, and biological properties that support engineering to published maps and field data, are used to map landforms,
and environmental applications [3]. With respect to pipeline deduce depositional processes, and infer surface materials
engineering, terrain analysis provides an understanding of and their geotechnical characteristics. Integration of 3D
geotechnical and environmental factors that affect pipeline terrain interpretations with complimentary datasets in a
routeing, design, construction, and operation (Fig.1). Terrain geographic-information system (GIS) provides the platform
for assessing the spatial distribution of landforms and
associated characteristics, and for understanding topographic,
*Corresponding author’s contact details:
tel: +1 306 352 8811 hydrologic, and land-cover (vegetation) features within a
e-mail: cosford@jdmollard.com study area. Integration of infrastructure and environmental
150 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.1. Conceptual framework for the application of terrain analysis to pipeline design, construction, and operation.
3rd Quarter, 2014 151

datasets provides additional useful information for planning involves the acquisition of new data at larger scales and finer
purposes. Among the variables evaluated in the pipeline resolution. For remotely-sensed imagery, this may entail the
planning process are: acquisition of high-resolution satellite imagery (for example,
Satellite pour l’Observation de la Terre, SPOT; Quickbird,
• surficial materials etc.) or low-level aerial photography. At this stage of the study,
• topography (slope, relief, roughness) digital-elevation data may be acquired using LiDAR (light-
• route length (shortest distance) detection and ranging), which provides high-resolution
• stream crossings (number of crossings, widths, depths) elevation data that can be processed in a GIS to yield detailed
• geohazards topographic data and interpretations of the landscape. When
• wetland and permafrost crossings routeing a pipeline, these low-level studies allow a detailed
• land-use and existing infrastructure (crossing roads, route (right-of-way, ROW) to be selected within a wider
rail lines, mines, etc.) corridor and individual geohazards to be evaluated. Terrain
• proximity to populated areas conditions along the route can also be evaluated with respect
• protected areas to constraints and requirements of construction and
• climate change maintenance. These factors can then be used in an economic
analysis of the project.
When planning the application of terrain analysis to meet the
objectives of a project, consideration is given to the scale and Field reconnaissance
resolution of the data required, the imagery and data
characteristics, and costs. Terrain analysis yields valuable information based on existing
maps and remotely-sensed data (satellite imagery, aerial
Scales of terrain analysis photography, digital-elevation data). Even so, after the
completion of a ‘desktop’ terrain study, a further step is often
Different scales of study can be chosen depending on the needed which entails conducting field studies to both validate
purpose of the project, the detail and availability of existing the analysis (‘ground truthing’) and to collect new data to
data, and time and cost limitations. Generally, more-detailed refine and revise the interpretations.
data come at greater expense and effort, and for most studies,
a multi-stage approach is used. The first stage is to conduct a Prior to going into the field, specific sites are identified based
high-level or regional study to establish the overall terrain on such criteria as the nature of issues to be investigated; the
conditions and to determine locations where low-level or type of terrain in which these issues are likely to be encountered;
more detailed investigations are required. Pipeline route a representative distribution of sites along the pipeline;
selection, for example, begins with a high-level evaluation that exposure of materials for observation and testing; accessibility;
allows for one or more potential route corridors (usually and the availability of complementary data. Along with
several kilometres in width) to be identified, followed by identifying specific locations, a list of conditions and features
progressively more-detailed low-level analysis leading to selection to be observed or sampled should be made before visiting the
of a final right-of-way (generally less than 100 m in width) [6]. study area.

High-level desktop studies Field reconnaissance along a selected pipeline corridor to

check terrain types and geohazards is often conducted from
The first stage of many terrain investigations begins at a a helicopter, landing at sites of interest or at predetermined
regional scale, where a land-systems’ approach provides general locations. Following aerial reconnaissance, particular sites
information over a large area that can be obtained quickly accessible by road can be visited on the ground. Depending
and at relatively low cost using existing data. For example, in on the nature of the site and the objectives of the field
conducting a study of pipeline routeing, the terrain analyst investigation, individual sites or lengths of the corridor can be
acquires existing surficial geology maps and lower-resolution visited by all-terrain-vehicle or by foot. While on the ground,
satellite imagery (such as Landsat) and digital elevation data the terrain analyst refers to airphotos or satellite images and
(such as Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, SRTM; or terrain maps, so that direct comparisons can be made with
Canadian Digital Elevation Data, CDED) over extensive features identified during desktop studies. Observations are
areas. Using these data, the terrain analyst usually selects documented with ground photographs and with recorded
several routeing corridors for more-detailed, low-level GPS locations.
investigations. Similarly, the evaluation of geohazards along
pipeline routes is initially conducted at a regional scale to Terrain-analysis tools
identify the type of hazards and the geographic distribution
before evaluating individual hazards at a local level. Terrain analysis draws information from traditional airphoto
interpretation, satellite imagery, digital-elevation data derived
Low-level desktop studies from satellite and airborne sensors, existing geospatial datasets,
and field studies (Fig.2). GIS and associated data-management
After conducting a regional (high-level) study of the terrain, software are used to build and manage integrated datasets
and identifying areas for more-detailed studies, the next stage that can be applied for route planning and geotechnical
152 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

design. In the near future, technological advances in unmanned are usually detectable from comparing terrain detail in different
aerial systems (UASs) promise to deliver new sources of ages and scales of airphoto stereopairs – in effect, viewing
geospatial information. While these systems may provide cost- Earth’s landscape features in four dimensions: three spatial
effective and expedient data, the interpretation of the data dimensions plus time. Integrated spatial and temporal analyses
will rely on the basic principles of terrain analysis. of the Earth’s surface changes is possible because, in most
areas of the world, airphotos are available in several different
Airphoto interpretation scales acquired over the past 60 or more years. Landscape
changes can also be detected in multi-date, multi-scale, satellite
In most cases, an essential data source for terrain analysis is imagery acquired since July, 1972, albeit typically at lower
black-and-white stereoscopic aerial photography. In addition, spatial resolution than is possible from good-quality airphotos.
it is possible to obtain true-colour, and false-colour infrared,
airphotos, and it is usually useful to obtain several ages and Mollard [7] conducted a study of pipeline route alternatives
scales of photos covering the area of interest (Fig.2a). Archived along the Mackenzie Valley from San Sault Rapids to Fort
airphotos can be a valuable source of information on Simpson, Northwest Territories, Canada. This pipeline route
landscape dynamics. selection and terrain mapping involved airphoto-based terrain
and geohazard data being combined with site geotechnical
Airphoto terrain analysis relies on the recognition of and laboratory soil-testing data for alternative pipeline route
landforms, the understanding of the processes of formation, selection and preliminary geotechnical and hydrotechnical
and the interpretation of the material properties. The ability characterization. In that study, each airphoto stereogram was
to recognize landforms in airphotos is based on the concept shown with corresponding soil and permafrost descriptions
that landforms having similar geologic and stress histories and and generalized soil profiles along with the ROW geology,
formed under similar conditions of climate, topography, soil, topography, vegetation, drainage, and geotechnical engineering
and rock material will have similar airphoto recognition characteristics. Terrain-mapped sheets showed soil borehole
features and similar geoengineering and geoenvironmental logs above a terrain-typed strip mosaic window with kilometre
properties for a particular use. Landform-feature recognition posts appearing along the ROW and environmental data on
from airphotos is thus an integral part of an integrated fish, birds, mammals, vegetation, and archaeology.
process, which both proceeds and leads to field observation
and site investigation of the terrain, and to the impacts that Satellite imagery
natural hazards and human activities have on pipelines and
related infrastructure. Satellite imagery can be used for applications such as assessing
changes in soil moisture, discriminating diverse soil and rock
Skilled interpretation of global terrains and geohazards from types, mapping vegetation and land use, studying changes in
3D airphotos depends on the recognition of landforms and snow, ice, and water cover over time, and detecting and
on understanding their genetic geologic processes, monitoring environmental change.
environments, and stress histories, as well as the soil and rock
materials in them. In pipeline studies, the airphoto terrain Cloud-free, orthorectified multi-spectral and panchromatic
analyst interprets the effects of erosion and deposition by imagery collected by the SPOT 4 and 5 satellites and dating
water, wind, ice, and gravity agents as well as the effects of from 2005 to 2010 are readily available for nearly all of
climatic change and human actions. Canada (Fig.2b). Multi-spectral data from these satellites
consist of green, red, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared
Among the key objectives of terrain analysis for pipeline bands. The SPOT 5 satellite was launched in May, 2002, and
engineering is identification and avoidance of natural hazards offers higher (commercially available) resolutions of 2.5 and
to ensure pipeline integrity and public safety. Airphoto 5 m in panchromatic mode and 10 m in multi-spectral mode.
terrain analysts recognize indicators of constructability and SPOT 5 includes a high-resolution geometrical (HRG)
maintenance hazards: active riverbank erosion and channel instrument that points forward and backward from the
migration, actively sinking ground, a slowly creeping slope. satellite, enabling it to take stereopair images to map relief.
These manifestations of terrain instability may not be shown SPOT 6 was launched in September, 2012, and provides
on maps nor be discernible from satellite imagery. Yet they can panchromatic imagery at 1.5-m resolution and multispectral
be interpreted from multi-date, multi-scale 3D black-and- data at 8-m resolution.
white panchromatic aerial photographs. A skilled airphoto
terrain analyst detects such information as changes in soil The Landsat programme is the longest-running programme
moisture and soil texture from changes in relief, pattern, and for acquisition of satellite imagery, with Landsat 1 launched
colour tones (or greyscale on black-and-white airphotos). in July, 1972, and Landsat 8 launched in February, 2013.
Orthorectified Landsat 7 imagery dating between 1999 and
One of the more-noteworthy advantages of sequential airphoto 2003 is readily available for nearly all of Canada at resolutions
terrain analysis is the detection of landscape change over time: of 15 m for the panchromatic band, 30 m for six multispectral
change in a creeping landslide or eroding shoreline, change in bands, and 60 m for two thermal bands.
the appearance of sediment in water bodies, anthropogenic
or natural changes in land use and land cover. These changes In addition to SPOT and Landsat imagery, there are many
3rd Quarter, 2014

Fig.2. Remotely-sensed imagery and data used commonly in terrain analysis: (a) natural colour airphoto; (b) SPOT panchromatic satellite imagery; (c) shaded-relief DEM; (d) slope raster
from DEM. (Contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada.)
154 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.3. Challenging terrain for pipeline routeing represented in a 3D visualization created from satellite imagery over digital
elevation data. (Landsat imagery courtesy of the US Geological Survey. Contains information licensed under the Open
Government Licence – Canada.)

kinds and resolutions of imagery available on the market from representation of the ground surface as if the vegetation and
commercial satellites (for instance IKONOS and Quickbird). buildings have been removed. High-resolution aerial LiDAR
Several satellites provide imagery with a spatial resolution of surveys are quickly becoming the industry standard for base
1 m or finer. A variety of satellite-image-processing software topographic mapping on linear infrastructure projects.
and techniques have been developed for quantitative analysis
of satellite data. The decision to use either airphotos or Maps and reports
satellite imagery (or both), and which satellite imagery and
processing technique to select, largely depends on the specific Interpreting map data is an economical form of terrain and
technical issues and economic considerations of a given geohazard information remote sensing. Maps provide a low-
project. With an ever-increasing number of Earth-observation cost, readily available collection of data on soils, geology,
satellites in orbit, and increased sophistication in space- topography, and other types of physical and human geography
imaging hardware and image processing, it is possible to data that can guide, support, and supplement airphoto and
acquire up-to-date, specialized, high-resolution satellite images satellite imagery analysis. The list of maps can include
for use in pipeline engineering studies. The best satellite physiographic, topographic, cadastral, political, climatic,
imagery provides an incredibly detailed synoptic view over surficial and bedrock geology, agricultural soil survey,
large areas. However, information interpreted from this hydrogeography, bathymetry, land use, and land cover. These
perspective is best correlated and integrated with data maps often show protected lands that limit pipeline route
interpreted from 3D stereoscopic airphotos and high- options, and are best examined during the early stages of
resolution digital-elevation models. pipeline-engineering studies. Other maps show existing
transportation and communication infrastructure corridors
Digital-elevation models and networks that can impact pipeline route selection,
construction, and operation.
A digital-elevation model (DEM) represents a regular array of
elevation values that express the elevation of the ground Products derived from terrain analysis
surface, usually with respect to mean sea level, providing a 3D
representation of the terrain. A DEM can be used to generate A variety of map products are key terrain-analysis deliverables
derivative maps such as relief and slope maps (Figs 2c and 2d, that range from basic topographic and hydrologic maps to
respectively), which can be used to produce centreline profiles, shaded-relief and slope raster maps derived from digital-
cross-sections, and alignment sheets. Digital-elevation models elevation data, and false-colour satellite images depicting
constructed using airphotos typically acquired between the particular features of the terrain. Landform interpretation
1960s and 1980s are available at roughly 20-m resolution for forms the basis for terrain maps that delineate the location
much of the Canadian landmass. Higher-resolution elevation and extent of various landform types and include modifiers
models (typically 1 to 2 m cell size) can be constructed from that indicate surface materials, vegetation cover, topographic
high-resolution digital-airphoto stereopairs or airborne setting, and drainage conditions. Field data and other site-
LiDAR data, which effectively provides a ‘bare earth’ specific features such as geohazards, river crossings, and other
3rd Quarter, 2014 155

Fig.4. Terrain map produced by the interpretation of landforms and surficial materials.
(Contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada.)

constraints are also identified and located spatially within the maps that represent shaded-relief elevation, elevation departure
study area. GIS mapping tools and 3D visualization allow and range with a given radius, slope and slope density, and
thematic maps and other products to be created that improve theoretical surficial drainage. Furthermore, in some cases, the
pipeline planning and design, and for effective communication processing of elevation data to evaluate surface roughness,
of information to members of the project team, contractors, can be used to interpret the thickness of unconsolidated
regulators, and affected stakeholders (Fig.3). sediment (such as Quaternary deposits) over bedrock [8].

Landforms and surficial materials Drainage

The basic product of terrain analysis is a terrain map that River crossings pose unique challenges to routeing and
features an interpretation of landforms and surficial earth operating pipelines, among which are environmental
materials and conditions (Fig.4). The identification of constraints, scour, bank erosion, channel avulsion, and debris
landforms from remotely-sensed imagery requires a impact. From a routeing perspective, the fewer river crossings
background in geomorphology and geology along with practice. the better; but given that some crossings are inevitable, the
Once a landform is identified, the materials that comprise the selection of geotechnically-suitable sites is of paramount
feature can be interpreted based on an understanding of the importance. Using hydrological data, including stream-
processes of formation. For example, glacial moraines are discharge data and watershed characteristics, along with
composed of till which exhibits certain geotechnical properties. digital-elevation data and 3D airphoto or satellite imagery,
Similarly, 3D renderings of the imagery, whether through the terrain analyst can identify the most favourable crossing
stereoscopic airphotos or digital-terrain data, provide locations for follow-up field reconnaissance and more-detailed
information on the topographic characteristics. Based on geotechnical investigations.
terrain analysis, a terrain map can be produced that represents
the surficial materials and morphology. Crossings are often classified in terms of length, from minor
crossings (less than a few hundred metres), intermediate
Topography crossings (from a few hundred metres up to about 1.5 km),
to major crossings (greater than 1.5 km). Although
Topography is among the most important components of construction methods used for crossings depend primarily on
terrain and is expressed through elevation, relief, slope, and the length and size of the pipeline, they also should include
surface roughness. Although topographic maps and digital- other terrain considerations, such as topography, geology,
elevation data are publically available, processing of these and environmental sensitivity. Therefore, once necessary
data by the terrain analyst yields a variety of maps that crossings are identified, it is important to characterize the
represent the geometry of the ground surface. Using a GIS, geotechnical conditions and determine the most suitable
the terrain analyst processes digital-elevation data to produce construction method.
156 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.5. Geohazards (landslides and river scour) that affected routeing of two pipelines (white arrows). (Reproduced with the
permission of Natural Resources Canada 2014, courtesy of the National Air Photo Library (A26910-58).)

Geohazards challenges in certain regions. Again, terrain analysis and

geological mapping provide the basic information to identify
Geohazards are of particular concern to pipeline integrity and evaluate the potential risks to pipeline infrastructure [10].
and public safety not only during initial routeing, design, and
construction, but also during long-term operation. Among Geotechnical properties
the most prevalent geohazards affecting pipelines are unstable
slopes and river scour and erosion, sometimes in combination Based on interpreted landforms and surficial materials, the
(Fig.5). Mass movements affecting pipelines may range from terrain analyst can comment on basic geotechnical properties
the slow to barely-perceptible effects of soil creep to catastrophic of landforms and terrain present along a pipeline right-of-way
failure of an entire slope. These geotechnical hazards are (for example, an outwash plain composed of coarse granular
commonly triggered by extreme precipitation events, thawing material typically exhibits relatively-high porosity and
of ice-rich permafrost, freezing of frost-susceptible soils, stream permeability, high bearing capacity, and low compressibility).
erosion of the toe of pre-existing slope failures and over- Depending on the scope of the project, existing maps and
steepening of slopes, and changes in groundwater conditions, data, aerial and satellite imagery, field observations, and data
affecting pore-water pressures. Identifying existing slope from representative soil samples can be combined to
failures and risk factors that may lead to failure, and characterize the geotechnical properties along a pipeline.
characterizing slopes for potential instability, are key When integrated in a GIS together with the pipeline alignment
components to terrain analysis for pipeline-engineering studies and chainages, these data provide a valuable inventory of
[9]. terrain and geotechnical conditions along the pipeline that
can be used to assist route planning, pipeline design,
Tectonic geohazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, construction planning and management, and operation,
volcanic eruptions, and ground subsidence, pose significant monitoring and maintenance.
3rd Quarter, 2014

Fig.6. Shallow groundwater discharge from contact springs. Photo tones and vegetation indicate groundwater seepage along the margin of a large outwash plain overlying till. Expect
seepage into trench, caving of trench walls, and wet conditions during construction. (Image courtesy of Saskatchewan Geospatial Imagery Collaborative.)
158 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.7. Ice-wedge polygons (a - top)

and pingos (b - bottom) in permafrost
terrain near Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.
(Reproduced with the permission of
Natural Resources Canada 2014,
courtesy of the National Air Photo
Library (A19811-35; A12902-132).)

Cultural and environmental constraints construction, and operation. Given the depth of pipeline
placement, it is the shallow-groundwater regime that is of
When routeing a pipeline or during construction and interest, which is strongly controlled by surficial conditions
operation, consideration must be given to environmental, that can be evaluated by terrain analysis. Remotely-sensed
infrastructure, and social constraints in addition to imagery allows for land-cover classifications that describe soil
geotechnical factors. GIS-mapping tools provide a means to conditions, porosity and permeability, permafrost, wetlands,
manage data from various sources and allow for constraints etc. In some areas, direct evidence for groundwater discharge
to be identified and located spatially within the study area, can be identified, including artesian and contact springs and
and to be updated as new information becomes available. groundwater piping (Fig.6). Digital-elevation data provide
These may include infrastructure such as roads, rail lines and information on elevations, slopes, and gradients that control
transmission lines, provincial and federal parks and other areas of recharge and discharge, and the direction of shallow
protected areas, urban municipalities, and First Nations groundwater flow.
communities. Many of these and other constraints are available
as vector files from web-based sources and can be managed Integration of spatial data
and displayed in a GIS, along with pipeline and geotechnical
information. Route selection

Groundwater conditions Route selection typically begins with regional terrain and
constraint mapping within a defined study area to identify
Terrain analysis provides key information to evaluate potential routeing corridors. Themes typically considered at
groundwater conditions that affect pipeline routeing, this stage include data on landforms, surface materials,
3rd Quarter, 2014 159

hydrology, topography, vegetation, and cultural and and to record issues that arise and corrective actions taken.
environmental features. Terrain information is also used to assess potential hazards
related to environmental factors such as high runoff or
Corridor data are then compiled to facilitate high-level precipitation events, and to plan protective measures.
comparison of corridors, followed by the identification of
potential route centrelines within corridors, and terrain
mapping along centrelines, with centrelines typically segmented Examples of special applications
and attributed in a GIS. Field studies and data collection
often occurs after terrain mapping. The following examples illustrate the application of terrain
analysis for particular pipeline routeing and design issues.
Data gathered in routeing studies can be used to summarize These include features related to permafrost, slope stability,
projected construction costs, environmental-mitigation ice scour, and peatlands.
requirements, stream-crossing and other hydrology issues,
permafrost concerns, geohazards (scour, erosion, mass Permafrost
wasting), access for construction and maintenance, permitting
requirements, and First Nations issues. Factors are tabulated Permafrost is frozen soil, sediment, or rock that remains
and ranked to allow a comparison of route options. Maps below 0°C for at least two consecutive years. The thermal
and summary statistics are prepared for project team analysis conditions required for permafrost to form typically occur
and to support public consultation. in climatic zones where the mean annual air temperature is
below freezing. Because of this close relationship, permafrost
Design and construction is particularly sensitive to changing environmental conditions.
Thawing of permafrost, whether naturally or induced, poses
The application of terrain analysis during pipeline design and significant challenges to pipeline routeing, construction, and
construction typically begins with collection of GIS-based operation. Creep and caving of ice-rich stream banks are
terrain and complementary data (such as infrastructure, concerns in pipeline route selection and operation, as are ice-
cultural) for the selected route centreline or site-specific rich and ice-cored mounds and terrain environments that
location of interest. The next step is to acquire higher- create frost heave, thaw settlement, and thermal erosion.
resolution imagery and topographic data (LiDAR) in order
to refine the centreline location or gather site-specific For the purposes of pipeline-engineering studies, landscape
information when evaluating issues on an existing pipeline. features in permafrost terrain can be characterized as either
The objectives of terrain analysis are to identify construction favourable or undesirable. Generally, landforms with frozen
issues associated with key terrain types and describe factors ground but which are ice-free are favourable. Examples
that have design and cost implications (such as slope, weighting include dense morainal deposits with low moisture content
requirements in organic terrain, insulation in permafrost and well-drained outwash deposits. The following permafrost
terrain, trench caving, water seepage into trench excavations, terrain features, obstacles, and hazards, all of which could be
ROW access). Field mapping is carried out where a detailed characterized as unfavourable, are recognizable in good-
assessment of geohazards or geotechnical characterization is quality 3D airphotos, and should be evaluated to determine
required. whether they can be circumvented where practical:

Statistical summaries can be generated on the distribution of • low-centre and high-centre ice-wedge polygons (Fig.7a);
problem terrain (geographic locations and length of pipeline • various sorted and unsorted patterned ground stripes,
affected) to assist with local route adjustments, more-detailed steps, circles, nets, polygons, and hummocks, indicating
cost estimates, material procurement, and equipment surficial materials subject to intensive frost-action
requirements and scheduling. This analysis can include design processes;
and construction issues as well as environmental factors • different origins and sizes of ice-rich/ice-cored mounds,
(including permitting and environmental monitoring). Terrain including open and closed pingos (Fig.7b), palsas,
and constraint maps are typically prepared to assist design earth hummocks, frost blisters, frost boils, peat-plateau
engineers and field survey and construction crews. bogs, and polygonal peat-plateau bogs, which heave
when the ice is aggraded and settle when the ice is
Operation thawed;
• felsenmeer and blockfields of fractured bedrock that
GIS-based terrain information supports the safe operation can be difficult to clear from the right-of-way;
and maintenance of a pipeline by providing ready access to • bimodal flows, where the thawing horseshoe-shaped
terrain data along the entire pipeline length. Operators can backscarp is nearly vertical and the resulting mud
quickly determine the soil type, stratigraphy, hydrologic setting, slurry flows out of the gently sloping flow bowl;
environmental issues, geohazards, and access routes to specific • multiple retrogressive thaw slumps;
locations. Recent imagery of the pipeline ROW can be viewed • active layer detachment (skin) flows;
and available information reviewed. The system can also be • solifluction-creep features (sheets, terraces, lobes);
updated to capture changes within and adjacent to the ROW • creeping ice-rich streambanks and valleysides;
160 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.8. Peatlands and organic terrain.

Treed peat-plateau bogs with collapse
scars (white patches) surrounding by
string/ribbed fens. Peat-plateau bogs
commonly contain ground ice. The fens
are unfrozen and have a water table
at or near ground surface.
(Reproduced with the permission of
Natural Resources Canada 2014,
courtesy of the National Air Photo
Library (A12942-158; A17887-115).)

• creeping rock glaciers and talus slopes; In northern areas where extensive peatlands cannot be avoided
• frozen/unfrozen thermal transitions in discontinuous in pipeline routeing, pipeline construction is usually
permafrost; undertaken in winter when construction equipment can
• oriented lakes, some partly to entirely sediment-infilled; travel on snow-covered, frozen, peat surfaces. Where peatlands
• beaded (buttonhole) streams, roundish thaw holes at form extensive bog blankets mantling mineral-soil surfaces,
ice-wedge intersections along small streams; they are commonly used as ‘winter roads’ when the ground
• horsetail drainage (closely-spaced, sub-parallel surface- is frozen. Ice roads over alternately frozen bogs and unfrozen
drainage runoff lines); fens are constructed by flooding packed snow to give a smooth
• ‘drunken forest’ of leaning trees caused by thawing of ice riding surface. Watertrack fens usually freeze up a month
permafrost in ice-rich peat bogs and by undermining or so later than bogs, which shortens the length of winter road
lake, pond, and stream-shore cliffs. trafficability.

Peatlands and organic terrain A useful indicator of shallow versus deep peat is the envisioned
topographic shape of the mineral soil surface underlying
Peatlands (bogs and fens) are one of the more common and peatland. Shallow saucer-shaped mineral surfaces underlying
important wetland landforms, which also include swamps peat commonly correlate with thinner peat depths. Sharply
and marshes (Fig.8): all can influence pipeline route depressed bowl-shaped hollows in the underlying mineral
characterization. Canada has the most extensive peatlands in sediment surface correlate with thicker peat, especially in bogs
the world, covering roughly 12% (110 million hectares) of the (for example, over deep kettleholes in outwash deposits and
Canadian landmass, with many existing and proposed major deep glacier-scourem:d rock basins). In general, bog-peat
pipelines located in high-water-table, high-compressibility landforms are significantly deeper than fen-peat landforms.
peatlands, with contiguous frozen and unfrozen peat
landforms, the majority of them located in boreal forest. Peatland researchers have classified roughly 20 types of bog
3rd Quarter, 2014 161

Fig.9. Peat depths in a blanket bog in northern Ontario. (Contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence
– Canada.)

and 20 types of fen. In many cases, peatland is unavoidable from the meltout of ice;
in pipeline routeing, and it is necessary to choose the shortest • polygonal peat-plateau bogs with ice-wedge polygons;
or the least-hazardous route through it. The following • palsas (ice-cored peat mounds);
simplified peatland classification has been used to map and • northern swamps.
evaluate extensive peatland types in the James Bay Lowland of
northern Ontario (Fig9): Ice-keel markings
• forested, semi-forested, and non-forested black Offshore pipelines present a unique set of terrain challenges.
spruce/Sphagnum-dominated bogs, typically with Where pipelines on the seafloor cross the seasonal paths of
slightly-raised (domed and plateau) surfaces; icebergs, there is potential for damage due to iceberg grounding
• watertrack and ribbed (string/ladder-like) sedge- [11]. Most icebergs are discharged into a path governed by
tamarack-dominated fens, typically occurring on bathymetry, currents, and winds. In offshore areas, the water
extensive regular smooth, low-gradient slopes depth is great enough to preclude iceberg scouring of the
(horizontal fens) and in channelways (channel and seafloor. Near the shoreline, where the water is shallow,
watertrack fens); icebergs can become grounded with the potential for disrupting
• sweeping watertrack fens enclosing teardrop-shaped pipelines.
and darker-toned forested bog islands, typically across
gentle slopes; Early studies on the effect of iceberg scour on offshore
• spring fens, where groundwater breaks through to pipelines sought to address the question of whether the
ground surface giving a finely-speckled pattern of iceberg keels scoured to sufficient depth below the seafloor to
small ponds and small raised peat forms; damage pipelines. Among the approaches used to determine
• bog-fen and fen-bog complexes; the scour depth was to investigate ice-keel markings noted on
• peat-plateau bogs with ground ice (permafrost), the glaciolacustrine plain of Lake Agassiz in southern Manitoba
speckled with small thaw basins called collapse scars [12]. Terrain analysis had noted that the otherwise low-relief
162 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.10. Landslide hazards delineated from shaded-relief LiDAR data along a prairie valley. Note meandering river channel
and oxbow lakes on the floodplain. (Imagery courtesy of Saskatchewan Geospatial Imagery Collaborative and the US
Geological Survey.)
and uniform character of the glaciolacustrine plain exhibited, etc.). This information then guides field reconnaissance and
in some locations, distinct curvilinear ice-keel markings. More- collection of drill hole and other data.
prominent features are over 5 km long and have surface
expressions that are 20-100 m wide. Specific features mapped River scour
from airphotos have been targeted for follow-up field
investigations to determine the depth of disturbance below The term ‘fluvial terrain’ includes landscapes eroded by
the ground surface [13]. running water or built-up by accreting deposits over time,
both of which can influence pipeline location and design.
Landslides Pipeline river crossings in different valley and channel types
represent a major challenge for the hydraulic engineer to
Landslides ranging from rockfalls, rockslides, and debris decide whether the pipeline will be stable if installed in
flows to slow and progressive types of slope movement associated alluvium under a riverbed, or whether it is more desirable to
with soil and rock creep [14] are features that should be bore a tunnel in dense till or bedrock under the river channel
identified and avoided during pipeline routeing. Numerous alluvium.
examples of pipelines being severed or damaged by landslides
can be found. For example, a natural gas pipeline near Prince Common river-channel types can be identified, and their
Rupert, British Columbia, was severed in November, 2003, behaviour provisionally predicted and evaluated, using map
by an extremely rapid clay-flow slide, leaving Prince Rupert’s and 3D airphoto terrain analysis [17]: Fig.11 provides
residents without natural gas heat for ten days [15]. Slope examples of meandering and braided river channels. It is also
instabilities can be identified from airphotos, satellite imagery, important to have a basic understanding of typical
and digital-elevation models (Fig.10). Landslides can also be environments and typical bed and bank materials that create
inventoried along existing pipelines to identify potential different planforms and types of river channels, which affect
problem areas and to assess risks associated with landslides channel-bank and riverbed-stability tendencies. These kinds
[16]. Standard techniques typically include mapping the of data are helpful in selecting pipeline routes and avoiding
geomorphic components of the slide (including backscarp, pipeline-integrity problems at valley and channel crossings.
failure bowl, debris track, and failure debris), making inferences
about the failure mechanism and geological controls, and The terrain analyst must not only recognize different channel
judging the relative rate of movement and current status of the types but also recognize a variety of drainage patterns created
failure (for example, stable, recently-active, currently-active, by the erosion and deposition of different kinds of soil
3rd Quarter, 2014 163

Fig.11. Examples of channel patterns in fluvial terrain in Canada: (a) multiple channels in the Mackenzie River Delta, NWT;
(b) meanders, channel scars, and oxbow lakes of the Chinchaga River, AB; (c) braided channel of the Kellet River, NWT.
(11a contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. 11b courtesy of the Alberta
Government. 11c reproduced with the permission of Natural Resources Canada 2014, courtesy of the National Air Photo
Library (A15706-46).)

material in different geologic, topographic, and climatic • actively-undercut valley sides and riverbanks, a major
environments. For example, some fluvial channels occupy cause of slope creep in landslide-prone environments;
narrow valleys and have little or no floodplain while others • thick accumulations of loose riverbed silt and fine
actively migrate back and forth across wide floodplains, sand subject to deep scour during major flood flows;
forming meander scrolls and oxbows, which can undermine • channel diversions that detrimentally effect stream
pipelines. Other fluvial depositional landforms that can erosion and deposition ;
influence pipeline route selection are actively eroding or • human alteration of river channels, such as channel
depositing alluvial fans, cones, terraces, deltas, and pediments. straightening, dredging, and reservoir construction
and degradation of sand riverbeds below dams;
The following fluvial features are routinely identified from • geomorphic and hydrologic controls on avulsions,
maps and aerial and satellite imagery. Wherever possible, causing flooding and scour;
pipeline routeing should avoid: • erosion at narrow constrictions on floodplains;
• undesirable effects of channel shifting on actively-
• highly-mobile riverbed sediments; eroding and depositing alluvial fans;
• migrating channels, especially outer banks at meander • silted-up and abandoned distributary channels on
bends; birdfoot deltas;
• shifting meanders characterized by many cutoffs, • loose collapsible silt and fine sandy soils beneath
oxbows, and scroll bars, usually indicating an unstable alluvial floodplains;
channel; • erodible bed and bank materials, consisting of
• dormant and active slope failures along riverbanks cohesionless silt and fine sand alluvial deposits;
and valley sides; • local riverbed aggradation, causing overbank flooding;
164 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

• large boulders in channel beds; datasets, and field studies. Geographic-information system
• rapids and falls; (GIS) mapping tools and 3D visualization can improve
• locations where ice dams, jams, and icings may form pipeline planning and design, and aid effective communication
in northern rivers. of information between members of the project team,
contractors, regulators, and affected stakeholders. Studies
Stress-corrosion cracking generally begin with high-level assessments using regional-scale
imagery and complimentary geospatial datasets. High-level
Regardless of design and construction, buried pipelines are studies are followed by more-detailed low-level studies that
subjected to environmental conditions (soil movement, soil draw on higher-resolution datasets. High- and low-level studies
chemistry, water flow and chemistry, freeze-thaw cycles, are accompanied by corresponding field reconnaissance and
biological activity, etc.) that can cause the formation of cracks collection of geotechnical data to support detailed design and
under corrosive conditions and can lead to failure of the geohazard risk assessment and mitigation. Terrain-analysis
metal and disruption in pipeline operations [18]. This process methods can be applied to a broad range of geotechnical and
of stress-corrosion cracking (SCC) is complex and has been terrain issues including the following which are discussed in
the focus of much attention and research, particularly on this paper: permafrost, slope stability, iceberg scour, fluvial
metallurgy, coating disbondments, operational loading, and processes, and environmental susceptibility to stress-corrosion
environmental conditions. It is this last factor that can be cracking.
addressed during terrain analysis.

SCC on pipelines can be classified as either high-pH or near- Acknowledgements

neutral-pH. High-pH SCC is normally found on pipelines
with a narrow cathodic potential range in the presence of a The authors thank Dr Jack Mollard for his insightful comments
basic carbonate/bicarbonate environment. Importantly, high- on the text and for his years of guidance in the application of
pH SCC requires temperatures greater than 40°C and thus terrain analysis. The authors also thank Dr Shawn Kenny for
normally associated with gas transmission lines. Near-neutral- reviewing the paper.
pH SCC occurs where the decay of organic matter contributes
to slightly acidic groundwater and in the presence of sulphate
reducing bacteria [18]. References
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NRC Workshop on ice scoring, Montebello, Quebec 18. F.Cheng, 2013. Stress corrosion cracking of pipelines. Wiley
(February). Series in Corrosion, R. Winston Revie, Series Editor. John
13. C.Woodworth-Lynas and J.Guigné, 1990. Iceberg scours in Wiley & Son, USA.
the geological record: examples from glacial Lake Agassiz. 19. L.A.Penner, D.G.Mollard, M.Holm, and R.Sutherby, 2003.
Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 53, Geological, geotechnical and hydrogeological setting of a gas
pp217-233. pipeline failure near Brandon, Manitoba. Proc. 56th Annual
14. M.F.Mansour, N.R.Morgenstern, and C.D.Martin, 2011. Canadian Geotechnical Conference and 4th Joint IAH-
Expected damage from displacement of slow-moving slides. CNC and CGS Conference, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
166 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering
3rd Quarter, 2014 167

In-place stability and integrity of

offshore pipelines crossing or
resting on active bedforms or
loose or soft soils
by Roberto Bruschi*, Sabrina Bughi, Michele Drago, and
Floriano Gianfelici
Saipem SpA, Fano (PU), Italy

T HE ON-BOTTOM STABILITY and long-term integrity of offshore pipelines resting on the seabed with
an almost-flat or an uneven submarine topography, due to permanent or active bed-forms, is a topical
issue within the engineering design flow of many projects. The complexity of geo-morpho-seismic
environments commonly leads to a strict interplay between the scientific fields of study including marine
soil mechanics, seabed morphodynamics, ocean engineering, and mechanical design of the pipeline.

The final aim of such a project-specific, multi-disciplinary process, is to achieve the optimum pipeline
concept with the required carrying and strength capacity and submerged weight while meeting installation
and operational criteria that include in-place stability and integrity over the design lifespan. The pipeline
will be safely laid on the seabed, and temporarily (in shallow waters) or permanently (in deep waters) left
exposed to mild and extreme near-bottom currents. In some circumstances, the pipeline can be lowered
to the burial depth that should ensure protection from severe site-specific hydrodynamic loads and,
sometimes, protection against human activities, in both the short and the long runs.

Where the seabed may be affected by short- or long-term modification, the integration of different technical
disciplines is required to provide a solid baseline for planning and performance of reliability-based
inspection, intervention, and maintenance programmes on the as-built and in-service pipeline. Further,
equipment and procedures that enable the readiness for repair – in the case of loss of carrying capacity
– that are currently imposed worldwide by regulatory authorities and insurance companies for strategic
energy links, may be a significant influence.

In this paper the pipe-soil interaction, in terms of the forces that are exchanged between the pipe and the
soil, is not discussed. The focus is on the seabed activity that can give rise to these forces as a consequence
of the interaction between the pipeline and changing or moving boundaries, i.e. the bearing and surrounding
soil. The load-transfer mechanisms and load effects, combined with service conditions, might threaten the
structural integrity and consequently the carrying capacity of the pipeline.

Different seabed environments, from shallow through medium to deep waters, are described in the paper.
This knowledge and experience has evolved from analyses of case histories of relevant pipeline projects
experienced over the past 30 years in Saipem’s offshore engineering departments; in particular, some
examples include:

• Pipelines crossing active seabeds presenting mega-ripples and sand waves, or coastal regions affected
by morphodynamics, such as migrating sand bars, where a design burial depth is defined with the aim
of minimizing the risk of unexpected pipeline exposure to considerable near-bottom hydrodynamic

*Corresponding author’s contact details:

tel: +39 0721 168 2591
email: roberto.bruschi@saipem.com
168 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

• Exposed pipelines affected by local, near-pipeline, seabed erosion, which may develop into self-
lowering or significant free-spanning in the short (and long) run, with potential temporary and repeated
exposure to severe cross-orbital velocities due to storm waves, causing severe pipeline vibrations.

• Buried pipelines in soft soils, both normal or under-consolidated with high water content, where pipe-
sinking or -flotation depends on a weak imbalance between the pipe’s weight and its buoyancy, which
may vary over time due to soil densification, liquefaction, or remoulding under cyclic loads.

• Pipelines crossing continental slopes from shallow water to abyssal plains which are part of strategic
continental links, or those for export of deep-water production in the proximity of the toes of scarps,
or resting on soft soils, or crossing features such as deep slits or canyons, susceptible to geohazards.

In the description of each scenario the role of seabed mechanics with respect to traditional soil mechanics
will be examined. In particular, soil-pipe interaction analysis which, in turn, looks at the pipeline’s response
with the aim of identifying potential failure modes activated by modification of the seabed line, will be

T HE SEA BOTTOM morphology exhibits large variability

[1] that includes: (a) flat, almost featureless situations
with little or no evolution over the short and long term; (b)
There is evidence – from plenty of offshore pipeline projects
across active seabeds – of the fact that the strict interconnection
of design (as input) with installation and operational
uneven, passive undulations due to semi-permanent bedforms1 requirements (as feedback) can be a factor for the satisfactory
such as large sand-ridges, pockmarks, relict iceberg gouges, performance of the lay equipment during installation works
paleo-channels, isolated or random rock outcrops; and (c) and the pipeline in-service design life, with respect to both cost
active morphodynamics due to either the presence of active and safety. In the 1970s, the offshore pipeline industry
bedforms (i.e. bottom structures that evolve and migrate encountered the first threats to pipeline structural integrity
under the actions of waves and currents, such as sand-ripples from pipe-soil interaction across the active seabeds of the
and sand waves), or the erosion/deposition of sediments North Sea. At that time, the concept for a gas network across
caused by the action of sea currents and waves, as commonly the North Sea interconnecting northern Europe with Norway
occur in near-shore areas, where both the shoreline and and England was not mature, in comparison with the current
bathymetry exhibits, regular or irregular, modifications both major energy lifeline network, with many lessons learned from
in time and in space [2, 3]. these early steps and experiences. The earliest step was Norpipe
that provided the first link between the central North Sea and
In addition, recent and planned subsea field developments Emden, Germany: the pipeline was routed across a region
are routed in deep waters across, or within proximity of, the where the metocean conditions experienced were the most
continental slope. These areas are geologically complex and severe previously encountered by a sealine, as the water depth
potentially unstable, and may be characterized by steep, was not sufficient to dampen the effects of the highest surface
sloping seabeds, irregular bathymetry with local features, and waves on seabed [9]. One of the first incidents was when the
thick layers of soft soils (both under- or normally consolidated), pipeline became unexpectedly close to the platform leg where
that are potentially affected by geohazards [4]. In such the riser was clamped. Initially, the cause was attributed to
conditions, the choice of the location of subsea infrastructure, creep of the anti-corrosion layer beneath the concrete coating
as well as pipeline route selection across these features on the [10]; later it was realized the pipeline response was due to the
continental slopes, is a crucial task [5], and these are currently loss of axial restraint on the pipeline, in proximity to the
known as geohazards. The first pipeline project to include platform, from the sandy soil. Initially after start-up the
comprehensive environmental surveys and dedicated analyses pipeline was anchored by the soil’s shear forces imposed on
on the above-mentioned topics was Blue Stream, which the external surface of the pipeline’s concrete coating due to
started in the late 1990s [6]. Today, geohazard assessment is relative displacement associated with thermal expansion.
a relevant design milestone for planned field development During severe storms, hydrodynamic forces induced cyclic
projects located in East Africa and Indonesia, and there is shear stresses and variations in pore pressure within the
consensus in the offshore oil and gas industry to develop an seabed which altered the state of equilibrium within the
internationally recognized guideline [7, 8] that provides a superficial layers of the sandy soil surrounding the concrete
rational engineering approach for crucial decisions in such coating [11-13]. This action reduced the soil’s shear strength
critical conditions. which thereby allowed the pipeline to move. Additonally, at
the German landfall, close to the national boundary with the
Netherlands, the pipeline – which was initially buried within
a trench – broke out from the seabed in response to shallow-
1 Editor’s note: Throughout this paper, bedform is taken to refer to
the shape or topography of the seabed and may also include other
water morphodynamics (sand-bar migration). The top layer
general characteristics such soil type and associated general of crushed rock that had been dumped over the pipeline was
characteristics. either washed out or sank into the sand due to liquefaction.
3rd Quarter, 2014 169

In the following decade, with the DONG pipeline from merging of basic engineering disciplines (such as geotechnics,
Danish sector to the Western coast of Jutland [14], and seabed mechanics, ocean engineering, pipeline mechanical
Zeepipe from Sleipner to the Belgian coast [15], the in-place design, fluid dynamics, etc.) [23].
stability and long-term integrity of offshore pipelines laid on
active seabeds became topical [16, 17]. An early scientific Two decades after the first issue, guidelines for on-bottom
approach was applied to establish the stable burial depth stability design of pipelines have been recently revisited [24],
under significant seabed activity in the proximity of the and there are also new JIP initiatives on the subject due to the
Danish landfall, due to sand-bar migration [18], as well as lack of knowledge recognized by new research groups such
dedicated studies to optimize the concrete coating versus those supporting the offshore projects in the Far East and
trenching works across the shallow waters and active seabeds Australian waters. Unfortunately, traditional on-bottom
(sand waves) of the Dutch sector in the southern North Sea stability guidelines do not specifically consider the local erosion
[19]. At that time, a number of joint-industry projects (JIPs) and bedform activity as a factor. In practice, the hydrodynamic
were addressing on-bottom stability pipeline design with an loads due to the near-bottom hydrodynamics [25] and the
extensive experimental campaign undertaken by European soil-strength capacity activated to anchor the pipeline are
hydraulic laboratories such as those located in Trondheim in linked to the developing pipe-soil interaction scenario.
Norway, Lingby in Denmark, and Delft in the Netherlands. Offshore pipeline operations over the past 40 years have
The main aim of these initiatives was the development of the shown a number of near-bottom scenarios that affect the
first international guideline regarding on-bottom stability, pipeline-soil interaction modes through different causes and
first in Europe by Det Norske Veritas [20] and then in the effects. What might threaten the integrity of the pipeline in the
USA by the American Gas Association [21]. Actually, the short and long term is primarily related to the seabed’s
offshore pipeline industry during the early 1980s dedicated propensity to undergo physical change with constitutive
considerable time to the project-specific interpretations of the modifications [26]. In many circumstances, in sandy seabeds
1981 revision of the first version of a DNV rule dedicated to across shallow to medium water depths (less than 100m),
offshore pipelines, dated 1976 (the current issue by DNV is dedicated survey and engineering analyses are required to
dated October, 2013). In the 1981 revision, the first detailed properly anticipate the seabed activity and transformation
requirements for evaluating hydrodynamic loads on pipelines dynamics, with the aim of meeting the challenges of the severest
and assessing soil performance were formulated. Based on near-bottom environments within cost-effective and reliably
this new approach, most pipelines in service at that time would engineered criteria.
have required stabilization: at first, pipeline operators reacted
stating “nature doesn’t make jumps”. Then, consensus was Different questions arise when the pipeline is trenched and
achieved on a specific design basis for establishing criteria and backfilled in a morpho-dynamic active sea bottom such as in
dedicated measures (concrete-coating density and strength, a coastal region or shallow water. In such instances the
trenching technology, etc.) for in-place stability and integrity following are particularly relevant:
of offshore pipelines, whether resting on the seabed or
lowered [22] into the surficial soil layers to provide shelter • coastal engineering, the aim of which is to define a
from the near-bottom hydrodynamic loads. reasonably safe pipeline burial depth in presence of
potential bedline2 migration and lowering;
The engineering design for in-place stability and pipeline • geotechnics, particularly addressed to verify soil trench-
integrity in variable seabed conditions – often technically and ability as well as the risk of liquefaction or remoulding
economically conceived at a very early stage, and sometimes of the trench infill soil, whether local or specific, as the
with a lack of site-specific data – for operations extending over loss of shear-strength capacity might alter the pipeline’s
a 20- to 50-year lifetime remains a challenge that requires horizontal layout and vertical settlement;
considerable competence and expertise. Today, detailed • mechanical engineering, to verify whether axial
numerical modelling applied to tackle the severest ocean and movement or upheaval might occur along the pipeline
seabed conditions encountered in new offshore regions (such and result in yield to either an unacceptable stress level
as Australia) is increasingly adopted for developing engineered or a hazardous pipeline exposure.
solutions. It can help, but often it is not enough: the main
difficulty is not with the pipeline’s response; rather, the Any pipeline resting on the seabed is subject to loads affecting
challenge is to properly describe the boundary conditions in-place stability, both lateral (drag and inertia due to waves
from the seabed scenario under development, and the load and currents) and longitudinal (effect from pressure and
conditions from the hydrodynamic interaction regime. temperature of the transported fluids) forces. Both are
Modern computer codes are not sufficiently robust to integrate counteracted by the soil reaction exerted on the pipeline; this
such different behavioural models. In practice, the rationale directly contributes to the final equilibrium and influences
for cost-effective and robust design choices is founded on the the working stresses developed on the pipeline after lateral and
ocean (waves, currents, near-bottom hydrodynamics) and longitudinal movements (thermal expansion, in-service
the seabed (bathymetric, geophysical, geotechnical) data that buckling, pipe walking, etc.). The higher the restraint provided
are sufficient to perform the required specialist project analyses.
2 Editor’s note: Throughout this paper, bedline is taken to refer to
The approach is multi-disciplinary, in which findings must be changes in the seabed elevation profile relative to contact with the
properly integrated, and this requires a deep and constructive pipeline.
170 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

by the soil, the higher the localization of the pipeline response engineering analysis defines the maximum allowable free-span
and, consequently, the bending stresses that nevertheless length, on the basis of the work of an integrated team of:
should be within the acceptance criteria. But the pipeline is
not just a passive element on the sea bottom. Its presence (a) surveyors and geophysicists, to get a high-resolution
promotes localized fluid amplification and scouring description of sea-bottom morphology (1-m
phenomena [27], leading to the formation of new free spans, horizontal or better is common in modern offshore
which may be temporary or permanent features [28]. Hence pipeline projects);
their occurrence and criticality, even in the short term, may (b) oceanographers, for the assessment of both extreme
be relevant. For pipelines resting on flat seabeds the interaction and climatic wave and current conditions;
between service loads, soil, and environment, which requires (c) mechanical engineers, to evaluate static and dynamic
interpretation by different specialists, imposes more-stringent stresses for all phases of the pipeline’s lifespan (empty,
requirements. In some circumstances, in-service analysis could flooding, hydrotesting, operational) and also for
lead to advanced laying techniques, such as those aimed at unplanned – and unwanted – occurrences, such as
preventing or allowing for lateral movement at specific locations accidental flooding or anchor hooking;
in the case of thermal expansion recovery [29]. At the same (d) geotechnical engineers, for assessing the stability of
time, the soilu:’s propensity for erosion and mobility should intervention work for span corrections.
be evaluated. An additional threat is from the effects of more-
frequent interaction with mobile fishing gear that includes In a few cases site-specific partial safety factors can be calibrated
denting, impact, and pull over. The aim of the designer is to to meet the established safety targets. In our experience,
minimize the risk of pipe hooking and, in these conditions, any ‘integrated’ is the key word for the project team to get full
gap between the pipe and the soil can act as a trigger. All awareness of the project needs, particularly of the shortcomings
solutions devised in the design phase, such as pipe trenching, of any information to avoid either over-conservative or over-
snaked laying to prevent localized bending strain due to lateral optimistic design. Quite understandably these problems have
buckling, and intervention works to correct free spans, should received attention in the offshore engineering literature, and
be proven during construction against the constraints imposed a number of reviews can be found (see Ref.7, for example).
by installation technology and site conditions.
In this paper minor attention is paid to pipe-soil interaction.
There is a strict link between in-place stability and pipeline free This discipline deals with the forces that develop at the
spanning, particularly across seabeds affected by significant pipeline-soil interface when the pipeline is subject to internal
bedform activity. The condition of free spanning –when or external load conditions and relative movement between
frequent and significant cross-bottom currents, both steady it and the surrounding soil. It is a topical issue, originally
and cyclic (the latter in shallow to medium depth waters), may studied to evaluate the soil’s capacity to keep the pipe in place
impact on the pipeline causing overloads or significant under the near-bottom hydrodynamics [34-37] that are
vibrations [30] – has been relevant topic since the early days currently analysed in depth for the simulation of the soil
of strategic hydrocarbon transportation through offshore response to service loads: for example, pipelines subject to
pipelines. The degree of seabed roughness may be static or vary thermal expansion recovery through global buckling [38, 39].
over the design life due to seabed activity. Frequent and Particularly noticeable is the outcome of recent research work
considerable pipeline vibrations might lead to unacceptable regarding soil behaviour under large pipe displacements
fatigue damage, with the potential activation of leaks at girth caused by cycles of thermal expansion. Unfortunately, at the
welds. In such circumstances, in-place stability, which essentially design stage, the limited knowledge of actual soil conditions
means a pipeline embedded and well anchored to the initial does not often allow a comprehensive modelling of such
position or moving inside an allowance corridor, may not be complex conditions for predicting peak strains or low-cyclic
the issue; rather it is pipe’s structural integrity. The time- fatigue, and this always leaves room for misleading discussions
evolution of free spans can be tentatively anticipated with the to take place between theory and application. In many
help of dedicated surveys and/or monitoring, and this will circumstances, when the application is crucial, the as-built
allow identification, through static and dynamic structural survey for a pipe-embedment assessment as well as performance
analyses, of situations that require immediate intervention monitoring (the soil bumping against the pipeline, or pipe
works (for example, post-trenching) or those that require lowering by sinking into the soft soil) can give room for
allow planning of remediation in the medium or long term. detailed modelling able to resemble realistic behaviour such
The necessary steps for enhanced integrity can be performed, that future developments of the loading conditions can be
or the natural progression to embedment can be allowed to anticipated.
take place, provided additional protection through self-
lowering of the pipeline can be ensured. The scope of this paper is to show how the variability of the
bearing or restraint provided by the soil, activated by the
Currently, bottom-roughness analysis is the normal design loading effects from near-bottom hydrodynamics or service
practice that aims to define engineering criteria and loads, may cause additional loading conditions for the pipeline,
technological (mitigation) measures for safe pipeline operation which will interact with varying (in time and in space) boundary
across passive (seabed features or bottom undulations) and conditions and soil behaviour. We will refer to the following
active (when crossing sand-wave areas [31-33]) bedforms. The different scenarios:
3rd Quarter, 2014 171

• Pipelines crossing active seabeds. The undulations of bedline is also not well understood. The pipe-soil
mega ripples and sand waves are not necessarily interaction, expressed in load-displacement capacity
permanent during the pipeline’s operating life. relationships, and relevant partial safety factors, is still
Bedform migrations can be anticipated, and the an open issue.
optimum vertical profile for the pipeline after artificial
lowering should be defined in a way such as to minimize • Pipelines across the continental slopes to abyssal plains,
the risk of pipe exposure and free-spanning. This is a as part of strategic continental links or export lines
risk across sandy seabeds in shallow waters, which can from deep-water production areas, may rest on soft
be managed due to the long timescale (i.e. years) taken soil affected by seismic activity and susceptible to
for significant effects to develop prior to the need for impact from geohazards. In terms of pipe-soil
mitigation work. In coastal regions, the interaction, a number of efforts have been, and are
morphodynamics may occur at a shorter timescale currently being, made to understand realistic soil
(i.e. weeks) during which the pipe burial must be behaviour [44, 45] and the load conditions imposed
completed subsequent to laying operations to avoid by impacting plastic flows. However, it is far more
unexpected pipeline exposure in response to severe important to define the potential trajectories of the
near-bottom hydrodynamics. In terms of pipe-soil flows with the aim of defining pipeline routes that
interaction, sand is a good bearing material with minimize potential interference, particularly
minor geotechnical embedment, and in which only perpendicular to the pipeline [46-48]. It is a new field
erosion under the pipeline can provide changes in the of research that is going to be energized by a number
equilibrium or the stress state. of field developments that are expected in the near
term. These projects will face the difficulties of routeing
• Exposed pipelines affected by local – near-pipeline – export pipelines across new frontiers with challenges
seabed erosion. In sandy seabeds and shallow to of bottom roughness and unstable slopes that may
medium water depths, scouring in the proximity of potentially trigger mass flows and turbidity currents.
and under the pipeline can develop, even in the short
term, and self-lowering or free-spanning are the In each of the above scenarios, engineering analyses are able
outcomes. Where near-bottom currents are to provide a quantitative outcome that can be used to support
dominant, seabed modification does not occur in decisions regarding route selection, preparation, and post-
short timescales unless in the presence of strong tidal trenching works, etc., in offshore regions affected by significant
currents. Should wave-induced conditions be relevant, seabed activity.
modification to the seabed conditions can occur in a
short time with temporary exposure of long free spans
to cross flows during a single wave storm that may
cause severe pipeline vibration, which is often Pipelines crossing active sandy
unacceptable due to over-stressing and cumulative
fatigue damage. This is a risk in sandy seabeds, and in seabeds and shallow waters
particular where the sand layer is not thick, the
underlying soil is stiff, and seabed undulations may When crossing active (bedform activity, erosion) seabeds, the
cause conditions for long permanent spans. Pipe-soil pipeline designer is confronted with the challenge of a bedline
interaction and geotechnical engineering changing in time and in space. The morphology at the
considerations may be relevant at the free-span construction stage and its potential alteration within the
shoulders. planned lifetime of the pipeline are both relevant for defining
a stable (marginal risk of undesirable pipe exposure) burial
• Buried pipelines in soft soils with similar specific depth in the long run. Two typical scenarios in this sense are:
gravities, where sinking or flotation depends on a weak
imbalance between weight and buoyancy, and which • shallow water at the landfall, where coastal and seabed
may vary over time due to soil densification or erosion might cause significant lowering of the bedline,
liquefaction [40-43], may be subject to cyclic loading. either globally or locally, so leading to potential pipeline
Soil-strength capacity to withstand pressure cycles exposure;
from waves, as well as uplift due to thermal expansion • active seabeds, particularly sand waves or mega-ripple
of the pipeline, are relevant topics. Whether natural fields, where the pipeline burial depth should
in-situ soils or engineered material are used to meet the accommodate migration and free-span formation in
needs of in-place vertical stability, this issue is relevant the troughs of seabed undulations.
in different environments, including shallow and deep
waters, and sandy and clayey seabeds. Post-trenching The sequence of load conditions that the pipeline will undergo,
is a cost factor, and predicting burial depth in the case of temporary exposure, are to be verified and the
requirements is often a challenge. The backfill analysis focused on the range of possible pipeline exposure
performance to constrain the pipeline on the actual that can develop due to bedform dynamics.
172 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.1. Risk of pipeline exposure in

shallow water due to bedform

Coastal morphodynamics that these phenomena will not jeopardize the pipeline’s
integrity over its planned life.
In coastal regions with granular beaches, i.e. sandy or gravelly
seabeds, the pipeline is affected by the morphological variability On the other hand, sea-bottom evolution resulting from
of the most active zones of the sea and eventually could become cross-shore transport is fast, with the timescale of the duration
exposed to the strong forces that are responsible for this of sea storms, and well definable in time. The effects are
variability. Costal morphodynamics are essentially limited to negligible outside storm periods, and are at least partly
the few hundreds of metres between the wave-breaking limit reversible, so that the significant erosion and offshore
and the shoreline. The energy involved is considerable because, transport occurring at the peak of storms is counteracted by
over such a short section, the waves dissipate energy that has a mostly shoreward transport in the subsequent periods of
been accumulated due to the action of the wind, sometimes calm. Given the different frequencies and intensities of storm
taking place over hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres. occurrences during the year that exists for most coastal areas,
cross-shore profiles often exhibit a seasonal cyclic behaviour.
The seabed sediment held in suspension by the action of the Hence the design issue in this case is to evaluate the possible
waves, and by the strong turbulence associated with the waves seabed configuration under an extreme storm event, or
breaking, is distributed both along and across the coastline in during the different seasons, and verify that the pipeline’s
question by the complex current patterns resulting from a protection is not undermined by its variability. In practice, the
combination of sea circulation (wind or tidal driven) and minimum burial depth for the top-of-pipe (TOP) across
currents generated as a result of the breaking waves: these stable seabeds would be dramatically modified across erodible
include long-shore currents, undertow, rip currents, etc. The seabeds affected by erosion and bedform activity. Figure 1
coastal circulation and resulting morphodynamics form a shows an unexpected pipeline exposure due to bedform
complex 3D phenomenon that, for the sake of tractability activity which gave rise to significant mitigation works to
(and to take advantage of differing timescales) is usually split protect the pipeline, and even to pipe damage and failure
into: caused by vibrations due to significant cross (long-shore)
currents. Often establishing a burial depth to the TOP gives
• long-term shoreline evolution, due to the littoral rise to conflicts between the coastal engineering specialist and
transport of sediment by long-shore currents; and the pipeline designer, which can now be mitigated by the use
• short-term cross-shore evolution, essentially due to of numerical and, sometimes, hydraulic laboratory modelling
the sediment redistribution normal to the coastline, as well as using a full probabilistic approach.
mostly as a consequence of the undertow current.
The approach to the assessment of shoreline evolution has
From the point-of-view of pipeline design, the two phenomena apparently progressed little since the early days, and most
pose related but somewhat different challenges. Obviously the analyses are based on ‘one-line’ models that date back more
split of the phenomena and the different timescales should than five decades. The noticeable improvement achieved in
not lead us to forget that these effects are actually the result the understanding and modelling of coastal hydrodynamics
of their concurrent action, so that they should be combined and sediment transport, based on sound physical grounds,
at the design stage. has not yet been seen. The application of modern tools using
the long timescales typical of coastal evolution is
The littoral evolution is somewhat slow (the retreats or computationally complex. Changes to the seabed due to
advances of a coastline are generally measured in a few metres erosion, and transport and deposition of sediments, are not
per year) but its effects are cumulative and usually irreversible. linear with respect to the driving forces from coastal and near-
So the designer is confronted with the problem of estimating bottom hydrodynamics, and are strongly dependent on
the possible outcome on the landfall topography of small circulation processes and consequent loads that, in turn,
phenomena accumulating over a long period, in the order of influence the dynamics of the sediments. In general, short-
a few years, and the necessity to devise protection schemes so term simulation can hardly be used to extrapolate these effects
3rd Quarter, 2014 173

Fig.2. A one-line coastal model and computed shoreline evolution over 50 years at the landfall on the southern Sicily

into the long term, and the consequence of this is that at a reliable assessment. Figure 2 shows the results of a study
simplified models are commonly used for long-term analysis; on long-term coastal modification for the landfall of a
the analyst should therefore be aware of the limitations of strategic gas trunkline from North Africa on the southern
numerical modelling, and properly interpret the results to Sicilian coast. In this case the outcome – about 20m outwards
avoid non-physical or unreliable conclusions. On top of this, in 50 years at the landing point – was not particularly critical;
there are several external contributions to coastal evolution the numerical simulation was based on the one-line model,
which are not always quantifiable or easily foreseen, and and the influences of a river mouth and jetties adjacent to the
which should be included in the analysis to get a reasonable landfall were taken into account.
forecast: for example, the construction of a dam on a river can
reduce, or completely eliminate, the supply of sediment to the Compared to shoreline evolution, the shorter timescale of
beach, with the consequence of dramatic coastline erosion; or cross-shore seabed dynamics has allowed more-advanced
the installation of coastal structures such as jetties, breakwaters, numerical approaches and modelling that attempt a combined
and sea walls can completely alter the littoral transport, with physical description of the wave decay in the surf zone, the
a sudden and permanent modification of the historical onset of long-shore and cross-shore currents, the sediment
pattern of coastal evolution. transport, and seabed evolution that dates back at least 30
years to the early 1980s. These models are mostly limited to
Hence, at the design stage, a flexible and careful approach is the active phase of storms and are usually unsuitable for
required, whose main elements can be summarized as: describing the recovery of the beach after the storm event.
While this can be a minor issue for design considerations, this
• careful analysis of historical data, to verify the long- poses a modelling limitation to the application of such models
term trends in coastal evolution and identify their that makes it unsuitable for long-term evaluation or even for
causes; evaluating the effect of multiple storms. Hence the approach
• accurate description of coastal topography and coastal relies on the somewhat unproven assumption that an extreme
structures over the whole physiographic unit storm provides the most dangerous seabed configuration for
encompassing the study area; the pipeline’s design. For the above-mentioned landfall, a
• o:proper consideration of all the natural or detailed study was carried out to determine the design burial
anthropogenic sources of sediments (river discharge, depth for an annual probability of exposure of less than 0.01:
beach replenishment projects, sand mining); Fig.3 shows the main findings along the selected route which,
• comprehensive investigation of coastal development in certain locations, shows a potential lowering of the seabed
planning that can interfere with shoreline evolution. of about 0.5 m; Fig.4 shows similar results along pipeline
routes that are parallel to the selected one, calculated to give
Note that this list is not limited to structures protruding into the best solution. While any burial criterion for the pipeline
the sea: for example, removal of beach vegetation or backshore should start from this outcome, the designer should always be
sand dunes can have a major effect on shoreline stability. aware of the approximations used by this method of analysis.
Finally, the modelling effort itself can only be as good as the
input data: hence detailed data on near-shore bathymetry, In addition, further consideration is necessary relating to
seabed geotechnics, and wave conditions, extending over the coastal dynamics due to the rip currents and the rip channels
whole physiographic unit, are a prerequisite for any attempt and the morphological features that they can promote. Rip
174 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.3. Cross-shore transport and computed erosion /accretion along the pipeline route for the southern Sicily landfall for 100-
year directional wave storm events and the envelope of the resulting bottom profiles.

Fig.4. Measured bottom profiles spaced 100 m from main pipeline route alignment at the southern Sicily landfall area.

currents are strong currents directed offshore, setting at an The above provides a far more complex picture than what is
almost normal angle to the shore, and which can be visually followed in practice, where the concern is linked to the
detected as an interruption to the line of breakers. The statistical variability of impacting environmental conditions:
associated morphological pattern is an erosional channel, the effect on a site’s morphodynamics is considerable, the
extending cross-shore from the beach, which in its turn relevant phenomena are not linear, and the outcome depends
becomes a preferred site for the onset of rip currents, thus on the sequence of occurrence of storm and calm periods, and
achieving a semi-permanent nature. Rip currents and rip even upon the actual sequence of waves. This can hardly be
channels are seldom considered in landfall design, partly due anticipated over the pipeline’s lifespan, and is a substantial
to the tractability issue outlined above: they are 3D phenomena, and unavoidable limitation of the analysis. The statistical
and thus do not allow simplifications in the approach. The tools can help, however, when they are used to assess the
advanced coastal circulation model developed in recent years expected range of variabilities: one approach is the use of a
can – at least, in principle – simulate rip currents, at least over synthetic series of environmental conditions, sharing the same
a short time period, besides providing coupled descriptions statistical properties as the actual site, in order to investigate
of long-shore and cross-shore currents; this represents a the coastal and seabed evolution over time and to define the
‘coming of age’ for establishing a more-complete account of most likely and extreme configurations to be expected over the
coastal morphodynamics in landfall design. pipeline’s life.
3rd Quarter, 2014 175

Fig.5. Beibu Gulf, China: symmetric sand-wave evolution from repeated multi-beam surveys.

Fig.6. Minimum burial depth across

sand-wave areas as a function of
wave-through envelope and pipeline

Bedform activity Active bedforms generally occur in shallow seas, in the presence
of a plentiful supply of sand, strong tidal currents, and
The morphodynamics far from the coastline are, commonly, moderate wave activity. Extensive sand-wave fields have been
marginal: the erosion and deposition patterns, not exceeding observed in the southern North Sea, in the South China Sea,
a few tens of centimetres, are usually reversible, and so have and in the Persian Gulf. As for dimensions, the largest ones
negligible long-term effects. An exception is the potential are characterized by wave lengths between 100 and 500 m,
movement of large seabed features, or of bedforms such as and heights in the range 2 to 10 m. Smaller waves are defined
sand waves and ripples, on erodible seabeds. These, classified as ripples or mega-ripples, while the terms sand ridges or
as bedform activities, may have a two-fold impact on the sandbanks are reserved for the large and typically stable
pipeline’s design: the change of the bedline that can lead to bedforms (of length 1000 to10,000 m, and heights between
unexpected exposure and/or the formation of free-spans, 5 and 25 m), occurring sometimes in coastal regions and with
which were not anticipated in the design phase (such as crests aligned with the flow, generally perpendicular to the
provision of additional concrete coating to meet stability coastline. The shape of the mobile undulation can be
criteria); the bottom features that are large enough locally to symmetric, i.e. with almost the same slope on both side, or
modify the flow pattern in either direction or intensity impact asymmetric, with the steep slope around 2° to 35° and the
significantly on cross-flow design conditions for the exposed gentle slope of 0.5° to 2°. Figure 5 shows sand waves of both
sections. As for the threat to pipeline integrity, the focus on shapes, taken from a survey across a large sand-wave field in
active bedforms is linked firstly to the ability of the pipeline to the Gulf of Beibu, China.
cope with the vertical profile during laying, and secondly to
the lowering below the bedline that is required in order to Commonly, symmetric waves are not the highest ones (in the
guarantee in-place stability and integrity over the design subject case less than 2 m), and are often assumed to oscillate
lifespan. In this, the size of bedforms is relevant, as well as the around an average profile; on the other hand, the asymmetric
age of the largest ones: in some cases the activity may be profiles, including the highest waves (in the subject case, 5 m
minimal, and the uneven bedline can be considered as for a wavelength of about 300 m), provide an indication of
permanent bottom roughness. the direction of migration. Nonetheless, the sand-wave fields
176 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.7. Southern North Sea: 2D CFD

simulation of the sediment transport
in an asymmetric sand wave, coupled
with 3D CFD simulation of the flow
field in the sand-wave field.

can be either 2D – with straight, continuous, almost parallel confirmed by direct pipeline project experiences made across
crests – or 3D – with sinuous, discontinuous, uneven crests the South China Sea and the North Sea.
– the pattern depending on local hydrodynamic conditions.
The relevant parameter is the mobility of the crest line, The attention paid to the subject was due to the extent of
expressed in m/yr. Sand waves are known to move, but trenching works needed to meet in-place stability and pipeline-
considerable uncertainty exists on the mechanics of migration. integrity criteria across large sand-wave fields. The crossing of
It is often thought that asymmetric sand waves migrate in the sand-wave areas has a number of implications in pipeline
direction of the steeper slope, and that symmetric sand waves design. The complex bottom topography can induce an
have no net movements but tend to oscillate around their unacceptable stress on the pipeline, and an accurate and
average position. Multi-year surveys in some asymmetric-sand- detailed analysis of the seabed profile needs to be performed
wave areas in the southern North Sea have indicated a net with the aim of verifying if, during pipelaying, undulations
migration much smaller than expected from measured might create unacceptable over-stressing so that correction
migration rates, so that it seems likely that they periodically though crest pre-sweeping is necessary. Additionally, sand-
change the direction of migration, thus actually oscillating wave movement can lead to free-span formation for an
around an equilibrium position and confirming some early originally fully supported and statically stable pipeline, so that
assumption from site observations on the inversion of the the forecasting of such movements and the resulting pipeline
steep slope. Migration rates are quoted between approx. 1 configuration need to be taken into account at the design stage
and 25 m/yr from numerical modelling and site to forestall possible hazards for the pipeline, and to plan the
measurements, but the rates are not steady: migration can be most effective protection strategy. Figure 6 shows how pipeline
quite rapid during a stormy season, while sand waves are likely exposure is linked to sand-wave migration; the risk of exposure
to be stationary during calm periods. Sand-wave heights and free-span development can be made marginal for a burial
exhibit limited variations, and it has been observed that they depth below the envelope of the sand-wave troughs.
disappear in high-flow regimes. The above considerations are Unfortunately, the cost of huge dredging works compared
from a rich reservoir of literature on the subject, in a way with post-trenching creates a cause of conflict that involves, in
3rd Quarter, 2014 177

Fig.8. Southern North Sea: route optimization in a sand-wave area to minimize pre-sweeping work.

different instances, the pipeline operator, the regulatory which can be used as a guide to assess the conditions over its
authorities, and the pipelaying contractor. operational life. In fact, while the detailed bottom topography
will change, it can most-likely be assumed that it will not exhibit
A systematic and extensive dredging of sand-wave fields to a greater variability than the present pattern and, hence, that
ensure pipeline safety over all possible future sand-wave the flow field will not exhibit a greater variability than that
evolutions is questionable in view of its environmental impact, captured in the simulations over the actual, present, sand-
in addition to being hardly feasible due to cost considerations. wave topography. In Figure 7, the outcome of CFD simulations
More-flexible strategies, such as systematic corrections with performed for a section of a sand-wave area in the North Sea
limited dredging of the crossed sand-wave crests in more- highlight some of the features to be expected in the flow field:
critical areas, or a wait-and-see approach, with intervention flow-speed enhancement on the wave crest, flow-speed
work carried out when and where the problem arises in the reduction and channelling in the wave trough, and re-
case where an immediate hazard is not foreseen, can provide circulating cell development downstream of the wave crests.
a huge premium. This approach requires a reliable assessment The findings from numerical simulations allow a more-
of both the bedline evolution and the dynamic loads that the detailed spatial definition of the design flow conditions, and
pipeline should withstand. In this respect, the topographical also provide an insight that can be used for a better
force of the flow field, with possible localized flow enhancement understanding of site-bottom current measurements in sand-
and channelling, should be accounted for both in the wave areas, which are likely to be topographically affected.
evaluation of the pipeline’s stability and in view of possible
formation of free spans due to scour. The implications of A comprehensive set of data allows for route optimization
these challenges have promoted considerable attention in across extended sand-wave fields. Analyses carried out in the
optimizing the design for crossing sand-wave areas. A first North Sea have shown a considerable potential saving in the
component is the reliable estimate of sand-wave mobility: dredging volume by adopting an ad hoc routeing approach,
coupling high-resolution repeated surveys with advanced based on an automatic scanning of different route alternatives
theoretical and numerical modelling can lead to more-reliable in terms of pipeline stress level, route length, and required
assessments of the expected pipeline-bottom configuration trenching. In the example of Fig.8 the optimized route
and optimization of the trenching requirements. A second (SWRT04) allows a dredging reduction of about 65% with
component includes the improved definition of fluid dynamics respect to the straight one (SWRT02), with a penalty of 1.2%
in sand-wave areas. Modern 3D computational fluid on the route length. Quite interestingly, SWRT04 requires a
dynamics’ (CFD) codes provide a viable tool for the evaluation dredging volume about 55% of the route labelled NORFRA,
of the flow pattern in sand-wave fields, providing a way to which had itself been optimized in its turn during its design in
identify the zones of flow amplification and flow dampening the early 1990s. The design should obviously take into account
and local modifications in the flow direction. This information the dynamic nature of the sand-wave fields, but it clearly
allows detailed local checking of the loads on the pipeline, indicates that there is a rationale in pursuing an optimized
178 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.9. Pipeline on erodible bottom: self-lowering vs free-span development according to site wave conditions.

routeing, rather than taking the shortest one first and defining the pipeline is embedded in the sand). The soil’s capacity to
the required dredging quantities afterwards. resist lateral hydrodynamic forces depends strongly on pipe
embedment, which varies in time and in space due to scouring
Scouring in the short term (wave-dominant) and long term (current-
dominant). The hydrodynamic forces on the pipe are
A pipeline laid on the sea-bottom introduces a local disturbance dependent on the gap between the pipeline and the seabed.
in the wave/current near-bottom flow. When the flow impacts Generally, marine sands have a good bearing capacity, so the
on the pipeline, a pressure gradient is established between the geotechnical embedment under the loads from the pipeline
upstream and downstream sides of the obstacle. If the seabed is very small. The bearing capacity is linked to the provenance
is permeable, i.e. it is sandy, such a pressure gradient drives a and nature of the sand (size, shape of individual grains,
seepage flow under the pipe which tends to drag the sand sorting), the load history experienced – particularly pressure
particles and, if sufficiently energetic, is able to wash away the cycles from surface waves influencing the relative density – and
sand beneath the pipeline. This is the onset of scouring under the presence of fines, etc., all of which contribute to the
the pipe. Scouring occurs when the pressure gradient between compaction status of the sand, which is thus qualified as loose
the two sides of the pipe exceeds the stabilizing forces which or dense. The status makes a difference to the actual
keep the sediment in place, i.e. gravity, grain friction, and embedment, as well as to the near-bottom hydrodynamics of
submerged weight from the overlaying pipeline. The pressure the site, which are a combination of steady currents and
gradient increases for decreasing relative embedment mainly orbital velocities. A contribution to embedment may come
because the distance for which the pressure difference is from the installation load: in the recent past, interpretative
exerted is smaller. So the key parameter for scour inception models of progressive embedment were linked to the self-
is the critical embedment: for larger depths, no scour is lowering ability of the pipeline subject to cyclic loads that make
expected to develop. The initial scouring can be local, involving it oscillate laterally on the seabed. But, on pipeline embedment
a short stretch a few pipeline diameters in length, or global, in sandy soils, the near-bottom hydrodynamics and
when at the same time scouring develops under a significant consequent enhancement of erosion, quoted as bed load and
pipeline length in the order of a few tens to 100 m or more. suspension load, and which are caused by the disturbance to
The former case is typical of scouring induced by steady free flow offered by the pipeline, are far more relevant. Figure
currents, well-known from experiences in river and channel 9 illustrates the process that determines the degree of
crossings; the latter occurs in the presence of significant orbital embedment in sandy soils: (A) the process of scouring on the
velocities due to long crested waves impacting perpendicular pipeline section, (B) the development along the pipe axis that
to the pipe axis: this is classified as tunnel erosion. may give rise to free spanning or self-lowering, and (C) free
span development over time, which may significantly impact
Recently consensus has developed that pipe embedment in on the pipeline integrity.
sandy soils does not result from mere geotechnical
considerations alone. This fact significantly impacts on in- Pipelines on sandy soil have been the subject of considerable
place stability calculations for offshore pipelines in temporary theoretical and experimental activity, both in academic terms
or permanent conditions. Pipe embedment is a factor for in- around the North Sea basin, and in association with projects
place stability. In clayey soils, or soil compositions for which in that basin during the 1980s and 1990s. Considerable
the erosion is marginal, geotechnical embedment is the relevant theoretical and laboratory effort has allowed the governing
parameter, and from that it is possible to establish the parameters of free-span generation mechanisms to be defined
resistance capacity of the soil to withstand lateral forces due along with the conditions for the onset of scouring (pipe
to near-bottom hydrodynamics. For sandy soils, the complexity diameter, current-to-orbital-velocity ratio, grain size and
of stability calculations is from the pipe-soil configuration, distribution, porosity/permeability and density, etc.), as well
varying in time and in space (resting, free spanning, or when as the assessment of semi-empirical formulas for critical
3rd Quarter, 2014

Fig.10. Flow chart of scour-induced free-span assessment.

180 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

embedment in steady currents and waves-plus-current pipeline damage due to unexpected exposure and suspension
conditions. Moreover, many experiments have been devoted between surveys.
to the study of the evolution of free spans under wave and
current actions which can be analysed by separately considering Any of the alternative developing scenarios could pose
the transverse and longitudinal development of the scour concerns about pipe fatigue depending on exposure and
channel. The scour evolution in the transverse direction can suspension time and the site’s climatic conditions. Hence, for
be evaluated as an exponential trend towards the maximum a reliable pipeline design crossing areas possibly affected by the
equilibrium scour depth, the timescale of which can be onset of scouring, it is necessary to have a tool able to
empirically estimated along with the equilibrium scour depth distinguish between these various alternatives. In this, a realistic
for both steady-current and wave-plus-current conditions. sequence of the metocean conditions at the site is the driving
Longitudinal scour development refers to the evolution in factor, and the availability of measured waves and current
length of the free spans resulting from progressive erosion at time data is a good starting point. In any case, it is now widely
the span shoulders. Empirical formulas for the longitudinal recognized that the different sequences of metocean events
scour speed are also defined (see the review work by Sumer and can lead to a certain variability of the scenario in question.
Fredsoe, [27]). This issue can be resolved by reconstructing realistic data
having the same overall statistics as the original scenario, but
These factors have allowed the development of interpretative in which the sequence of events is stochastically determined.
models to predict whether the pipeline, due to scouring, is In the past decade, statistical properties have become available
expected to develop free spanning, in the short or long run, for most parts of the world’s seas. These properties can be
or be prone to self-lowering. Particular efforts have been analysed and used for producing a probabilistic assessment
addressed to a full understanding of the onset of scouring of possible scouring or free-spanning, and of their possible
under a pipeline, differentiating between conditions that lead variability into the near future.
to rapid pipe self-lowering from those that might lead to free-
span formation, evolution, and continuation. In particular, A procedure for the reconstruction of time-dependant factors
the concept of critical flow conditions for the anticipated has been developed [28] based on the subdivision of the waves
initial embedment after pipe laying was introduced: and residual currents over time in a sequence of storms and
calm events. The tidal-current component is extracted from
• for largely overcritical flows, the onset of scour could the total current by performing a harmonic analysis, and the
occur under long stretches of pipeline (tunnel erosion), marginal extreme distributions of intensity and conditional
with generalized loss of support determining the sinking probabilities of duration and direction are defined for both
of the pipeline into the scour channel, causing fast self- storms and calms. Time-dependent series are reconstructed
lowering and so cancelling any condition of free by random extraction from the distributions obtained from
spanning; site-specific time histories of storms and calms and their
sequences, following which the tidal current is added back
• for subcritical flows, or an initial embedment that is into the residual current. A number of time series is then used
only marginally larger than the actual embedment, the to develop a statistical prediction of the outcome of such non-
onset of scouring could only occur at specific locations linear processes. The impact of metocean on the timescale of
along the pipeline, where lower resistance due to a the processes may be relevant.
weak soil-bearing capacity is encountered; the
formation of a free span may start from there and Accordingly, the evolution of free spans can be divided into
develop as a function of a complex combination of two large groups:
different parameters. Notably, very different scour-
development scenarios may occur ranging from: • free spans which disappear within a single storm, due
to failure of the support at the shoulders, without
• a rapid evolution of the free span up to its closure achieving full development. Due to their short lifetime,
by deflection of the pipeline into the scour hole they do not experience significant fatigue accumulation
within a period ranging from days to few months; and usually do not pose design constraints.
to a slowly evolving free span generation lasting for
years; or • free spans that develop until touch-down occurs, due
• an almost permanent free span when the event to the deflection caused by their own weight. Given
generating the free span was isolated and extreme. their length and effect, they could give rise to fatigue
damage with a potential threat to pipeline integrity.
This encompass a rather wide class, ranging from the
The interpretative models discussed above can be used for the situation with a free span surviving weeks to months
probabilistic assessment of the developing scenario, and their (small-diameter pipeline in shallow water with
use is recommended at the design stage (to optimize the significant wave activity) to a situation with so slow an
decision about concrete coating vs pipe burial), during evolution – and alternation between backfilling and
construction (to provide a basis for scheduling post-trenching erosion – that the free span is almost permanent (large
work), and in operation in order to minimize the risk of pipelines in deep, current-dominated, environments).
3rd Quarter, 2014 181

Fig.11. Sakhalin Island: model simulation of the time evolution and disappearance of a free span on a 16-in diameter
pipeline in a harsh wave sea.

A semi-empirical model implementing the field and laboratory general analysis approach includes a number of steps,
investigation results has been developed with the aim of including eigenvalue analysis which provides natural
providing a screening assessment for the possible occurrence frequencies and corresponding modal shapes for in-line and
and evolution of scouring phenomena for pipelines crossing cross-flow vibrations of the free span, response analysis using
sandy erodible areas, and a flow chart of the methodology is a response model or a force model in order to obtain the stress
given in Fig.10. In the first step, what can happen at any ranges from environmental actions, and long-term fatigue-
location along the pipeline route for which homogeneous damage calculation based on the Palmgren-Miner
conditions occur (pipe, soil, metocean) is calculated. In accumulation law.
practice, the most relevant outcome is the calculation of the
maximum free-span length and exposure time at each stage of In Fig.11, which refers to offshore the east coast of Sakhalin
development. These data are input into a fatigue analysis of Island at a water depth of about 30 m, the formation and
the free span under the sequence of environmental conditions disappearance of a 16-in pipe’s free span takes place over a few
that caused scour development. The outcome of a series of hours during a storm; the issue is the potential fatigue or even
calculations performed for different sequences of metocean overstress damage when the free span is close to its maximum
time histories is used to determine whether the pipeline can be length (a ratio of the free-span length to the pipe diameter of
left exposed or should be lowered to meet acceptance criteria about 80). It would mean in that environment that the
for short- and long-term integrity. The evaluation of free-span pipeline would require a minimum lowering to ensure no free-
formation and evolution on erodible sea bottoms includes a span development. In Fig.12, the timescale is quite different;
series of calculation paths that implement the empirical the environment is the southern North Sea (a water depth of
formula describing tunnel erosion and/or onset of scouring, 40 m) and the pipeline is 48 in diameter. The scour-induced
pipe embedment or free-span development, pipe self- burial free span develops over about 24 months to get to its maximum
or shoulder/leeside erosion, and backfilling of the scour length, which survives for about four months before
trench, among other factors. In particular, the evolution of disappearing through the mid-span and the shoulders
a free span is analysed by separately considering the transverse descending into the scour trench. The processes are fairly non-
and longitudinal development of the scour trench. The scour linear, leading to a statistical approach being required to
evolution in the transverse direction can be evaluated as an develop the outcome of a series of simulations based on
exponential trend towards the maximum equilibrium scour different time histories.
depth. The timescale of this exponential evolution is empirically
estimated is a function of the near-bottom cross- Figure 13 shows the results of a fatigue analysis for the 48-in
hydrodynamics, whether mainly steady or energetically diameter pipeline in the southern North Sea for which Fig.12
oscillatory. The longitudinal scour development refers to the reported the outcome of a free-span development analysis
progressive erosion at the span’s shoulders. The unsupported over six years. It can be seen that the main fatigue occurred
sections of the pipeline tend to deflect and sag into the scour during the later part of the free span’s life, when its length was
trench, due to the weight of the pipe itself. The deflection a maximum, and resulted from the same storm that caused
increases with increasing span length, until the pipe touches its disappearance, i.e. fatigue development and storm
the bottom of the trench. From this point onward the scour occurrence are strictly correlated in time. Hence, fatigue is not
trench will be backfilled as the pipeline section undergoes a directly correlated to free-span development, and applying a
burial process. Pipeline sagging is the main mechanism leading pure statistical climate to the whole free-span lifetime, which
to the removal of free spans, but the timescale of its occurrence would give rise to greater fatigue for longer free spans, could
has a very wide range. Once the time history of the free span result in overestimating the fatigue for more slowly evolving
is evaluated with the above approach, a fatigue analysis can free spans. On the contrary, the shorter-duration free spans,
be carried out considering the effects of vibration induced by although subject to large hydrodynamic loads during the
vortex shedding and by the oscillatory wave action. The latter part of their lives, could be more critical than long-
182 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.12. Southern North Sea: model simulation giving an example of the time evolution and disappearance of a free span on
a 48-in diameter pipeline in a moderate wave sea.

duration free spans in mild conditions, and fatigue damage The soil’s relative density and strength capacity, which are
could be underestimated in this case. A correct approach inversely proportional to the water content, are significant
should be to statistically analyse the accumulated fatigue from factors, and the soil’s specific gravity, the pipe’s specific gravity,
all the free spans observed in simulations and to extrapolate and buoyancy forces are also relevant factors. This is therefore
the probability of reaching an unacceptable level of fatigue a specific sector in soil mechanics and foundation design,
damage compared to a reference acceptability threshold where pipe sinking or flotation are more important
defined for the project (which can depend on many factors, considerations than pipe burial. For these soils, the in-place
including remoteness of the location, possibility of inspection, stability and integrity are not a concern from the traditional
etc.). The analysis, besides helping in the design process, could design perspective, where large burial helps to provide adequate
be a valuable tool for planning inspection-survey frequency. lateral restraint against near-bottom hydrodynamic loads
that, in turn, are reduced by sheltering from the natural self-
The pipeline-integrity-assessment criteria currently in force lowering event. Furthermore, the process of embedment
are demanding a satisfactory performance for meeting severe counteracts any tendency for the development of excessive
safety targets, i.e. an annual probability of limit-state exceedance free spans. Failure conditions for the pipeline may occur at
less than 10-4 to 10-5. In the context of pipelines crossing active discontinuities, such as in-line tees or connections to subsea
sandy seabeds in shallow waters, it is therefore necessary to give structures, due to differential settlement or, at worst, due to
due consideration to the confidence in the interpretative impact from plastic flows along slopes or at local seabed
models described above, which for a long time have caused features (such as slits, canyons, and mud volcanos at depth).
pipeline designers to maintain a distance from the engineering In such soils, the traditional design criterion is replaced by
analyses that produce the rationale for those design decisions ‘performance-based’ design. For example, in contrast to
targeting cost effectiveness and reliability. conventional design approaches, exceeding the bearing
allowance (commonly a safety factor of two) is not the crucial
issue; rather, the design criteria refer to the serviceability of the
Pipelines resting on loose (silty assembly, under lateral shifts or progressive settlements due to
the presence of soft soils. Soft and/or loose soils can be
sand)/soft (silty clay) soils, in encountered both in shallow- and deep-water areas. The low
shallow and deep water strength capacity has different origins and natures: in shallow
waters, the origins are found in a complex mixture of recent
Soils characterized by low strength and soft nature may deposits in the proximity of large deltas or estuaries subject to
represent a critical issue for the design of submarine pipelines the pressure cycles from surface waves, in combination with
and ancillary structures. These soils can hardly provide a the seabed activity from sediment transport. In deep waters,
sufficient bearing strength based on traditional soil mechanics. quiet, slowly deposited sediments, which may be normally- or
3rd Quarter, 2014 183

Fig.13. Integrated free-span analysis: wave-time series, free-span length, and accumulated fatigue damage.

even under-consolidated, are very sensitive to small The relevant issues in respect of morphodynamics in shallow
perturbations in the equilibrium state. These attributes may waters and sandy seabeds have been discussed above, mainly
be significant for any potential route across the continental referring to their impact on a pipeline’s configuration with
slopes from the shallow waters of narrow continental shelves respect to the bedline. In shallow waters, the seabed is mainly
to the abyssal plains, where soft soils may be encountered in characterized by sandy material; nevertheless, there are coastal
proximity and at the top or toe of features such as slumps, regions where deposits from rivers, i.e. fines, cover the bedline
canyons, and slits. Understanding the nature of soft sediment to a large depth and extent. In both soil conditions, the
for the environment in question, together with the relevant pressure cycles from waves may cause significant interstitial
activity of the site – whether seismic- or wave-induced – are seepage and shear stress on the grains, so that the soil layers
key issues to be understood for a satisfactory design. close to the bedline are subject to a complex combination of
processes, including suspension, deposition, remoulding,
Loose soils in shallow water consolidation, and/or liquefaction. In particular, pore
pressure may be increased in the voids of the granular material
Pipelines in shallow waters are commonly designed by taking due to compaction of the grains from the shear cycles imposed
into account environmental loading and human activities by travelling waves. The consequent loss of effective stress will
(for example, fishing, ships anchoring, dredging works along expose the soil to liquefaction, or a status in which the soil
a shipping channel). The pipelines are often buried in the behaves as Bingham fluid. This is a potential risk in fine sands,
seabed for protection. Further, the protection itself should where the increasing density corresponds to an even-more
be designed to face the seabed activity resulting from direct pronounced loss of permeability that causes excessive pore-
hydrodynamic loads or erosion and sediment transport pressure increase. For example, as shown in Fig.15 – based on
under current and wave action. Figure 14 shows the protection the case depicted in Fig.14 – an analysis that accounts for the
work for a 40-in diameter gas trunk line across a shipping lane effects of grain-size distribution, pore-pressure development
in the German waters of the southern North Sea. A sequence over time, and the potential ratio of pore pressure to normal
of severe wave storms caused soil liquefaction within both the stress at the end of a sequence of waves, is highlighted. The
backfill and the native soil that resulted in pipeline floatation outcome was that the local soil conditions maintained their
and exposure. Gravel and crushed rock cover were loose status irrespective of the sequence of wave storms that
recommended to minimize the risk of progressive exposure of would otherwise have given rise to compaction.
the adjacent lengths. A major concern was the cover stability
over time (i.e. selection of layering and grading of the gravel) But liquefaction is only one of the mechanisms, particularly
in critical seabed soil conditions where experience from post- for clean fine sands, which may contribute to the loss of the
trenching works demonstrated that the burial depth was only soil’s shear-strength capacity. Under large waves, the shear
achieved after a greater number of passes than had been stresses imposed on the seabed may exceed the shear-strength
initially expected. capacity achieved over time through milder stress cycles. For
184 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.14. The North Sea, offshore Germany: cross section of rock cover over the pipeline exposure across a shipping lane,
after exposure due to soil liquefaction.

sensitive soils, this leads to a condition of looseness or softness or deltas, for which the differentiation is linked to
that can be a trigger of failure in the case of a weak equilibrium percentage of sand particles and clay content;
(such as even mild slopes), whereby the soil has lost any • clayey or muddy soils, close to river estuaries or deltas,
capacity to resist additional shear stresses with the soil layers where tides may give rise to conditions of temporary
sliding over one another. If the soil suffers loss of strength exposure and for which the behaviour is linked to the
capacity, the submarine pipeline on the sea floor can sink or, specific origin of the clay that, in a way, influences
alternatively, if buried for protection requirements, might stability and strength capacity.
float, so that the pipeline can be damaged or fail due to global
bending and out-of-straightness. The ratio of the pipeline’s Sandy soils are typical of coastal regions; there are also
weight to the soil’s specific gravity is the relevant parameter. offshore regions of the southern North Sea that are
Across slopes, the shear failure can also induce large horizontal characterized by sandy soils to a large extent, as discussed for
soil movements that may impact the pipeline. For the short- the seabed activity above. In these regions, the performance
and long-term integrity of a submarine pipeline it is crucial to of sandy soils under cyclic pressures from waves is linked to the
gain a realistic understanding of the sediment’s properties average grain size and its distribution, whether well-sorted or
and, in particular, the soil stability in relation to the metocean well-graded. This impacts on the permeability and the
environment near the buried pipeline’s route. compressibility, both of which are relevant defining the
propensity to liquefaction or loss of shear-strength capacity.
A tentative characterization or discrimination between the At the upper and lower bound of the performance under
different scenarios can be linked to soil composition in the load are, respectively:
following three classes:
• Coarse sands, graded with marginal presence of fines,
• sandy soils, typical of coastal regions, for which the which are generally dense and offer a good bearing
differentiation is based on density (i.e. very loose to capacity. The permeability allows for drainage, and
dense), grain size (i.e. fine to coarse), and presence of pore pressure in the voids cannot accumulate and
fines (i.e. clean sands to silty sands); affect the effective shear stress. So the propensity to
• sandy clayey silty soils, in the proximity of river estuaries liquefaction is minor, and erosion and suspension are
3rd Quarter, 2014 185

Liquefaction Potential Assessment

after 15 cycles H1/100





depth [m]





0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70 0.80 0.90 1.00
pore pressure / normal effective stress

27m 30m 33m 35m 37m

Fig.15. The North Sea, offshore Germany: liquefaction analysis outcome of the pipeline in Fig.14, on well-graded sand
where the exposure occurred. Development of the pore-pressure ratio at different water depths (bottom right) and with
time (upper left) for a given water depth.

not high due to grain weight. It is a good material for basis it was decided to specify a minimum specific
natural backfilling of pipe trenches, in terms of gravity for the pipeline close to that of the natural soil
containment against upheaval. backfill.

• Fine sands, including fines from marginal to significant Sandy clayey silts are typical of offshore regions with estuaries
percentages. The performance is strictly linked to this or deltas of large rivers. The condition of these soils, strictly
fine percentage. The material generally shows a low related to the concentration of their constituents, is directly
permeability, which implies difficulty in reducing the linked to the river-flow regime and width of the receiving
pore pressure after densification under cyclic loads. continental shelf [49]. Large areas are associated with more
This is the key of the performance under cyclic loads: continuous long-term processes, whereas narrow shelf widths
as a function of fine percentage as well as of the nature may have regular or discontinuous sediment thicknesses, just
of grains, whether rounded or rough, the overall on top of the continental slope, that discharge to the depths
performance under shear can concentrate or dilute, of the abyssal plains during extreme events such as earthquakes.
often as a function of the status of the density. Only It is difficult to find in nature, and primarily in shallow water
concentrated soils are prone to liquefaction. From depths with more-severe metocean conditions, those conditions
that, it is difficult to anticipate on paper the where cohesion or friction were able to develop over time in
performance of fine sands, without a dedicated a way to provide a soil with a good bearing capacity. When
laboratory- and field-test campaign. In brief, coarse the sand percentage is significant and the clay fraction marginal,
sands are generally dense except in cases of well-sorted silts behave like loose sands; when the sand concentration is
grain-size distribution, while fine sands can be loose or minor and the clay fraction significant, silts behave like soft
dense as a function of the fines content and of the clays. In nature, these soils are loose, particularly during and
sequence of loads just experienced. Figure 16 shows a after a storm event, and pore-pressure cycles are induced that
case offshore the east coast of Sakhalin Island: shallow remould the superficial layers and offset any shear-strength
waters, below 30 m, affected by potential ice gouging, capacity that had previously been developed. During storm
where the pipeline is buried for protection and its events, silts are put into suspension by on-bottom velocities,
specific gravity meets the criteria for no floatation in creating a condition of turbidity; however, erosion is not as
the case of liquefaction. Analyses showed a high relevant in sandy soils. In many circumstances, the word
propensity to liquefaction at the identified burial ‘liquefaction’ is applied to describe the process causing the loss
depths, and laboratory tests provided information of shear-strength capacity under cyclic shear. Liquefaction is
on soil properties and strength capacity, and on this a process that implies soil contraction in response to shear
186 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.16. Eastern Sakhalin Island: seismic- and wave-induced liquefaction analyses with relevant soil properties.

strain that corresponds to a pore-pressure increase and Sandy silty clays can be found in offshore regions similar to
drainage of excessive water. This is not the case in sandy clayey the above, and are likely to be in close proximity to river
silts, where permeability is low and compressibility is not only mouths. In certain circumstances, the tidal-current regime will
linked to void reduction. Pipelines resting on these soils show give rise to ‘mudflats’ or muddy seabeds that can emerge in
a natural embedment capacity that provides a significant low-tide conditions. Again, the soil-strength capacity is linked
lateral resistance. At the same time, it is difficult to lower the to presence of silt, which counteracts any significant increase
pipeline by post-trenching due to the natural buoyancy that of shear strength over time. The soils, when exposed to the
the soil develops against the pipe wall, and weak counteraction open sea and severe storms, are generally soft and continuously
by the soil’s shear-strength capacity that is originally small and remoulded by the pressure cycles due to wave action. In
is almost totally lost after remoulding by the trenching sheltered areas, a slow process of weathering and erosion can
operations. This is the typical case where a full understanding influence the morphology. In these soils and in shallow water,
of the in-situ soil behaviour is only acquired after construction. the pipeline is buried and covered with local material. Typically,
these are quite sensitive marine areas and construction work
Figure 17 shows the embedment response of the Nord Stream on seabed materials is subject to strict environmental
pipeline, located in the Gulf of Finland, for the as-laid requirements (for example, the management of excavated
situation after the system was pressure tested and in operation. soil).
The difference between the sandy and the silty seabeds is
straightforward, as is the impact on in-place stability against Excavation work generally encounters a crust of stronger
near-bottom hydrodynamic loads or the effect from thermal- material at the surface and a very soft mud just below. In this
expansion recovery. In the Nord Stream project, the significant context, a primary issue in pipeline design is the specific gravity,
aspect were the gravel ‘sleepers’ or berms, designed to provide that should be kept slightly higher than of that of soil. The
bearing support for the pipeline between rocky outcrops. The design objective is to counteract any tendency for excessive
sleepers had to be dumped on the silty soils of the Baltic Sea, pipeline sinking or floating with exposure. But, in certain
and the bearing-performance criteria required a complex circumstances, a pipe-trench configuration that is quite
design process that was integrated with the surveys for fine complex is necessary due to process conditions causing thermal
tuning. Figure 18 shows one of these sleepers providing expansion and the risk of upheaval buckling, or protection
bearing support for the pipeline. requirements against human activities, and engineered material
3rd Quarter, 2014 187

Fig.17. The Baltic Sea: pipeline vertical configuration (cyan solid line plotting top of pipeline and bottom of pipeline)
compared to seabed conformation (orange solid line) as detected during an external survey performed after pipeline
installation (upper) and in operating conditions (lower) [50].

Fig.18. The Baltic Sea: pipeline support design process showing the definition of the minimum support dimension for the
pipeline integrity, the intervention work design including drawings and rendering, and the final support installation and review
using a digital terrain model (DTM), [49].

is required to provide pipeline containment or protection. pipelines in the Caspian Sea. The natural soil for backfill is
Other project conditions that may be critical are encountered expected to contain the pipeline at the established burial
when dealing with long-distance gas pipelines where, in the depth over the design life, and protect it against potential
proximity of the receiving terminal, it is normal that the gas liquefaction or cyclic mobility from surface waves. The findings
temperatures fall below zero due to the Joule-Thompson of laboratory tests and engineering analyses are shown: they
effect. When this occurs in clayey soils, it gives rise to the document the in-place stability of the pipeline at the safe
formation of an ice bulb around the pipe and to frost-heave burial depth where there is a typical case of organic clay with
action due to ‘segregation’ potential, which is a pressure from a content able to conserve shear strength after trenching and
underneath the soil activated by capillarity and increasingly backfilling.
displaced volume. In practice, this requires significant
intervention work through excavation of the clay material Liquefaction and cyclic failure
around and under the pipe, with gravel and crushed rock used
as a backfill replacement. Figure 19 illustrates the case of pipe A few further comments are appropriate on the mechanisms
burial for ice-gouging protection for the Kashagan export responsible for the occurrence of certain loose or soft seabed
188 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.19. The Caspian Sea: cyclic strength and plasticity chart for clay material (top) and for wave- and seismic-induced
liquefaction analyses (bottom).

soils in shallow waters. The accumulation of pore pressure in of liquefaction in silty/clayey soils and, similarly, in coarse,
granular soils under cyclic seismic or wave loads may occur in gravelly soils and rockfills. The propensity for liquefaction of
contractive soil (i.e. those soils that contract under applied coarse soil is low as the high permeability allows rapid
shear stresses caused by significant pressure cycles). This can dissipation of excess pore pressure. Moreover, such soils do
lead to the disruption of the inter-granular friction with a not occur in the very loose state of finer sandy soil. However,
progressive loss of shear-strength capacity. The loss of restraint the liquefaction of coarse-grained soil has been observed in a
due to removal of the soil’s shear strength may imply large number of well-documented field cases. The potential for
deformations, caused by direct loads from the pipeline to the liquefaction has been recognized – and treated accordingly –
soil or loads on the pipeline from soil sliding (due, for instance, where the drainage potential has been circumvented by a high
to the loss of equilibrium along slopes). The risk is somewhat concentration of fines, which reduces overall permeability, or
limited by the distributed or variable pattern of liquefaction by a significant thickness of the coarse layer such that the
and relative short duration of the phenomenon. This also drainage path or distance is large. In the case of a high fines’
depends on the triggering mechanism: for wave-induced content, according to the Chinese Criteria and its subsequent
liquefaction, the complete loss of shear capacity of large (100 modifications, the potential for liquefaction of fine-grained
m) sandy areas for long time periods (100 s) under a severe soil has for a long time been commonly based on a combination
wave storm, while in less-severe circumstances liquefaction of the fines’ content, liquid limit, and water content values.
may occur locally (10 m) for short time intervals (10 s). In fact, Specific values of the reference parameters have been revised
the main difference between wave and seismic cyclic loading over the years but have maintained the conceptual analogue
on pore-pressure accumulation and dissipation is related to version of the liquefaction propensity. Experimental evidence,
the different timescales. In the case of seismic loading, the however, has shown that liquefaction can occur in soils that
build-up of pore pressure is very fast, while, in the case of waves, are classified as ‘not liquefiable’ based on this approach. As
the accumulation and dissipation of pore pressure occurs at a consequence, the significance of fines’ content has lost value
every wave cycle, while the build-up of the residual pore in the liquefaction-susceptibility assessment, and the
pressure is relatively slow. importance of the clay mineral content has increased. Figure
20 shows the application of the modified Chinese method to
It has long been recognized that sandy soils with little fines the superficial soil of the northern Caspian Sea, as part of the
content are potentially prone to liquefaction under cyclic ice design for a pipeline that will be buried, with the top of the
loading, while there has been controversy over the possibility pipe deeper than 1.8 m to safely resist loads from ice gouging.
3rd Quarter, 2014 189

Fig.20. The Caspian Sea: modified Chinese criteria applied to the clay soil, see Robertson, [51].

More-recent approaches prefer to distinguish between sand- equipment and partly by natural processes for a pipeline in
like and clay-like behaviour of soils. The term ‘liquefaction’ is the north Caspian Sea that was required to meet ice-design
used to describe the onset of excess pore pressure and large requirements. A detailed investigation was performed along
strains under cyclic loading for sand-like soils; whereas, the a stretch where unexpected pipeline flotation occurred,
term ‘cyclic failure’ is the analogue behaviour for clay-like soils. probably caused by the overload on the backfill material from
The stress-strain behaviour associated with these two different the observed ice activity (pressure-ridge ice gouging, or standing
terms is substantially the same. Due to cohesive forces, the clay- stamukha).
like material accumulates less pore pressure during undrained
cyclic loading, does not reach zero effective stress, and is thus In engineering practice, seismically-induced liquefaction for
not susceptible to the total loss of strength capacity which sand (more or less silty) is commonly evaluated by comparing
occurs in sand-like soil. Rather, clay-like and sand-like the soil’s cyclic-resistance ratio (CRR), preferably estimated
behaviours relate to fundamental differences in the soil- from cone-penetration test (CPT) records, and the seismic
mechanics’ characteristics, which demand different approaches cyclic shear ratio (CSR), which can be evaluated from seismic
to evaluate their behaviour under seismic loading. In particular, acceleration. An analogous procedure is adopted for clayey
the liquefaction potential of a fine soil should be evaluated as soils. An approach based on the comparison of CSR and
a function of its position with respect to the Atterberg limit CRR can be conservative for wave-induced liquefaction. The
chart, the plasticity index liquid limit, and the water and fines re-arrangement of soil particles under cyclic shear loading
contents. Depending on the combination of these parameters, might play a major role, as it can lead either to a disruptive
the potential for liquefaction can be excluded, confirmed, or accumulation of pore pressure – liquefaction – or to a slow
evaluated with further considerations. Engineering criteria increase of relative density – densification – which in its turn
aimed at discriminating clay-like behaviour with respect to will reduce the soil’s propensity to liquefaction. For loose soil
sand-like, however, is not uniquely defined, particularly within – as in the trench backfill just after the natural or mechanical
the transition region that depends mainly on the characteristics infill – the alternation of densification processes under mild
of the clay and the plasticity index. In summary, cyclically- wave events and liquefaction under extreme ones should be
induced soil liquefaction mainly occurs when the soil taken into account, as the former could be a safeguard against
characteristics include non-plastic fines content, low-plasticity the latter. The wave-liquefaction process, in the case of
silts, a low soil-liquid limit, and a large water-content fraction. horizontally homogeneous soil, can be analysed using the
Low-plasticity or non-plastic silt and silty sands play a crucial ‘storage’ equation and relating the strain rate with the net
role, as not only can they cyclically liquefy, but also they can pore pressure and the rate of generation of pore pressure for
‘hold their water’ well and slowly dissipate the accumulated undrained conditions. The latter can be obtained from the
pore pressure due to the low permeability. number of cycles to liquefaction, which can be assessed
through proper cyclic tests. Once the pore-pressure increase
Figure 21 shows the findings of an investigation into the is known, liquefaction occurs when the accumulated pore
backfill performance created partly by post-trenching pressure exceeds the effective vertical stress.
190 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.21. The Caspian Sea: potential liquefaction for clay soils as recommended by Seed et al. [42].

This approach can be used to evaluate the potential for also been established for the laboratory characterization
liquefaction to occur but cannot describe the post-liquefaction studies. Furthermore, advanced technical solutions and
behaviour of the soil. Further, it can be used to get an estimate engineering tools evaluating the performance of pipelines and
of soil densification under the effect of waves. The cyclic wave related foundations, both in-line and end-structures, have
shear stress determines the rearrangement of the sediment been developed.
particles: depending on the initial status of the soil and the
intensity of applied stress (i.e. on the diluting or compacting Soft clay is principally influenced by the stress history, vertical-
propensity of the soil) the wave action can lead to excess pore- consolidation response, and associated anisotropic properties.
pressure accumulation (i.e. liquefaction) or expulsion of pore Non-linear stress-strain relationships and strain-rate effects
water (i.e. soil densification). For a trenched pipeline, the may be relevant for severe loads and dynamic load conditions.
densification and liquefaction processes are competing
phenomena, as the in-fill material just after backfilling will be Figure 22 shows samples collected in the deep waters in the
in a looser state than the surrounding soil and thus more Nile delta in Egypt in different campaigns. The data, plotted
prone to liquefaction. The backfill may subsequently undergo on an Attembeg chart, show soils that can be characterized by
a densification process due to the cyclic loads from the action a significant plasticity. The undrained shear strength is plotted
of the waves and liquefaction would then become less likely, as a function of the penetration depth for one of the boreholes.
but can occur during severe storm events. Consequently an This outcome is reasonably representative of soils that are
approach combining both phenomena is required to establish usually found in the depths of different deep-water basins
reliable estimates of the actual pipeline risk. worldwide. In these locations, the low shear capacity is a key
factor in the foundation design of subsea structures, in
Soft soils in deep waters particular for the bearing strength vs the lateral load capacities.
Two load conditions are superimposed on the bearing
Surveys across abyssal plains show the presence of very soft response:
sensitive soils in many circumstances, deposited relatively
slowly and characterized by increasing strength with depth (at • loads due to service conditions from subsea piping
the surface a typical shear strength of 0 to 5 kPa would be and flowlines, as a consequence of the internal pressure
encountered that increases with depth at a rate of 0.5 to 2.0 and temperature of the transported fluids;
kPa/m). Such soft soils give rise to engineering challenges for • loads from the environment, in particular seismic
the foundation design of the subsea structures and for the loads, that may be quite frequent in deep waters.
connection of this infrastructure with flowlines. In the recent
past, new tools (T-bar, ball penetrometer, etc.) have been The response of soft soils under dynamic excitation is crucial
specifically developed to gather soft-clay data and characterize for the assessment of seismic-design parameters applicable to
its in situ performance. New procedures and protocols have structural design. The seismic excitation is transferred from
3rd Quarter, 2014 191

Fig.22. Offshore Nile Delta Egypt: core sampling in deep water from a sequence of development phases.

Fig.23. Offshore Nile Delta, Egypt: outcome of non-linear

propagation analysis across the soft deposits, and the
effect on peak ground acceleration at the soil surface.

the bedrock to the seabed surface through a significant a certain capacity against combined loads, where the horizontal
thickness of soft soils. In many circumstances the non-linear and overturning components play a major role in the design
response due to the constitutive nature of the soils involved of shallow-skirted foundations, and where the skirts confine
provides a significant impact on the seismic excitation soft surficial sediments and help activate resistance against
transferred to the surface. Figure 23 shows the effect of non- horizontal loads. These shallow foundations are subject to
linearity on the peak accelerations that can reach the soil complex load combinations.
surface, which was analysed for the data and locations shown.
Due to the connections and environmental action, the
Figure 22 shows that there is a threshold that cannot be horizontal component of the applied load, which often
overcome, corresponding to shear failure of soil layers at a includes a significant torsional moment, is generally dominant
certain depth. This is good for the design against sliding failure relative to the applied vertical loads. Traditional foundation
of structural foundations; on the other hand, this may be a design is not suitable and does not account for such a complex
concern in areas characterized by seabed slope gradients, load combination (i.e. co-planar horizontal loads, and biaxial
where even mild slopes can develop into a critical state that moments and torsion). Consequently, new approaches are
activates a sliding mechanism. required. In particular, recent rules recommend the failure-
envelope approach, which can be used to represent the
In deep waters, shallow foundations are widely adopted for ultimate limit state for a shallow foundation under general
small subsea structures such as pipeline end terminations and loading. Figure 24 shows a pipeline-end-termination sled in
manifolds, supports, and in-line valves. The requirement is for the as-built and as-installed configurations, on a soft seabed
192 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.24. Offshore Nile Delta, Egypt: pipeline and termination as installed, and the effect of skirts on the soil shear-failure
mechanism just under the foundation mat.

in 1200 m water depth. The working mode for the skirt is also of magnitude greater than other factors, such as disturbance,
schematically illustrated where in-place stability is required remoulding, reconsolidation, and water entrainment. Soil-
but allowance for sliding or relative motion, compensating strength recovery through reconsolidation can be as significant
the pipeline’s expansion, is also needed. as the reduction in strength when remoulding is imposed.

If there are significant vertical and lateral loads, shallow The structural response to seismic loading can be assessed
foundations are replaced by suction piles. The original concept using both analytical tools and non-linear dynamic finite-
for this was applied to the foundations of large concrete element analysis. The very soft soil is modelled as a non-linear
structures on the soft clays of the North Sea, and now they hysteretic material, and the steel structure as an elastic system.
are widely used as foundation systems in deep-water projects. Earthquake-time histories are applied to the model base, and
Initially, suction piles were used as anchor points for deep- the movements of the foundation and superstructure are
water mooring systems as an alternative to the standard drag evaluated. Performance criteria are established considering
anchor. As a structural foundation, suction piles are a the acceptable levels of displacement for the jumper connections
competitive alternative to the more-traditional solution of (i.e. performance-based design). Although very soft soils and
skirted mud-mats, and they provide cost savings in fabrication relatively large masses are in play, the analysis is performed to
and installation equipment. Furthermore, the foundations demonstrate the displacements at the jumper flange are
are relatively easy and rapid to install, can be positioned with acceptable. The use of advanced modelling techniques has led
high precision by controlled and simple marine operations, to significant cost savings with respect to more-simplified
and can be removed for reuse. The design issue is whether design approaches for the foundations. Figure 25 shows an
structural oscillations during an earthquake would damage example, based on the resistance diagram, of the calculation
the relatively rigid jumpers attached to the manifold. Soil for a suction pile for a manifold quad foundation on the
parameters such as remoulded, undrained, shear strength sandy seabed offshore Egypt in 140 m water depth, that
and its evolution with time, thixotropy, soil sensitivity, and accounts for the coupled interaction between the soil’s vertical
index properties, are the basic data needed to characterize the bearing capacity and its lateral resistance. The application can
adhesion between the pile shaft and the soil. This provides a be extended to different configurations.
basis for evaluating the evolution of pile-strength capacity
over time, from installation to the final lifetime condition (i.e. Another issue of deep-water infrastructures relates to flowlines
the ‘set-up’ effect). Cyclic loads can initiate significant changes with respect to the relief of pressure loads and thermal
in soil strength and stiffness that can be more than one order gradients into lateral movements (i.e. in-service buckling)
3rd Quarter, 2014 193

Fig.25.Offshore Nile Delta, Egypt: design criteria for isolated suction piles under combined load; “quad” foundation for a
large manifold on sand, as laid [52, 53].

and/or axial expansion at the two pipe ends (pipeline walking). service buckles initially developed during the system’s pressure
The offshore industry has dedicated significant effort to test. This resembles a theoretical ‘infinite’ model. Figure 27
investigating the behaviour of high-temperature high-pressure shows a significant buckle, for which a detailed numerical
(HT/HP) flowlines, and establishing acceptance criteria for finite-element model is fine-tuned; inspection and modelling
the stresses and strains developed during the fluctuations of are purpose dedicated to control the development of bending
flow during the service lifetime and developing mitigation strains at the most critical locations.
measures to guarantee the overall integrity. Fluctuations of
the fluid temperature and pressure may increase the
accumulated axial displacement or lateral-bending From continental slopes to abyssal plains
displacement amplitude at sites where lateral buckling has
occurred. In addition, seabed slopes may give rise to irreversible Continental slopes are geologically complex areas that can be
accumulation of longitudinal displacements. For short and characterized by steepness and bottom roughness. Very
generally exposed flowlines, the accumulated axial displacement peculiar seabed features are encountered which include
can lead to potential overloads of jumpers and spools at the canyons, deep and steep slits running approximately along the
flowline ends. A rational and robust design against pipe steepest descent lines, isolated or sequence of steps and
walking and excessive bending at buckle crests requires the terraces, soil slumps residual of past slides, bumps and cone-
consideration of realistic operating conditions (pressure and like seabed roughness at the slope toe – as outcome from past
temperature fluctuations), pipe/seabed configuration global slides – and mud volcanoes with craters and preferential
(exposed, trenched, or buried) and lay (alignment profile, paths for mud outflow and deposition. In active seismic
out-of-straightness). These factors affect the operating regions there is also evidence of seismic faults and considerable
conditions, the non-linear pipe-soil interaction, and the fracture lines, often in the shape of high vertical walls originated
interaction with the end structures and jumpers. Advanced by past seismic events. Under- or normally-consolidated soft
engineering tools are used to simulate the global and local sediments can be found on the edge of the shelf and on the
behaviour of the flowline. flanks of the slope, which may be abundant in localized areas.
Such deposits are subject to slow downhill movements due to
The in-service-buckling response is a critical issue for flowlines creep, transport due to erosion and sedimentation, and
and field-development infrastructure. It can also be a design overpressure of interstitial fluid caused by rapid deposition.
issue for export or trunk lines, particularly in deep waters: the There are differences in local conditions that may cause a
peculiarity is the low residual effective lay pull, given by the shear-stress increase or a strength decrease of the soils involved.
difference between large numbers, i.e. the cap effect that works Excessive thicknesses of loose sediments from the river mouth
as an effective pull counteracting sag bending minus the axial can accumulate on the shelf edge, and may be regularly
compression at the pipe wall. As a consequence, a pipeline in discharged downhill. The seismic excitation may trigger global
deep water is quite susceptible to in-service buckling, even or local instability, which potentially may develop into downhill
under system pressure test. The example in Fig.26 shows the slumping of large areas, and even plastic flows running over
outcome of a survey along a partial segment length of the two tens of kilometres. Evidence of these features and morphology
Blue Stream pipelines, each 24-in diameter and 31.8-mm wall has been established through interpretation of 3D seabed
thickness, in operation in the deep water of the Black Sea. The images. An illustrative example of these features on the
pipeline response after start-up shows a number of buckles at continental slopes of the Black Sea for the Blue Stream
regularly spaced intervals, at the same locations as the in- pipeline project is shown in Fig.28: deeply incised branched
194 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.26. The Black Sea: survey of the 24-in pipeline in operation, showing pipeline deflection in the vertical and lateral planes
due to in-service buckling, resembling a theoretical ‘infinite’ mode accordingly to engineering calculations.

canyon systems, in late development patterns, and shallow developed inspection and reliability-based integrity-
canyon systems, in early development ones, are observed. monitoring plans are established.

Today there are a number of global initiatives regarding The major hazard for pipelines laid across a continental slope
subsea field development at the toes of continental slopes, is the sudden, and mostly unpredictable, downslope soil
most notably in SE Africa (for example, Tanzania and movement that involves massive soil volumes or slope surfaces,
Mozambique) and in the Indonesian Sea. Such field and which is generally defined as a mass-gravity flow. Slope
developments incorporate common aspects, such as an ultra- failures developing into mass-gravity flow pose a definite
deep-water infrastructure at a distance from the toe of the threat to a pipeline’s integrity and its product-containment
continental slope with export lines routed across the slope, and carrying capacity. However, high-density and high-velocity
onto the shelf, and to landfall on the coast. The subsea-field flows are not frequent, and fortunately there has not been any
infrastructure includes manifolds and riser-base structures, direct observation of such flows in the marine environment
flowlines ending with connectors, foundation structures and within the proximity of the existing subsea infrastructure.
jumpers, and umbilicals and ancillaries that are often routed Turbidity currents are also associated with the same instability
across rough seabed features. At the sea’s surface, a floating mechanism but are more frequent, with historical evidence of
production and storage unit, connected with riser systems, is subsea cable failures. Pipeline route selection is generally based
used to develop the field. The export lines leaving the subsea on maintaining a suitable distance from potential hazards,
infrastructure are routed across the continental slope and thereby minimizing the risk. In some circumstances hazards
laid on, or embedded in, the seabed, where the soil can exert cannot be avoided, and therefore they shall be suitably
loads on the pipeline particularly at locations where the described and quantified to support the engineering design of
pipeline encounters both soil movement and seabed bottom protection measures. In both cases, the quantitative assessment
roughness. Mitigation measures and relocation or re-routeing of the effects should be analysed with probabilistic methods.
may be required. During the design process, for installation Each aspect of the engineering flow should be identified and
and operations, the fine tuning of the pipeline system layout quantified by calculation of the expected values and standard
is carried out based on site-specific data, and purpose- deviations. This geohazard assessment is a multi-disciplinary
3rd Quarter, 2014 195

Fig.27. The Black Sea: survey of the 24-in pipeline in operation, showing a satisfactory comparison of survey outcomes with
engineering calculations on one of the severest buckles.

Fig.28. The Black Sea, Russian Coast: continental slope with deeply incised branched canyon system (100 m depth contour

effort, which involves expertise in geology, geophysics, Nevertheless, a multi-disciplinary research effort is still needed
sedimentology, seabed mechanics, fluid dynamics, and to provide equipment and engineering tools that suitably can
structural mechanics. An integrated approach, incorporating tackle deep-water hazards [54].
these different technical disciplines, is needed to rationally
assess the stability of a continental slope. The individual The possible geohazards that can be identified in a slope where
aspects include potential flow-pattern recognition, soil a series of export and flowlines have to be installed can be
mapping, slope stability, and mass-flow modelling. Project therefore distinguished into two groups: seabed features, and
experience has demonstrated the importance of adequate consequences of soil failure. Seabed features include the
planning: starting at a very early stage: it is important to morphological structures in the area which can affect the
optimize the collection of survey data as well as the interaction design of the crossing and intervention works on the seabed
among the different disciplines that are not sequentially and the pipeline configuration (for example, to correct long
linked but highly integrated. High-quality survey data are free spans or protect the pipeline from transverse flows). The
required to reduce uncertainties and, within suitable margins, consequences of soil failure are related to the activated soil
allow for decision making in projects involving considerable dynamics, local or massive, which can impact flowlines and
investment costs. The survey activity should be flexible in structures during their operational life.
response to project-specific requirements, and the final results
must be checked for consistency with the available data and Seabed-slope stability analysis of the area crossed by a pipeline
overall sedimentary environment. The predicted mass-gravity- route generally starts from the identification of past slumps
flow activity must be consistent with the evidence in the or landslides. A review of available geotechnical data is
geophysical records in terms of location, recurrence time (age- conducted with an assessment of soil characteristics, focused
dating of the sediment cores can be used for this purpose), and on the upper soft soil layer, for instability potential.
intensity. A correct set-up for the investigation, and a sound
interpretation of the results, can give the engineer valid A static and pseudo-static slope-stability analysis, based on the
indications for designing a pipeline in a geohazard area. limit-equilibrium method, evaluation of soil displacement,
196 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.29.Offshore Nile Delta, Egypt: the layout of flowline routes in proximity to a mud volcano after a dedicated survey
campaign, sampling, and laboratory tests, provide the basis for the engineering assessment of the geohazard.

and risk of soil failure, and using simplified models, is carried be avoided by specific mitigation works or re-routeing of the
out (for example, Bughi and Venturi, [55]). The primary affected lines. Indeed, infrastructures for offshore exploration,
outcome is the identification of potentially-unstable areas, production, and transportation are designed to meet very
for static- or seismic-loading conditions, with the definition of stringent safety targets. International consensus on these
the possible failure depth associated with the considered targets was achieved in the early 1990s after a comprehensive
return periods. When the analysis is carried out in reference code-based performance analysis of in-service pipelines was
to the infinite-slope model, stability maps can be produced conducted, based on field experience and comparison with
covering the area of interest. More-detailed 2D and 3D other disciplines. In this case, the ultra-deep water would
models can then be used to refine the analysis of the critical mean difficult remedial intervention work in the case of an
slopes that have been identified in the stability maps. Based on incident, so that the envisaged design criteria need definitely
the slope-stability analysis conducted with reference to the to be safe for life, and are often therefore quite demanding
design-earthquake events, the potential for the development at the design stage.
of mass-gravity flows must be evaluated. This is associated with
the presence of extended unstable areas, which may have Reliability-based limit-state design guidelines require that
significant soil volumes potentially involved in a slide, and both specific load effects from geohazards and pipeline
significant loss of material strength during cyclic loading, with strength capacity are well described in terms of relevant
large displacements that are evaluated using stability analysis parameters and modelling. In particular, uncertainty measures
for those favourable seabed gradients at the toe of the influencing load occurrence and relevant effects must be
unstable soil masses. known with a suitable degree of confidence to allow for
rationally-based decisions to be made for pipeline routeing
The seabed features, which may include mud volcanoes as well and protection measures, if needed. Working with the
as deep channels and complex fault systems, define a complex theoretical superposition of the tails of the probabilistic
environment requiring specific technological solutions. The distribution characterizing load and capacity, as required by
development of pipe overstresses or excessive strains where probabilistic design, or in the calibration of partial safety
strain-based design is applicable should be assessed by factors for loads and resistance in the relevant design formats
engineering calculation. Unacceptable configurations must (i.e. LRFD), requires care and a sound reference base for
3rd Quarter, 2014 197

comparison. Structural-reliability-based design, targeting a construction and integrity management is significant, and
failure probability of 10-4 to 10-6 per year, can hardly be based may affect the flow assurance/availability and overall
on load occurrence and relevant effects characterized by a infrastructure performance.
large (greater than 0.3) coefficient of variation (i.e. load
roughness). Unfortunately, this is the case for infrastructures In the design of pipelines across complex seabed environments,
along the continental slopes affected by geohazards. the impact on the strength of the pipe and fatigue of the girth
welds of modification of the seabed may be a factor, giving rise
In particular, the engineering interpretative models used to to:
calculate the load-transfer capacity from a plastic mass (soil
and water) flow running down-slope, for instance triggered by • unexpected exposure and permanent or temporary
an earthquake and impacting on a pipeline resting on the free spanning under severe near-bottom
seabed, whether as free spanning or with partial embedment, hydrodynamics;
are affected by significant uncertainty in the functional • loss of protection and pipe soil cover from
relationship and relevant parameters. This is due to limited anthropogenic activities (such as fishing, anchoring,
experience in basic fluid dynamics dealing with the external and offshore works); and
interference of non-Newtonian fluids with obstacles (while • unacceptable exposure to geohazards, including mass
internal non-Newtonian flows in pipes have been thoroughly flows and turbidity currents (or ice activity in arctic
studied), and also in relation to the lack of laboratory and climates).
field experience. Recent research coupling numerical
simulation, using modern computational fluid dynamics, Further, other design issues such as the traditional choice of
with laboratory experiments and field observations provides concrete coating thickness vs pipe burial depth, for certain
additional information on the interference scenario between long-distance pipeline projects, are definitely cross-linked to
a pipeline resting on the seabed and plastic soil flow [44-46]. the above, and crucial in relation to lay feasibility, the cost
The research outcomes can be used to anticipate the evolution effectiveness of the trenching work, and the project robustness.
of the mass-gravity flows in terms of run-out distance that may These design outcomes are stringently related to multi-
be used in decision making for hazard mitigation and risk disciplinary considerations from integrated working teams.
In traditional oil and gas offshore regions in shallow to
Figure 29 shows the layout of flowline routes in proximity to medium water depths across sandy seabeds, there was evidence
a considerable soil feature, a mud volcano, in the deep water from integrity management that the pipeline design should
offshore the Nile delta. Route selection required a dedicated have been more thoroughly looked at in terms of subsequent
study in order to exclude the possibility of sediment outflow pipeline integrity rather than in-place stability. In fact, the
that might interfere with the flowlines or the associated trust placed, in the recent past, on the technical framework
structures. Dedicated and very-high-resolution surveys were for interpretative models from seabed mechanics and the
performed to identify mudflow deposits vs other sediments so corresponding interaction with subsea pipelines was weak.
as to establish the sequence of the events – i.e. outflow from On the other hand, there is consensus that the most relevant
the mud volcano vs sediment deposition – over time. outcome from the significant R&D investment, over three
decades, examining the in-place stability of pipelines is a design
criterion that allows lateral soil resistance, in sandy soils, to be
Conclusions exceeded in a few circumstances, but to be constrained by a
performance-based design limit of 10 to 20 pipe diameters as
A long history of experience with the design and installation the maximum lateral deflection. This allowance is applicable
of offshore pipelines in complex seabed environments provides provided that the pipe response satisfies stress criteria, which
clear indications that pipeline integrity, over the planned implies that the lateral deflection must occur away from
operational life, can only be guaranteed through the co- points of fixity such as subsea structures. Unfortunately, the
operative effort of different specialized disciplines. This soil-pipe interaction that may develop in sandy seabeds due
common effort should extend from the early design phases to to erosion or bedform activity is not always a project issue. For
the installation stage, and continue with pipeline-condition clayey soils, bedform activity is marginal, and no break-out is
inspection and monitoring activities during operation. For confirmed as the reference criterion for on-bottom stability.
the crossing of sandy, active, seabeds in shallow waters, seabed In the specific case for pipelines transporting products
mechanics and ocean engineering are the relevant disciplines characterized by high temperatures and high pressures, the
that must be integrated with pipeline mechanics and design. driving criterion may be other than break-out, and the degree
For the crossing of seabeds characterized by loose, sandy, soils of softness is the relevant parameter that may influence the
in shallow waters, or soft, clayey, soils in deep waters, then soil optimum selection of the pipe’s specific gravity, targeting
mechanics and foundation engineering are the relevant acceptable in-service buckling performance.
disciplines, which are very specific for marine soils. In this
respect, the international guidelines do not explicitly cover the In ultra-deep waters, at the toe of steep continental slopes,
relevant issues of subsea installations affected by bedform project perspectives are currently targeting strategic subsea
activity and soil instability, where the potential impact on infrastructures across new offshore development regions.
198 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

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200 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering
3rd Quarter, 2014 201

Numerical and constitutive

model development to aid
design against pipeline
by Kenton Pike*1, Prof. Shawn Kenny2, and Prof. Bipul Hawlader1
1 Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland,
St John’s, NL, Canada
2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Design,
Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada

P IPELINE GEOHAZARDS ARE seabed or ground movements that may cause damage to a pipeline.
Displacement or movement of soils will affect onshore and offshore pipelines, whether they are laid
on the seabed (i.e. surficial) or are buried. Although modern computational tools provide robust, effective,
and efficient platforms for simulation of pipeline/soil interaction events, a comprehensive technology
framework is needed to advance technical solutions in support of engineering design with confidence. This
technology framework requires laboratory tests to refine constitutive models used within numerical
algorithms and physical models to calibrate and evaluate the computational simulations. In this paper,
elements of this technology framework are examined and results discussed from a research programme
developing advanced computational simulation tools, to assess the effects of large-deformation ground-
movement events on buried pipelines.

P IPELINES ARE OFTEN embedded within the soil to

meet requirements for flow assurance, mitigate the effects
of external loads (such as waves and currents), and for
recommendations for both clay, assuming total stress
conditions, and sand, assuming effective stress conditions, soil
types. Structural-type finite-element (FE) modelling procedures
protection against geohazards and anthropogenic activities are commonly used to simulate the pipe/soil interaction using
(for example, excavation, trawl gear). Some common pipeline beam and discrete orthogonal (axial, lateral, and vertical
geohazards are slope failures, fault movements, earthquakes, uplift and bearing) spring elements (for example Kenny et al.
and erosion by waves or currents. In an arctic context, ice [5]). Recent studies have demonstrated this approach is better
gouging, pit formation, and strudel scour pose significant suited to problems with simple loading conditions (such as
threats to pipeline integrity [1]. Arctic pipeline geohazards operational loads or small local displacements of soil or
exist in geotechnical zones containing cohesive and granular supports), but has been shown to be overly conservative for
soil deposits: for example, extreme ice gouging due to ice ridges complex three-dimensional ground-deformation events, such
on the Canadian Beaufort shelf occurs predominantly in as ice keel/soil/pipe interaction [6-8]. Peek and Nobahar [8]
softer clay-type sediments, while areas with sandier sediments discuss in detail the underlying assumptions in applying the
are gouged less severely [2]. On the Grand Banks offshore structural model to the ice/soil/pipeline interaction scenario,
Newfoundland however, iceberg gouging occurs in areas of and suggest the structural model superposition error is of
medium dense to dense sands [3]. critical importance. Recent physical and computational
modelling studies have highlighted the significance of
Conventional practice for buried pipeline design is to idealize independent spring response and lack of coupled interaction
(Fig.1) pipe-soil interaction using a series of beam and spring behaviour, which are considered to be important parameters
elements to represent the pipe and soil mechanical response, for large deformation and oblique loading ground movement
respectively [4]. The ALA (2001) guidelines [4] provide events, remains to be fully quantified [9, 10].

Advances in software and hardware technology have led to

*Corresponding author’s contact details:
tel: +1 709 689 3170
recent developments of three-dimensional continuum FE
email: kenton.pike@mun.ca tools to help assess and address the above-mentioned technical
202 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

uncertainties regarding the technical basis and reliability of The research framework for the present study follows the
engineering outcomes for application of the structural beam/ above ideology and encompasses full-scale testing, laboratory
spring models. Continuum FE tools have been developed and tests for soil behaviour, rigorous numerical analysis, and
partially validated for ice/soil and pipe/soil interaction in development of enhanced constitutive models for granular
clay. For undrained loading conditions, total stress modelling (i.e. non-cohesive) material. This will support the development
of soil in ice-gouge simulations using depth-dependent stiffness of practical, safe, reliable, and cost-effective design solutions
and strength properties with a von Mises’ failure criterion for challenging environments with large-deformation pipeline
have been shown to reasonably capture gouge-reaction forces, geohazards. The numerical and constitutive model
and subgouge deformation in the gouge direction [11] through development is discussed in this paper.
comparison with centrifuge test data [12]. Some recent studies
examined ice-gouging events in sand and demonstrated
correspondence with physical modelling data using the effective Numerical tools
friction angle [13] or dilation-softening material models [14],
and complex models such as NorSand [15]. Publicly available Pike and Kenny [24] discussed the use of three prominent
centrifuge scale datasets aid in the calibration and verification finite-element tools in ABAQUS/Explicit to model lateral
of numerical tools for ice/soil (i.e. “free-field”). Physical- pipe-soil interaction: Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian (ALE),
modelling datasets on fully coupled gouge events (i.e. ice/soil/ Coupled Eulerian Lagrangian (CEL), and Smooth Particle
pipeline interaction) in cohesive (for example, Ref.12) and Hydrodynamics (SPH). The ALE method utilizes re-meshing
granular [16, 17] soil types are limited. Large-scale datasets for techniques to enable larger deformations than pure Lagrangian
pipe/soil interaction are more common [18-20] that can be analyses; the CEL method uses a fixed mesh whereby the
used to verify pipe/soil interaction failure mechanisms and material can flow through without experiencing mesh
soil force-displacement response. These studies use a rigid, distortion; and SPH is a meshless method that can also
nondeformable, pipeline and have conducted tests in non- accommodate severe deformations without convergence
cohesive and cohesive soil across a range of parameters that problems. Application of each method requires a slightly
include pipe diameter, pipe burial depth, soil unit weight, different workflow for model development, and all methods
strength properties, and loading directions. The physical data are capable of accommodating the large soil deformations
have been fundamental in the development of empirical and strains that can occur, for example, in an ice-gouge event.
relationships defining the force-displacement relationships However, each formulation is not without its limitations. For
during pipe/soil interaction events [4]. Ongoing collaboration instance, the ALE method, though vastly improved over a
between the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Queen’s purely Lagrangian analysis, may still be plagued by convergence
University, and NSERC involves large-scale lateral pipe/soil issues related to mesh degradation; the SPH method, while
interaction tests in dry sand, laboratory mechanical soil promising, is less than ideal for large models as mesh density
testing, and development of continuum numerical tools. cannot be easily changed to incorporate fine and coarse
Some of the work towards numerical model verification using regions without negatively affecting scaling of parallel processes;
Trautmann’s [19] data is presented in this paper. and contact forces using the CEL formulation can often be
very ‘noisy’ due to the default penalty tangential stiffness,
As discussed by McCarron [21], the complexity of soil response within the Abaqus formulation, for general contact.
is such that design needs to be supported by experimental
data, which is more readily achieved through model testing Based on the authors’ experience, the CEL method emerges
than from prototype measurements. A framework for as the more robust tool to solve large soil-deformation
geomechanics’ engineering design – the ‘geotechnical triangle’ problems including the interaction with deformable and rigid
– that describes the interplay between establishing the ground structures. Using CEL, the user must pay particular attention
profile (site investigation, soil description), modelling (physical, to leakage of the Eulerian material through the Lagrangian
analytical, conceptual, numerical), and the assessment of soil structure, as this can alter the interaction mechanism and
behaviour (laboratory/field testing, observation/ load-displacement response, and negatively affect solution
measurement) was proposed by Burland [22]; each of these performance. Agreement between CEL and ALE results for
aspects of the framework, along with precedent, empiricism pipe-soil interaction was shown by Pike and Kenny [24] for
and experience, combine to reinforce engineering design. built-in and modified (via user-subroutine) material models.
Randolph and House [23] described an expansion of
Burland’s [22] modelling node of the triangle that relates
conceptual and physical modelling, rigorous numerical Constitutive models
analysis, and data from full-scale events. The underlying
message is that geomechanics’ problems are multi-faceted, for dense sand
and each aspect – from site investigation to the development
of numerical tools – is interconnected. Where field tests are Geomaterials have pressure-dependent strength
prohibitive, geotechnical engineers commonly rely on a characteristics, are generally dilative, can experience strain-
combination of experience, physical model tests, data from softening accommodated by post-peak localization of damage
in-situ monitoring of structures, or a combination of physical at low mean pressures, and experience plastic compaction at
and numerical modelling [23]. high mean pressures [21]. Classical plasticity models have
3rd Quarter, 2014 203

Fig.1. Schematic illustration of the (a) continuum pipe-soil interaction problem, and (b) mechanical idealization using beam
and spring structural elements.

three main components: an elastic response, a yield surface, subroutine, the MMC model is far less involved. Hence, the
and a flow rule describing the evolution of plastic strains. MMC model is a viable option that involves relatively low
Geomechanics’-material models commonly use a non- technical execution risk, has parameters that are easily
associated flow rule to reduce the excessive plastic dilation understood and derived simply from direct shear or simple
generally observed for associated flow-rule models. Plasticity- shear testing, and has been shown to reproduce desired
based models that follow critical-state soil mechanics or mechanical features of dense granular materials under dry,
incorporate capped-plasticity capture realistic soil behaviours. saturated, and unsaturated conditions [25, 27-29].
For critical-state models, the peak strength is a function of
both the stress state and density, or void ratio. The idea of a Dense sand exhibits uniform deformation behaviour until a
capped-plasticity model was presented as a method of limiting bifurcation point is reached when a shear band develops and
material dilation during plastic action by closing the Drucker- the deformation pattern transitions from uniform strain
Prager type yield surface. The main objectives for a constitutive response to localized strain patterns [30]. Anastasopoulos
soil model are to appropriately control strength and volume [27] discussed the requirement to account for strain softening
change characteristics over a range of acting pressures and to capture the initiation and propagation of strain localization
initial densities or void ratios. that is especially prevalent in dense sands. However, bifurcation
into the shear-band mode coincides with the governing
Robert [25] performed extensive two-dimensional finite- incremental equations having a non-unique solution, leading
element analyses of pipe-soil interaction in dry and unsaturated to mesh or element-size dependency [31, 32]. Anastasopoulos
sand. Two material models were used within the study – et al. [33] proposed a solution to deal with mesh dependency
Modified Mohr-Coulomb (MMC) and Unsaturated in an approximate manner by scaling the critical-state plastic
NorSand (UNS) – and exhibited favourable simulation deviatoric shear strain with the characteristic finite-element
outcomes in comparison with element tests and large-scale size. The proposed MMC model, suggests updating the
pipe-soil interaction tests. The MMC model is a Mohr- mobilized effective friction and dilation angles, and effective
Coulomb model that captures strain-softening by (or apparent) cohesion if necessary, with an increase in plastic
incorporating the reduction of mobilized friction, dilation, deviatoric shear strain. The mobilized friction and dilation
and cohesion with an increase in plastic deviatoric strain. The angles are reduced linearly from peak values to residual
UNS model is a modified version of the original critical-state- (critical) values (φ’crit and 0.0) at the end of softening. Hence,
based Norsand model described by Jefferies and Been [26] the plastic behaviour depends on the softening of the yield
that incorporates cohesion and dilation enhancements for surface and flow potential based on deviatoric strains. The
unsaturated granular materials. The UNS model requires linear-softening method provides an approximation of the
one set of model input parameters to simulate sand behaviour actual soil response that can be more accurately accounted
over a range of void ratios, confining stresses, and water for using a combination of smooth hardening and softening
saturations, whereas the MMC model requires a different set functions as outlined by Hsu [34].
of parameters depending on its initial soil density, water
saturation, and pipe embedment depth [25]. The UNS model Anastasopoulos et al. [33] proposed a relationship for the
is therefore relatively versatile; however, when comparing the plastic shear strain at the end of softening (γpf) as a function
level of laboratory testing to determine parameters, and of finite-element size and direct shear test data as shown in the
programming effort to implement the model in a user- following equation:
204 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.2. Variation of plane strain friction and dilation angles with plastic deviatoric shear strain.

 fp = ( xp −  xy ) D + ( xf −  xp ) dFE (1) Application

The above constitutive model, which accounts for soil-strain
hardening and softening, was applied by Pike et al. [29] to
where D is the height of the DS test specimen, dFE is the simulate large-scale lateral pipe-soil interaction tests conducted
characteristic finite element length, and δxy, δxp, and δxf are the by Trautmann [19]. This dataset is of high quality and has
horizontal displacements at the yield, peak, and critical states. been used extensively to calibrate and verify numerical tools
The width of the shear band is commonly related to the mean (for example, Refs 28 and 36-38). Most of the tests were
grain size, d50, and is suggested as a suitable characteristic performed using a 102-mm outer diameter, 6.4-mm wall-
element length. Shear-band thickness can range from 8d50 to thickness, pipe segment at various burial depths in dry, non-
20d50 [35]. Using this approach, recent studies have cohesive soil. The burial depth ratio H/D was defined using
demonstrated convergence of load-displacement curves for the springline burial depth, H, and outer pipe diameter, D,
element sizes ranging from 8 to 25 mm [24, 25]. as illustrated in Fig.3. The sand has a specific gravity of about
2.7 (2.74: Trautmann [19]; 2.69: Robert [25]), mean grain
Pike et al. [29] proposed an enhancement to the MMC model size (d50) of 0.5 mm [19, 20], and can be classified as poorly
allowing for plastic hardening of the friction and dilation graded [20].
angle, as illustrated in Fig.2, otherwise the response is purely
elastic until peak strength is mobilized. Adding hardening The force-displacement response in very dense sand was
behaviour provides an improvement towards capturing more characterized by a peak force followed by a softening response
realistic soil behaviour from the onset of plasticity. Dense sand at large displacement to about 80% of the peak force. Three
behaviour is typically characterized by an initial quasi-elastic tests (23, 24, and 25 as referenced by Trautmann [19]) in
stress-strain response without dilation followed by hardening dense sand (γ’d = 17.7 kN/m3) were selected for the calibration
accompanied by dilation until peak strength and dilation are study, which evaluated the numerical predictions of pipe-soil
mobilized; subsequently, softening behaviour from peak to load-displacement response, and failure mechanisms with
residual state is associated with strain localization in the form physical test data and observations [29].
of a shear band. The plastic deviatoric strain corresponding
to peak mobilized friction and dilation angle, γpp can be Three-dimensional continuum-finite-element modelling
determined from the first term of Equn 1. procedures were developed, using the software package
3rd Quarter, 2014 205

Fig.3. Pipe/soil interaction geometry.

ABAQUS, to simulate the interaction between a rigid pipe 25]. A user-subroutine (user-defined field) was developed for
and surrounding compliant soil. The main results are based use with ABAQUS/Explicit that effectively allowed the Mohr-
on a three-dimensional ALE model using plane-strain Coulomb parameters to vary with plastic deviatoric strain. As
boundary conditions consistent with the physical experiments; shown in Fig.1, the relationship between the Mohr-Coulomb
consistent response between ALE and CEL simulations was parameters, as a function of deviatoric strain, is approximated
shown by Pike and Kenny [24]. The pipe and soil were as a piecewise, multi-linear relationship which is defined in a
modelled using three-dimensional, 8-noded, reduced- tabular format within the material definition.
integration, C3D8R elements. The tangential friction
behaviour at the pipe-soil contact interface was defined by the The maximum obliquity effective friction angle is required for
Coulomb interface friction model with an interface friction plane-strain soil-structure interaction problems [42] when
angle, φμ = 0.8 φ’ds-p, i.e. the interface friction coefficient using the Mohr-Coulomb model. Direct shear-test results,
μ = tan(φμ), where φ’ds-p is the peak effective friction angle from however, do not represent a point on the Mohr circle of stress
direct shear testing. Olson [20] estimated φμ = 0.6 φ’ds-p for that is tangent to the Mohr-Coulomb failure surface, i.e. do
smooth steel-sand interaction based on laboratory tests. not provide maximum obliquity. Therefore, direct-shear
Hence, for relatively rough steel l φμ = 0.8 φ’ds-p was considered parameters must be converted to plane-strain parameters
appropriate to simulate the relatively rough surface in using a linking equation, such as the one proposed by Davis
Trautmann [19] test conditions. At H/D of 2, a range of [43]:
interface friction angles from 0.5 φ’ds-p to 1.0 φ’ds-p showed a
tan ds’
modest increase of 8% in the peak forces [36]. Treatment of sin  ps’   sin tan ds’ (2)
the interface requires further attention for oblique pipe/soil cos
interaction events where studies have shown that axial resistance
forces can change substantially depending on the oblique where φ’ps is the plane-strain friction angle. At the critical state,
angle of pipe movement [39]. For pure axial pipe movement when the dilation angle is zero, the equation becomes:
in dense sand, substantial increases in normal stresses from
initial values are associated with constrained dilation during
sin crit

 tan ds’ ld (3)
shear deformations [40, 41]. For pure axial pipe movements
in dense sand, the shear deformation may be limited to a thin where ld denotes large displacement. The critical plane-strain
shear zone boundary; however, with an increasing lateral friction angle, φ’ps-crit, is written simply as φ’crit. A detailed
component, the failure response involves more of the discussion on the derivation of the parameters summarized
surrounding soil. Hence, it is important to consider the in Table 1 is provided by Pike et al. [29]; the test identifiers
sensitivity of the global mechanical interaction response on correspond to Trautmann’s [19] test series, and plane-strain
the contact interface behaviour.
Parameter Test 23 Test 24 Test 25
The load conditions were established in two steps in which an
initial geostatic step established the initial soil-stress state and, H/D 3.5 5.5 8.0
in the second step, the rigid pipe is displaced laterally. Gravity φ’ps-y (°) 42.4 42.4 42.4
is applied to the whole model, with the pipe assumed to be in
φ’ps-p (°) 49.7 50.4 50.9
the empty condition (i.e. light), and the pipe does not have any
kinematic constraint for movement in the vertical plane. φ’crit (°) 42.4 42.4 42.4
ψp (°) 20.3 19.6 19.0
The constitutive parameters were derived from published
direct shear test data for Cornell University filter sand [19, 20, Table 1. Summary of soil parameters.
206 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.4. Failure mechanism at H/D =

3.5 in dense sand with Trautmann
[19] displacement field overlay.

yield and peak-friction angles are denoted φ’ps-y and φ’ps-p, As shown in Fig.6, the built-in MC model, without
respectively The specimen height and horizontal displacements modification using a user-subroutine, is unable to simulate
corresponding to yield, peak, and residual points, as in strain softening and sustains a peak dimensionless force.
Equn 1, were estimated as Hs = 39 mm, δxy = 0.53 mm, Using the MMC model, however, the numerical response
δxp = 1.8 mm, and δxf = 5.3 mm respectively. A characteristic bifurcates resulting in shear-band development and associated
element length dFE = 9 mm gives a ratio of approximately 18d50 softening of the force-displacement behaviour. This is
resulting in peak and residual shear strain estimates, consistent with the post-bifurcation response described by
γpp = 0.033 and γfp = 0.42. The elastic-deformation properties Vermeer and de Borst [30].
were varied with soil depth following Janbu’s [44] approach
relating the secant Young’s modulus, Es, to the effective
confining stress via the power law relationship: Conclusions
Advanced numerical tools that are systematically verified
Es  K * * H  using laboratory testing and physical modelling can be used
K 0
Pa  Pa  (4) economically, efficiently, and effectively. This has been
demonstrated in this study for pipe-soil interaction in granular
soil. Several constitutive models are available with varying
where Pa is a the reference atmospheric pressure, Ko is the at- degrees of complexity, implementation schemes, technical
rest lateral earth pressure coefficient, γ’ is the effective unit risk, and efficacy to capture realistic soil behaviour. Two
weight, H is the soil depth, and K and n are coefficients of the models used recently in numerical pipe-soil interaction studies
power-series fit. It was assumed K = 181.25 and n = 0.585 were discussed. Using the modified Mohr-Coulomb
based on calibrated coefficients determined by Jung and constitutive model, finite-element simulations were shown to
Zhang [35] against the Trautmann [19] tests for dense CU provide the physical load-displacement response and expected
filter sand. failure mechanisms very well in comparison to large-scale
physical test results. Validating numerical-simulation tools
Analysis of the displacement fields in Trautmann [19] indicates using physical test data for orthogonal pipe-soil interaction
that the extent of the passive wedge ahead of the pipe depends builds confidence in modelling procedures for extension to
on the soil density and the pipe burial depth. In dense more-complex pipe-geohazard interactions such as ground-
conditions, for example, the extent at burial depth ratios of fault rupture (for example, Refs 25 and 45) or ice keel-pipe-
1.5, 3.5, and 5.5 is approximately 3, 6, and 7 pipe diameters soil interaction scenarios (for example, Ref.8), where physical
from the final pipe centreline position. This suggests that the test data are extremely limited.
ratio of passive-wedge extent to burial depth diminishes non-
linearly, suggesting a continual transition to the deep failure Finite-element analysis is being used to assess pipeline integrity
mechanism. for these complex loading conditions within a framework
that must address optimization, limit states for serviceability
The simulation of Trautmann’s [19] test 23 in dense sand at and ultimate conditions for more-extreme operating
a burial depth ratio of 3.5 accurately produces the extent of conditions, and design loads associated with large ground
the passive wedge (about 6D), as shown in Fig.4. As shown in deformations. Simple structural beam-spring models are not
Fig.5, the numerical results agree well with the physical dataset sufficient to account for the highly complex three-dimensional
at H/D = {3.5, 5.5, 8.0}. The peak dimensionless forces are soil/structure interaction effects, load-transfer effects, and
within +/- 5%, and the softening branch is also captured failure mechanisms to establish reliable outcomes for pipeline
reasonably well. The ratio of calculated residual to peak forces mechanical response and integrity. Rigorously validated
is from 0.8 to 0.85, consistent with the experimental data. continuum-numerical-simulation tools are a key component
3rd Quarter, 2014 207

Fig.5. Numerical results vs Trautmann [19] experimental data.

Fig.6. Dimensionless force-displacement response with built-in and modified Mohr-Coulomb models.
208 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

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210 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering
3rd Quarter, 2014 211

An overview of strain-based
seismic design of high-pressure
gas pipelines
by Nobuhisa Suzuki
PIN Technologies, Yokohama, Japan

A N OVERVIEW ON THE strain-based seismic design of a high-pressure gas pipeline to withstand both
temporary and permanent ground deformation is presented in this paper. The ground deformations
induced by seismic waves, liquefaction-induced lateral spreading, and surface faults are presented. The
conventional and advanced methods to predict the strain capacity of a pipe subjected to axial compression
or bending are discussed. The strain capacity of a standard linepipe with a Luders’ elongation-type stress-
strain curve and a high-strain linepipe with a round-house-type stress-strain curve are compared. The strain
capacity of the round-house-type linepipe is expressed in terms of the stress ratio, σ2.0/ σ1.0, where σ1.0 and
σ2.0 are the stresses in which the total strains are 1.0% and 2.0%, respectively. The stress ratio is the key
parameter to predict the strain capacity of round-house-type linepipes. The strain capacity can be improved
with increasing the stress ratio without increasing the wall thickness, which is the most advanced beneficial
method for the reduction of the pipeline construction costs.

T HIS PAPER GIVES AN overview of the strain-based

seismic design of a high-pressure gas pipeline focusing on
the effects of temporary ground deformation (TGD) and
Any geometric imperfections and the initial shape of the
linepipe should be taken into account for finite-element
analysis (FEA) in order precisely to predict the strain capacity
permanent ground deformation (PGD) [1-6]. The strength- of a pressurized linepipe subjected to a bending moment [15].
level earthquake (SLE) and the ductility-level earthquake Design formulas to predict the strain capacity of such a
(DLE) are employed as the design ground motions in the linepipe subjected to axial compression or bending moment
current seismic design code issued by Japan Gas Association are proposed, based on advanced analytical solutions in
(JGA) [7]. Regression formulas were proposed to calculate the combination with FEA results [15]. The FEA results,
displacement [8] and the deformation pattern [9] of PGD. comparing the behaviours of the LE-type standard pipeline
The use of specific data has been proposed in another seismic and the RH-type high-strain pipeline across a strike-slip fault
design code [10], and a data record of the dislocation associated or a lateral spreading zone show that the RH-type high-strain
with surface faulting is presented in a USGS report [11]. pipeline is effective for ensuring pipeline integrity in hostile
environments [1-6].
Analytical solutions to predict the strain capacity of linepipe
are presented in which the linepipe is not pressurized, subjected
to axial compression, and has a Luders’ elongation (LE) type General remarks
stress-strain (s-s) curve or a round-house (RH) type s-s curve
[12-14]. The analytical solution for the LE-type linepipe is on pipeline design
expressed in terms of diameter and thickness [14] and the
advanced analytical solutions for the RH-type linepipe take General issues of pipeline design are presented in Fig.1. The
into account the Ramberg-Osgood parameters [12] or the vertical axis contains thickness calculations to withstand
stress ratio σ2.0/σ1.0 [13]. The advanced solutions are quite internal pressure [16, 17] and pipeline design in seismic zones
different from the current design formulas and are effective [7, 10], fault zones, cold regions, and mountainous areas [2-
for improving the strain capacity of linepipe without increasing 6]. The stress-based pipeline design deals with the small or
wall thickness [12, 13]. elastic deformation of the pipeline which will be induced by
internal pressure and a SLE with a low- or medium-level
seismic intensity [7, 16, 17]. On one hand, the strain-based
design will be able to deal with large deformation or non-
Author’s contact details:
linear behaviour of the pipeline [7, 10]. A DLE with a high-
tel: +81 44 322 6234
email: bell-wood@muh.biglobe.ne.jp level seismic intensity, such as in the 1995 Kobe earthquake,
212 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.1. Pipeline design in harsh environments.

may generate large deformations in the pipeline [9]. Large [7]. The DLE spectrum was defined after the Kobe earthquake
ground deformations shall be taken into account in fault in 1995 in order to take into account the extremely strong
zones, as well as frost heave and thaw settlement in cold ground shaking based on the observation data taken during
regions, and slope failure and landslide in mountain areas [2- the earthquake [7]. The SLE and DLE spectrums have a peak
6]. longitudinal ground strain at 0.10% and 0.41%, respectively
[2, 3]. The longitudinal pipe strain induced by the TGD does
not exceed the longitudinal ground strain: the pipeline will
Temporary ground deformation therefore be able to survive an earthquake when the strain
capacity in compression is sufficiently high compared to the
Seismic waves used in maximum longitudinal ground strain [2, 3]. Consequently, if
the design code in Japan we assume the strain demand in compression is 0.1% for the
SLE and 0.4% for the DLE, then the pipeline will be able to
Transverse waves and longitudinal waves traveling along a withstand the SLE or DLE.
pipeline are illustrated in Figs 2 and 3, respectively. The red
and blue zones in Fig.2 represent the transverse displacements
to the left and right, respectively; the red and blue zones in Fig.3 Permanent ground deformation
express the compression and tension zones, respectively.
Liquefaction-induced PGD
One of the first approaches to address the effects of seismic-
wave propagation in pipeline design was performed by Kuesel Saturated sandy soil layers may lose their shear strength due
[18] for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) across San to the effect of strong ground shaking as presented on the left
Francisco Bay. The longitudinal pipe strain induced by in Fig.5 [2, 3, 9]; the sandy soil layers liquefy and move
transverse waves becomes large with an increasing encounter downward along the slope as illustrated in the right of the
angle of the waves [2-6], and becomes a maximum with the figure [2, 3, 9]. A series of case studies was conducted by
encounter angle of 45o. The longitudinal waves have only been Hamada et al. [8] based on observational data after the
used in the design code of high-pressure gas pipelines [7], and Niigata earthquake in 1964 and the Central Japan Sea
the waves generate a maximum longitudinal pipe strain when earthquake in 1983. The regression formula was proposed
they propagate along the pipeline [7]. as Equn 1 to estimate the liquefaction-induced permanent
ground displacement (δ) which is expressed in terms of the
SLE (strength-level earthquake) thickness of liquefied layer, H (m), and the gradient θ (%) of
and DLE (ductility-level earthquake) either the lower boundary of the liquefied layer or the ground
surface [8]. Figure 6 clarifies that the regression formula
The design spectrums for a seismic design to withstand TGD exhibits wide variability that can underestimate the ground
are presented in Fig.4, where the longitudinal ground strain displacement by 50% and overestimate the ground
varies with respect to the natural period of the surface layer displacement by 200% [8].
3rd Quarter, 2014 213

Fig.2. Transverse waves propagating along a pipeline [2, 3]. Fig.3. Longitudinal waves propagating along
a pipeline [2, 3].

Fig.4. Longitudinal ground strain for

seismic design of a high-pressure
gas pipeline [2, 3].

Fig.5. Liquefaction-induced PGD [9].

  0.75 H 3  (1) liquefaction-induced PGD (as illustrated in Fig.7) were

investigated using the same data as that used by Hamada et al.
Liquefaction-induced lateral spreading [8]. The PGD patterns are characterized with the breadth, B,
the local deformation or the length, L, of the transition zone,
and other types of PGD
and the maximum ground displacement, δmax [1, 9]. Figure 8
Another case study was conducted by Suzuki and Nakane [9] presents the relationship between the PGD breadth and
in which the two-dimensional deformation patterns of the maximum ground displacement for lateral spreading, where
214 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Buchanan [11] revealed the historic records of the five types

of surface faulting in terms of the maximum displacement and
magnitude relationships, as presented in Fig.10. The broken
lines and the solid lines in the figure envelop the records in the
world and in North America, respectively [11]. Assuming the
earthquake magnitudes to be M7.0 and M8.0, the world data
record in Fig.10 gives the possible maximum ground
displacements of 5 m and 8 m, respectively.

Strain capacity in compression

Fundamental solution to predict
critical compressive strain
Equation 2 presents an analytical solution for predicting the
strain capacity of linepipe subjected to axial compression
without pressurization that was derived by Gerard [20]. If we
substitute ν = 0.30 and νp = 0.40 in Equn 2, we can obtain
the critical compressive strain of pipe as Equn 3.
Fig.6 Comparison of the PGD estimated by the regression 1  2 ET t
formula [8].  cr  C (2)
1  p2 ES D 2
the solid and dotted lines express the best-fit curve and the bi-
linear function along the upper bound of the data, respectively 4 ET t
[9]. Furthermore the bi-linear functions of the six flow  cr  (3)
patterns were obtained, as presented in Table 1 [9].
3 ES D

Surface faults LE type s-s curve

The basic surface-faulting patterns to be taken into account Figure 11 illustrates a simplified Luders’ elongation (LE) type
for pipeline design are illustrated in Fig.9 [19]. Bonilla and stress-strain curve expressed with a tri-linear function. Suzuki

Fig.7. Typical patterns of liquefaction-induced PGD [1, 9].

3rd Quarter, 2014 215

Fig.8. Shape of lateral spreading

observed after the 1964 Niigata
earthquake and the 1983 Central
Japan Sea earthquake [1, 9].

Direction of PGD Pattern of PGD Breadth or length Max.

(deformation of of PGD displacement δmax
pipeline) B or L (m) (m)
Horizontal Lateral spreading B < 150 B/100
displacement (bending)
150 < B < 500 B/300 + 1
Sideslip (bending) L < 50 3L/100
50 < L < 200 L/150 + 7/6
Contraction or L < 25 L/25
extension 25 < L < 100 L/150 + 5/6
(compression or ten-
Vertical Depression B < 100 B/150
displacement (bending) 100 < B < 400 B/600 + 1/2
Settlement L < 75 L/50
(bending) 75 < L < 200 L/300 + 5/4

Table 1. Regression formula of the envelopes of the liquefaction-induced PGD observed after the 1964 and 1983
earthquakes [1, 9].

Fig.9. Typical patterns of surface fault movement [19].

216 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.10. Dislocation and magnitude

relationships of world historic surface
faulting [11].

Fig.11. Stress-strain relationship of LE-type pipe [14]. Fig.12. Critical compressive strain of LE-type pipe subjected
to axial compression [14].

and Masamura [14] introduced the critical compressive strain strain-hardening value, then the critical D/t ratio is expressed
of linepipe as Equn 4. The critical compressive strain can be as Equn 5 which expresses the application limit of Equn 4
plotted as presented in Fig.12 using Equn 4, where the strain [14].
gradually reduces with increasing D/t ratio up to the critical 2
D/t ratio. The critical compressive strain at the maximum 16 m  t 
D/t ratio is consistent with the initiation of strain hardening
 cr    (4)
9 y  D 
εH. For D/t ratios larger than the maximum D/t ratio, pipe
may buckle within the Luders’ plateau and the critical strain
coincides with the yield strain. Figure 12 presents a D 4 m
   (5)
discontinuous line which means a sudden drop of the critical  t  max 3  y H
strain. If the critical strain, εcr, in Equn 4 is replaced by the
3rd Quarter, 2014 217

Fig.13. Validation of the analytical solution (Y/T = 77%) Fig.14. Validation of the analytical solution (Y/T = 86%)
[22]. [22].

Fig.15. Validation of the analytical solution [13]. Fig.16. Moment vs. rotation curves of the bending test and
FEA results considering single-mode imperfection [15].

RH type s-s curve expressed

with total strain t
 cr  35 (%) (8)
Expressing a round-house (RH) type stress-strain relationship D
is presented by a power-law function as defined in Equn 6. The
tangent modulus, ET, and the secant modulus, ES, can be RH type s-s curve expressed
derived using this equation. Substituting the tangent modulus by the Ramberg-Osgood formula
and the secant modulus into Equn 6 allows a new expression
to be formulated as stated in Equn 7 [12]. Furthermore, if Expressing the RH type stress-strain curve with the Ramberg-
0.11 is used for the strain-hardening exponent in Equn 7, and Osgood formula [21], Equn 9, Suzuki and Toyoda [12]
defining a safety factor of 1.25, the critical compressive strain derived the critical stress and the critical strain as presented in
can simply be expressed as Equn 8, which has been used as a Equns 10 and 11, respectively. Validation of the analytical
design formula in the Japanese Gas Association’s Seismic solutions is presented in Figs 13 and 14 comparing the full-
design codes for high pressure gas pipelines [7]. scale compression test data of X-70 grade, 30-in diameter,
linepipe and the FEA results [22]. The two figures illustrate
  A n (6)
that the analytical solutions present excellent agreement with
4 t the test data and the FEA results. Therefore the effectiveness
 cr  n (7) and the accuracy of the analytical solutions are established
3 D [22].
218 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Fig.17. Moment vs. rotation curves of the bending test and

FEA results considering double- and triple-mode
imperfections [15].

N Strain capacity in bending

    
  0  (9) Prediction of strain capacity
E E  0 
in bending and validation of FEA
  cr  1  1 4 E t  Figures 16 and 17 compare bending test results with FEA
   1      predictions for an X-80, 36-in diameter linepipe pressurized
 0  2  N  3 N  0  D 
to 12 MPa [15] where the bending moment and bending angle
(10) relationships are plotted. Figure 16 plots the FEA results
taking into account no geometric imperfection (NO) or some
    0   cr  geometric imperfections with respect to OD (outside
 cr  0  cr    (11) diameter), BL (blister or longitudinal flatness), and WT (wall
E  0  E  0  thickness). Figure 17 presents the results considering the
combined geometric imperfections such as OD+BL, OD+WT,
Linepipe having RH type s-s curve BL+WT, and OD+WT+BL. The peak moment points are
expressed with plastic strain shown.

Expressing the RH-type stress-strain curve with a power-law As shown in Figure 16, FEA with NO imperfections tends to
function in terms of plastic strain, εp, as presented in Equn 12, largely overestimate the deformation capacity in bending.
Suzuki et al. [13] derived the plastic critical compressive strain, And the FEA result taking into account the OD, BL, and WT
εpcr, as Equn 13. The critical compressive stress, σcr, is presented imperfections gradually tends to approach to the test result.
as Equn 13 using the εpcr. Finally the critical compressive strain Figure 16 illustrates the FEA results with the WT imperfections
is expressed as Equn 15 [13]. Validation of the analytical which give the best and conservative results [15]. Figure 17
solution is presented in Fig.15 comparing with the FEA results shows the FEA results taking into account the combined
of X-80 grade, 48-in diameter linepipe [13]. The figure geometric imperfections except the OD+BL imperfections,
illustrates the analytical solution shows excellent agreement which may also give good approximation to the test data. In
with the FEA results, and therefore the effectiveness and the particular, the BL+WT and OD+WT+BL imperfection
accuracy of the analytical solution are established [13]. combinations provide the best correspondence with the
deformation capacity in bending [15].
  A pn (12)

4  t   Design formula to predict

 pcr  ncr    0 (1  ncr ) (13)
3  D  2E strain capacity in bending
 cr  A pcr
(14) The left frame of Fig.18 explains the relationship between the
compression capacity obtained by the analytical solution and
4  t    FEA, which is expressed with the conversion function F(εcr).
 cr  ncr    0 (1  ncr )  cr (15) The small frames with dotted lines express the relationship
3  D  2E E
between the strain capacity in compression and bending
obtained by FEA, where the two values are connected with the
3rd Quarter, 2014 219

Fig.18. Conversion functions for strain capacity in compression to that in bending [13].

conversion function G(εcr(%SMYS)). The strain capacity in bending B

of pressurized pipe εcr2Dcr(%SMYS) can be expressed as G[F(εcr)]  t 
using the two conversion functions [13]. For the cases of X-80
 cr  A   (19)
grade, 48-in diameter linepipe pressurized to 50%, 60%, and
72% of SMYS, the conversion functions F(εcr) and G(εcr(%SMYS))
are presented as Equns 16 and 13, respectively [13]. The Advanced method with s-s curve
empirical design formula was derived as presented in Equation controlled high-strain linepipe
18 [13].
Equation 15 is applicable for predicting strain capacity in
 Ccr (50 ) (%)  1.40 cr (%)  0.20  compression of pipe without pressurization; Equn 18 predicts
 strain capacity in bending of pressurized pipe using the result
 Ccr ( 60 ) (%)  1.60 cr (%)  0.30  of Equn 15, which involves a strain-hardening exponent n
 and the square root of n. The strain-hardening exponent can
 Ccr ( 72 ) (%)  2.00 cr (%)  0.50  be expressed as Equn 20 (see p220) with stresses and strains
at two points, i and j. The square-root function can be
expressed as a linear function as shown in Equn 21 (see p220).
 2 DBcr (50 ) (%)  2.02 Ccr (50 ) (%)  Substituting Equns 20 and 21 into Equn 13, we can derive

 2 DBcr ( 60 ) (%)  2.07 Ccr ( 60 ) (%)  Equns 22 and 23 (see p220): Equn 22 shows that the strain
(17) capacity depends on the stress ratio, and the strain capacity

 2 DBcr ( 72 ) (%)  2.10 Ccr ( 72 ) (%)  can be improved by controlling the stress ratio without
increasing wall thickness.

 2 DBcr (50 ) (%)  2.83 cr (%)  0.40 

 2 DBcr ( 60 ) (%)  3.31 cr (%)  0.62  Seismic integrity of a high-
 pressure gas pipeline
 2 DBcr ( 72 ) (%)  4.20 cr (%)  1.05 
The seismic integrity of an X-70 grade 56-in diameter pipeline
with internal pressure of 9.8 MPa and with standard and
Improvement of strain capacity high-strain material pipeline performance for the SLE and
DLE is discussed [6]. The integrity of the pipeline across a
in compression or bending lateral spreading zone and a right-lateral strike-slip fault is also
discussed. The tensile properties are presented in Table 2 and
Conventional method the strain capacity of the pipes subjected to compression or
using standard linepipe bending is shown in Table 3 [6].

The strain capacity in compression of linepipe without Discussion to withstand TGD

pressurization is expressed in Equns 4 and 8, which do not
include tensile properties. Some design formulas used to As shown in Figu.4, the strain demand for pipeline to withstand
predict the strain capacity in bending are also expressed in a the SLE and DLE shall be 0.10% and 0.41%, respectively.
similar form, and the strain capacity of pipe can generally be The strain capacity of the standard pipeline is 2.6 times as large
expressed as Equn 19. Thus, based on this expression, the wall as the strain demand to withstand the SLE and therefore it
thickness must be increased to improve the strain capacity of will be able to survive the SLE; however, the pipeline may
linepipe [4-6, 14]. buckle during the DLE as the strain capacity is less than the
220 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Linepipe YS σ1.0 σ2.0 TS uEL σ2.0/ σ1.0 Y/T Note

(MPa) MPa) (MPa) (MPa) (%)
Standard pipe 569 569 570 618 8.0 - 0.92 Plateau
ends 2%
High-strain pipe 557 595 613 655 10.0 1.030 0.85
Table 2. Longitudinal tensile properties of standard and high-strain linepipes [6].

Pipeline Strain capacity (%)

(X-70, 56-in, 32- Compression Bending
mm, 9.8-MPa)
Standard 0.26 0.97
High-strain 0.84 1.67
pipeline Table 3. Strain capacity in compression and bending [6].

strain demand by 37% [6]. On the other hand, the high-strain m, develops to 0.8% at 5.0 m; however the strain capacity of
pipeline will be able to survive the SLE and the DLE as the 1.67% is 2.1 times as large as the maximum ε1DC.
strain capacity of 0.84% is 8.4 and 2.0 times as large as the
strain demand for the SLE and DLE, respectively [6].
Pipeline integrity across
Pipeline integrity in a lateral spreading zone a right-lateral strike-slip fault
Figures 19 and 20 present the FEA results of the standard Figures 21 and 22 plot the FEA results of the standard
pipeline and the high-strain pipeline, respectively. The 1-D pipeline and the high-strain pipeline crossing a right-lateral
average longitudinal compressive strain ε1DC and maximum strike-slip fault, respectively [6]. The 1-D average longitudinal
ground displacement δG relationships induced by the lateral compressive strain ε1DC and fault dislocation δG relationships
spreading are plotted in the figures, where the relationships are presented. Figure 21 illustrates the compressive strain ε1DC
are presented varying the breadth of lateral spreading B from increases linearly with increasing δG up to 1.9 m, and the
30 to 100 m. increasing rate of strain becomes two times as large as that
before 1.9 m. The compressive strain ε1DC reaches the strain
As presented in Fig.19, the standard pipeline will be able to capacity at 2.7 m, and hence the standard pipeline does not
survive the lateral spreading with δG up to 5.0 m in the cases survive the right-lateral strike-slip fault beyond the displacement
with B of 30 and 50 m [6]. However, in the cases with larger of 2.7 m [6].
widths of 70 and 100 m, local buckling may initiate at δG values
of 2.9 and 4.1 m, respectively. As presented in Fig.20, however Figure 22 presents the ε1DC and δG relationship of the high-
the high-strain pipeline will be able to survive the lateral strain pipeline [6]. The ε1DC tends to linearly increase with
spreading in all cases [6]. The maximum ε1DC, when B is 100 increasing δG up to 5.0 m and the behaviours are obviously

ln  j  ln  i ln  j /  i  ln  r  r  1
n     Cr  r  1 (20)
ln  j  ln  i ln   j /  i  ln  r ln  r

 r 1
n  Cn1 r  Cn 2 (21)
ln  r

4  t   C  4  t  
 pcr   Cn1    0 r   r  Cn 2    0  Cr  1 (22)
3  D  2E  3  D  2E

4  t   C  4  t  
 pcr   Cn1    0 r  2.0  Cn 2    0  Cr  1 (23)
3  D  2 E   1.0 3  D  2E
3rd Quarter, 2014 221

Fig.19. Integrity of a standard pipeline in a lateral spreading Fig.20. Integrity of a high-strain pipeline in a lateral
zone [6]. spreading zone [6].

Fig.21. Integrity of a standard pipeline across a strike-slip Fig.22. Integrity of a high-strain pipeline across a strike-slip
fault [6] fault [6]

different from those of the standard pipeline. As presented pipeline design; however, it is recommended the project-
in the figure, the compressive strain ε1DC develops to 1.20% at specific geometric and seismic data are collected so as to ensure
5.0 m which is fairly small compared to the strain capacity in the pipeline integrity in harsh environments.
bending of 1.67%. The strain capacity in bending is 1.4 times
as large as the ε1DC at 5.0 m. Then the high-strain pipeline will Predicting the strain capacity in compression or bending is
be able to survive the right-lateral strike-slip fault with the another key issue to discuss in terms of the pipeline’s integrity.
displacement of 5.0 m and greater [6]. The current design formulas to predict strain capacity are
presented in terms of pipe diameter and wall thickness;
therefore, the wall thickness must be increased to improve the
Conclusions strain capacity of a linepipe. In order to overcome this
inconvenience, some advanced design formulas have been
An overview on the strain-based seismic design of a high- introduced to predict the strain capacity, which includes the
pressure gas pipeline has been presented. The ground stress ratio, σ2.0/σ1.0, and the strain-hardening parameters.
deformations induced by seismic waves, lateral spreading, and The advanced design formulas are effective in improving the
surface faults are necessary as the input data for the seismic strain capacity with increasing the stress ratio without increasing
design of a high-pressure gas pipeline. The ground the wall thickness. Hence it can be concluded that the advanced
deformations described in the current seismic design code, design formulas are the most beneficial for the reduction of
design guidelines, and previous reports, are applicable to the pipeline-construction costs.
222 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering

Nomenclature 3. Ibidem, 2003. Seismic loading on buried pipeline and

deformability of high-strength linepipe. J. of Pipeline Integrity,
TGD : temporary ground deformation First Quarter, pp52-67.
PGD : permanent ground deformation 4. N.Suzuki, 2010. High-strain linepipes and strain-based design
ensure pipeline integrity in hostile environments. 63rd Annual
SLE : strength-level earthquake
Assembly and International Conference of the IIW, AWST-
DLE : ductility-level earthquake 10/IL-14, pp407-416.
δ, δmax : permanent ground displacement, maximum 5. Ibidem, 2011. Goal-setting design to ensure integrity of high-
permanent ground displacement strength and large diameter pipeline. J. of the JWS, 80, 3, pp39-
H: thickness of liquefied layers 46, March.
θ: angle of slope (either the ground surface or the 6. N.Suzuki, T.Arakawa, R.Muraoka, M.Aoki, A.B.Arabey, and
lower end of the liquefied layer) T.S.Esiev, 2013. Stress-strain curve controlled high-strain
B: breadth of lateral spreading or local settlement linepipes ensure pipeline integrity in seismic, fault, and cold
L: length of transition zone regions without increasing wall thickness. 5th Int. Conf. on
Gas Transp. Sys., The Present and Future, GTS2013.
σcr: critical compressive strain
7. Japan Gas Association, 2004. Seismic design guidelines of
ν, νp: Poisson’s ration high pressure gas pipeline. JGA(G)-206-03.
C: constant 8. M.Hamada, S.Yasuda, R.Isoyama, and K.Emoto, 1986. Study
ET : tangent modulus on liquefaction induced permanent ground deformation.
ES : secant modulus Assoc. for the Development of Earthquake Prediction, Nov.
D: pipe diameter 9. N.Suzuki and H.Nakane, 1990. Idealization of liquefaction-
t: wall thickness induced permanent ground deformation for seismic design of
mE : strain-hardening coefficient pipeline. J. Structural Engineering, 36A, JSCE, pp1365-1376.
σ: longitudinal stress 10. Japan Gas Association, 2001. Seismic design guidelines of
high pressure gas pipeline considering liquefaction-induced
A: coefficient
lateral spreading. JGA(G)-207-01.
ε: longitudinal strain 11. M.G.Bonilla and J.M.Buchanan, 1970. Interim report on
n: strain-hardening exponent Worldwide Historic Surface Faulting. US Geological Survey
εy : yield strain Open-File Report of 1611.
εH: starting strain of strain-hardening (end of 12. N.Suzuki and M.Toyoda, 2002. Critical compressive strain of
Luders’ plateau) linepipes related to work-hardening parameters. Proc. 21st
α, σ0, N : parameters of the Ramberg-Osgood formula International Conf. on OMAE, OMAE2002-28253.
εp: longitudinal plastic strain 13. N.Suzuki, J.Zhou, and M.Toyoda, 2008. Compressive strain
εpcr: longitudinal critical plastic strain limits of high-strength linepipes. IPC2008-64526.
14. N.Suzuki and K.Masamura, 2009. Stress-strain curve control
σr (= σ2.0/σ1.0) :
requirements for high-strength linepipes with Luders
stress ratio (σ1.0: 1.0%YS, σ2.0: 2.0%YS ) elongation type tensile properties. PTC2009-088.
15. N.Suzuki, J.Kondo, S.Endo, N.Ishikawa, M.Okatsu, and
J.Shimamura, 2006. Effects of geometric imperfection on
Acknowledgment bending capacity of X80 linepipe. ASME IPC2006-10070.
16. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2010. Gas
The author would like to thank Izumi Kubo of the Japan transmission and distribution piping systems, ASME B31.8-
Industrial Testing Corporation for conducting finite-element 2010.
analyses and preparing this manuscript. Takekazu Arakawa 17. International Organization for Standardization, 2009.
Petroleum and natural gas industries - pipeline transportation
and Joe Kondo, of JFE Steel Corporation, and Tatsuo Yano,
systems, ISO 13623-2009.
Hidetaka Watanabe, Toshiyuki Mayumi, Hiroyuki Horikawa, 18. T.R.Kuesel, 1969. Earthquake design criteria for subways. J.
and Takeshi Mori, of JFE Engineering Corporation, are ST Div., ASCE, 95, ST, pp1212-1231.
highly appreciated for their invaluable comments and advice. 19. MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology), 2004. Mechanism of earthquake occurrences.
Research Div. of Earthquakes and Disasters, Publicity
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3rd Quarter, 2014 223
224 The Journal of Pipeline Engineering
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