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10th International Congress on Advances in Civil Engineering, 17-19 October 2012

Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

Finite Element Analysis of Marine Buried Pipeline Upheaval

Buckling In clayey Backfill with cover material

A. Koochekali1, B.Gatmiri2, A.Koochekali3

Department of Civil Engineering, Tehran university, Tehran, Iran,
Department of Civil Engineering, Tehran university, Tehran, Iran,
Department of Civil Engineering, IAU, Tehran, Iran,

Offshore pipelines in shallow waters are generally buried to provide mechanical protection and constraint . The
soil cover also provides resistance to upward movement of the pipe caused by thermally-induced axial loading, a
phenomenon known as upheaval buckling. A safe buried pipeline design must take into account a reliable
evaluation of the pipe-soil interaction forces. Due to clayey backfill, the rate in which upheaval buckling
happens would affect uplift resistance which is less concerned .In this paper a parametric study of pipeline
upheaval buckling in clayey backfill has been conducted using finite element analysis. The effect of upheaval
buckling rate on uplift resistance is evaluated. In addition, the amount of pore pressure around the pipe are
investigated. The result shows as pipe move faster, the amount of soil uplift resistance decreases. However, the
differences between uplift resistances is less than 8%. The pore pressure around pipe is also investigated and it
shows that negative excess pore pressure occurs beneath the pipe in all uplift rates. In addition, no separation
was observed between bottom of the pipe and the soil.

Keywords: pipeline, offshore, uplift resistance, upheaval buckling, uplift rate.

1 Introduction

1.1. Upheaval buckling

Offshore pipelines used for oil and gas transportation are often buried to avoid damage from fishing activities
and to provide thermal insulation. To ease the flow, pipelines operate at high temperature and high pressure.
These operating conditions cause thermal expansion in the pipeline, which is restricted by friction at the soil
pipe interface and the end connections. As a result the buried pipeline has a high vulnerability to vertical
movement which is known as upheaval buckling. Due to passive resistance of the trench walls, the pipeline is
sufficiently restricted in the lateral direction .The design of a buried pipeline requires the minimum depth of soil
cover that will provide sufficient uplift resistance to be determined. So evaluating the uplift resistance toward
this movement is important.

1.2. past experience


Many researchers have done some researches in this area since the early eighties of the last century. The first
published work in the field of pipe-soil interaction surfaced in 1981. To design the pipeline for lateral stability
and determine the winch capacity for pulling the pipeline, Anand and Agarwal (1981) carried out small-scale
model and large-scale prototype experimental studies to determine the frictional resistance between the concrete-
coated pipes and the soil in the lateral as well as the longitudinal directions. Taylor et al. (1985; 1989) chose
sand as the supporting medium in view of North Sea conditions and carried out the pull-out tests and axial
friction tests. In paper Boer et al. (1986) described the results of full scale pull-out tests for a 2 m long test
section of a 12.75 inch O.D. concrete coated pipe covered with gravel. Horizontal and vertical pull out tests for
pipeline buried in sand and soft clay were performed by Friedmann in 1986. Schaminee et al. presented the
results of a full-scale laboratory test program on the uplift and axial resistance of a 4 inch pipe embedded in
cohesive or cohesion-less soil in 1990. Finch (1999) confirmed that soft clay backfill can be effectively modeled
as a frictional material when considering uplift resistance, and derivation of applicable axial friction factors for
coated pipelines in sand. Schupp et al. (2006) described a plane strain pipe unburied tests in loose dry sand and
initial small scale three-dimensional buckling tests. White et al. (2008) presented a limit equilibrium solution for
the uplift resistance of pipes and plate anchors buried in sand based on the model tests. In addition to
experimental tests , some centrifuge model tests were conducted by Dickin (1994), Moradi and Craig (1998),
Palmer et al. (2003) and Cheuka et al. (2007) to assess the uplift capacity pipelines.
Bransby et al.and Newson (2002) provided a centrifuge model and evaluated uplift resistance in liquefied clay.
C.Y. Cheuk, W.A. Take, M.D. Bolton, J.R.M.S. Oliveira (2007) worked on a centrifuge model in which effects
of time after jetting and uplift rate on uplift resistance were assessed. In addition, some numerical simulation
were performed on pipe-soil interaction. Newson, Deljou (2005) evaluated soil uplift resistance through finit
element analysis. Merifield1 R.S., White2 D.J. & Randolph2 M.F(2008) also assessed pipe penetration in sea
and lateral resistance through a numerical model.

1.3.Uplift resistance

An uplift force Wt (per unit length of the pipe) is required to move the pipe vertically upwards, so that it exceeds
its capacity (i.e. the soil-pipeline system fails). In general, for a given pipe this 'total ultimate uplift' force, Wt
can be defined as:
where Wt is the total ultimate uplift capacity per unit length of pipe, Wu is the net ultimate uplift capacity per
unit length of pipe (soil resistance to pipe movement), and WP is the effective self-weight of the pipe per unit
length. The net ultimate uplift capacity (Wu) is the focus of the current study, as it varies with soil conditions
and pipe uplift rate. Models to predict the uplift capacity of pipelines consider fully un-drained conditions
(Schaminee et al, 1990).

1.3.1.Un-drained condition

For un-drained soil conditions, when a gap can form behind the pipeline, the upheaval buckling resistance can be
expressed as a function of the weight of the wedge of the soil above the pipeline and the un-drained shear
strength mobilized to each side of this wedge using the similar mechanism shown in Figure 1a. The simple
mechanism gives the uplift capacity


where cu is the average un-drained shear strength in the vertical slip planes. A more complicated upper bound
method of predicting uplift capacity of embedded strip anchors used a modified shallow failure mechanism
(Gunn, 1980). More recently, Merifield et al. (2001) used upper and lower bound analysis to predict the uplift of
strip anchors. However, because these methods consider strip anchors, the failure mechanisms only approximate
that of a pipeline and require further modification for direct use here. However, a deep seated failure may occur
with the soil flowing around the pipeline using the mechanism of Randolph and Houlsby (1984) when a gap does
not form beneath the pipeline (Figure 1b). This is likely to occur for deep pipelines and even moderately buried
pipelines in un-drained conditions (Merrifield et al, 2001). For this case the uplift force


A. Koochekali, B. Gatmiri, A. Koochekali

where cu is un-drained shear strength and Np is a capacity factor . In addition to the above models, recent testing
has shown that accurate assessment of the uplift capacity of pipelines can be achieved by the use of centrifuge
modeling (Dickin, 1994; Bolton & Baumgard, 2000; Finch et al., 2000; Moradi & Craig, 1998).

Fig. 1 Uplift mechanism (M.F.Bransby et al., 2002)

2 Finite element modeling

Two dimensional plane strain finite element analysis of pipeline uplift was conducted using the displacement
finite element software " ABAQUS/CAE 6.10-1". The ABAQUS model consists of two parts: the pipe and the
soil. A typical mesh for this problem, along with the applied displacement boundary conditions, is shown in
Figure 2.
The mesh is finer around pipe and would be expanded to side boundaries.

Fig. 2 Mesh geometry in the Finite element model

There is a line of symmetry in the center of the pipe , so only half of the pipe-soil system need to be modelled.
Rigid boundary was located far enough not to affect problem results. The model contains of 409 elements. Mesh
sizes is finer near pipe-soil interface.
The soil was modeled as an isotropic elasto-perfectly plastic continuum with failure described by the Mohr
Coulomb yield criterion. The elastic behavior was defined by a Poissons ratio = 0.495,and Young module
E=4000 kPa and a ratio of Youngs modulus to shear strength of E/cu = 400 . Because the pipe is much stiffer
than the soil it comes into contact with, and as the stresses in the pipe are of no concern in this case, the pipe was
modeled as a discrete rigid body. This simplification provides significant computational savings.


A frictionless contact is assumed in tangible direction and a hard contact in normal direction. The separation is
allowed between the pipe and the soil in this case. The total resistance force ,Wu was calculated by summating
the forces at the nodal points in the immediately adjacent to the all sides of the pipe. To assess the amount of
pore pressure a "pore fluid/stress" element is used. As a result, a typical CPE8P element is used in this model. It
is assumed that seabed sea mean water level is 20 meter where the pipe is buried. As a result effects of sea water
pressure is considered at seabed boundary condition. The pipe was embedded at the depth equal to 5D which D
is pipe diameter.

2.1.Uplift rate

The pipe is displaced vertically upward with an even pace until failure happens. Four different speeds is
considered for this simulation which are shown in table 1. The degree of drainage occurring during a monotonic
event is likely to be due to the pipeline velocity, v, some characteristic drainage path length, B and the
coefficient of consolidation, cv. The above three variables were combined by Finnie (1993) to give the
dimensionless group, vB/cv which was used to estimate the degree of consolidation occurring as a surface
footing (of diameter B) was pushed vertically into a seabed soil. He found that when vB/cv < 0.01, soil behavior
was fully drained. When vB/cv > 10 the soil behavior was fully drained. For the pipeline tests conducted here,
the amount of pressure increases on top of pipe and decreases beneath the pipe. Thus, local drainage will occur
as pore water flows from the crown to the base of the pipeline (a distance of D/2). This corresponds to the
maximum drainage path length of B/2 for the surface foundations investigated by Finnie (1993) and so the
characteristic drainage length, B = D.As a result, speed tests assure un-drained condition for this mode. Table 2
shows amount of drainage parameter vB/cv for different uplift rates.

Table 1. Uplift rate and displacements

Sample Uplift rate Displacement

ID (mm/hr) (mm)
S-1 748.8 41.6
S-2 74.8 41.6
S-3 14.97 41.6
S-4 7.48 41.6

Table 2. Degree of drainage parameter

Sample Uplift rate

ID (mm/hr)
S-1 748.8 765.3
S-2 74.8 76.53
S-3 14.97 15.30
S-4 7.48 7.650

3 Finite Element Results

3.1.Uplift resistance and effect of uplift rates on it

The contact forces for different pipe uplift rate are plotted against dimensionless pipe displacement ratio in
Fig. 3 in which Displacement ratio is equal to ratio of pipe displacement to pipe diameter. The net uplift force increases
linearly at very small displacements up to a pipe displacement of 0.04D. Beyond this linear regime, the uplift
force keeps increasing but with a decreasing stiffness in the load-displacement response. The uplift resistance
reaches a peak value at average pipe displacement of 0.06D. This range is valid for all different uplift rates and
also is compatible with Dnv-rp-f-110(2007) .
The maximum net uplift resistance is 24.53(Kn) for whole model which occurs at S-3 uplift rate. This amount
has a good compatibility with analytical solution. According to equation 3 uplift resistance is equal to 23.8 (Kn)

A. Koochekali, B. Gatmiri, A. Koochekali

for smooth pipeline with Nc equal to 9.14 according to Randolph and Houlsby (1984). According to the analyses
results, as uplift happens faster, uplift resistance decreases. However, this reduction is not significant and is less
than 8% which is match with centrifuge results of C.Y. Cheuk, W.A. Take, M.D. Bolton, J.R.M.S. Oliveira

Fig. 3 Infuence of uplift speed on uplift resistance in lumpy clay fill

3.2.Excess pore pressure and effect of uplift rates on it

The change in pore water pressure in the soil above and below the pipe for different uplift rates are shown in
Fig. 4(a) and (b) respectively. As shown in Fig. 4(a), positive excess pore pressure was generated above the pipe
at high rate displacements 748.8 and 74.8 mm/hr, whilst at other rates this amount is negligible or mines excess
pore pressure was generated. However, negative excess pore pressure was generated beneath the pipe during
uplift movement. The change in pore pressures below the pipe is more significant during fast pull outs while this
change in pore pressure is less during other rate displacements as shown in Fig. 4(b).
the negative excess pore pressure generated underneath the pipe directly contributes to the uplift resistance by
producing a downward force on the pipe. The soil is buried at the depth of 20 meter beneath the sea mean
surface level.
As uplift movement happens faster, more excess pore pressure generate around pipeline. Meanwhile, in slower
cases soil has more time to be consolidated and less excess pore pressure generates around the pipe. The
differences between excess pore pressure around the pipe confirm that fully consolidated condition has not

(a) Effect of uplift speed on top of pipe


(b) Effect of uplift speed on bottom of pipe

Fig. 4Effect of uplift speed on pore pressure response in fully consolidated lumpy clay fill

3.3.Pipe and soil displacement

The simulation reveals that while pipe was embedded at the depth of 5D,which D is pipe diameters, flow around
mechanism forms around the pipe. In fact, while pipe moves upward, soil particles that are close to pipe and are
located beside the pipe, move downward to fill beneath the pipe. As a result, no detachment occurs between
bottom of the pipe and the soil. Figure 5 shows soil displacement vectors during uplift movement.

Fig. 5 Soil displacement (in meter)

4 Conclusion
A parametric study of pipeline upheaval buckling in clayey backfill has been conducted using the displacement
finite element ABAQUS. Uplift resistance is investigated by moving a pipe upward. In addition, effects of
pipeline uplift rate on uplift resistance and excess pore pressure around the pipe for a smooth pipe is assessed.
The effects of sea water level is considered on top boundary of model. Numerical simulation reveals that as
upheaval buckling happens faster , uplift resistance decreases. However , this amount would be less than 8%.
Moreover, excess pore pressure would be mines beneath the pipe in all uplift rates. Positive excess pore pressure
was generated on top of pipeline, in high uplift rate. Displacement vectors reveals that no detachment occurs
between bottom of the pipe and the soil and soil particles beside the pipe would fill the area beneath the pipe.

A. Koochekali, B. Gatmiri, A. Koochekali

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