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Application of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) to Evaluate Pipeline Response to Slope Movement

[+] Author Affiliations
Abdelfettah Fredj, Aaron Dinovitzer, Amir Hassannejadasl, Richard Gailing

BMT Fleet Technology, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Millan Sen

Enbridge Pipelines Inc., Edmonton, AB, Canada

Paper No. IPC2016-64508, pp. V002T06A013; 11 pages
  • 2016 11th International Pipeline Conference
  • Volume 2: Pipeline Safety Management Systems; Project Management, Design, Construction and Environmental Issues; Strain Based Design; Risk and Reliability; Northern Offshore and Production Pipelines
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada, September 26–30, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Pipeline Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5026-6
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The long linear nature of buried pipelines results in the risk of interaction with a range of geotechnical hazards including active slopes and land surface subsidence areas. Ground movement induced by these geotechnical hazards can subject a pipeline to axial, lateral flexural, and vertical flexural loading. The techniques to predict pipeline displacements, loads, stresses or strains are not well described in design standards or codes of practice. The results of geotechnical site observation, successive in-line inspection or pipeline instrumentation are used to infer pipeline displacement or strain accumulation and these techniques are often augmented through the application of finite element analysis. The practice of using finite element analysis for pipe-soil interaction has developed in recent years and is proving to be a useful tool in evaluating the pipeline behavior in response to ground movement.

This paper considers pipeline response to geotechnical hazard-induced loading scenarios related to slope movement transverse to the pipeline axis. The details of the three-dimensional LS-DYNA-based BMT pipe-soil interaction model employing a discrete element method (DEM) are presented in this paper. The validation of the numerical models through comparison with medium-scale physical pipe-soil interaction tests are described to demonstrate that the models are capable of accurately simulating real world events. The models are further calibrated for nominal soil types to replicate the pipe-soil load displacement properties outlined in ASCE guideline recommendations by developing responses that closely agree with these results from the physical trials and engineering judgement.

The utility of advanced pipe-soil interaction modelling in supporting strain-based pipeline integrity management or design is demonstrated by presenting the results of geotechnical hazard numerical simulations. These simulations are used to describe the sensitivity of pipeline displacements and strains to the demands of these geotechnical events and develop relationships between the geotechnical event key parameters and pipeline response.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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