Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering

Current research engineers

Abdinasir Mohamed


External Loading Effects on Buried Pipelines




Dr Ashraf El-Hamalawi
Dr Matthew Frost

Mr Andrew Connell
Mr Andrew Cole

Director of Research
Professor Stephen Ison

Research Period

2014 - 2020

External Loading Effects on Buried Pipelines

Company Background:

DNV GL is the leading technical advisor to the global oil and gas industry, working with the sector to enable safe, reliable and enhanced performance in projects and operations. Through world-class technical assurance, advisory and risk management services, DNV GL helps customers to perform on time and to budget, even in the most demanding environments.  More details are on the company web site www.dnvgl.com.

The Civil and Geotechnics Team based in Loughborough (UK head office) was originated from the British Gas Research and Engineering Services Departments, and has been providing technical consultancy to pipeline operators around the world on ground movement and external loading issues.  The team currently has 9 engineers and expending.

Current state-of-the-art:

There is a large range of ground movement and external loading that buried pipelines can experience as a result of soil/pipe interaction:

  • Seismic activity / Geological faults
  • Landslide
  • Mining / Quarrying
  • Ground settlement
  • Tunnelling
  • Embankment construction
  • Adjacent deep excavation/trenching
  • De-watering
  • Flooding
  • Traffic loading

Large amounts of money are being invested annually in prevention and mitigations of the loading, repair and replacement of pipelines. The behaviour of a buried pipe is significantly different from a free standing pipe because of the interaction between the soil and the pipe.  When external loading acts on a buried pipe, the actual magnitude and distribution of the soil pressure around the pipe is difficult to estimate accurately and is related to the depth of burial, depth of water table, geometry of the site, pipe stiffness and mechanical properties of the soil.  The complete definition of the soil/pipe system also requires specification of the load transfer conditions at the soil/pipe interface.

Empirical relationships are still widely used in design codes around the world.  Numerical modelling such as beam on elastic foundation approach is routinely used for straight forward analysis.  2-D or 3-D Finite element analysis is sometimes used for complex situations.

Aims and Objectives:

The specific aims and objectives of the project include:

Review the current approach DNV GL is using for soil / pipe interaction modelling and the parameters being used to compare with real soil behaviour.

  • Examine best available software and emerging technologies for soil/pipeline analysis.
  • Compare the beam on elastic spring approach with other more sophisticated software and evaluate the use of interface logic required infinite element analysis.
  • Develop existing in-house software “Surfload” and “Pipeline” with emerging technologies.
  • Best practice for modelling seismic motions and permanent ground deformation.

Proposed Research Design and Methods:

  • Literature review
  • Study soil / pipe interaction modelling methods
  • Identification of suitable case histories for analysis
  • Numerical modelling
  • Software development, including liaison with in-house software developer

Experts within the team will guide the Research Engineer throughout the research period.

Expected Benefits and Outcomes:

The outcome would advance the current knowledge and modelling techniques on external loading effects on buried pipelines, and could influence current design codes. The Research Engineer could become an expert in the field of soil / pipe interaction which is very sought after by pipeline operators around the world, especially in the oil & gas industry. The Civil and Geotechnics Team within DNV GL will be further strengthened and maintained as a leading expert in this area. The current analysis methodology with be improved upon, to ensure safer assets for pipeline operators.





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+44 (0)1509 222623

The Centre Administrator
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

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