Equation to predict maximum pipe stress incorporating internal and external loadings on buried pipes

D. J. Robert, P. Rajeev, J. Kodikara, Balvant Rajani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Pipelines used for water and other services are very important lifelines in modern society. Commonly, these buried pipes are subjected to significant stresses due to external (traffic and earth) and internal (water pressure) loads. As many of these pipelines were laid sometime in the last century or earlier, in most cases their condition has deteriorated primarily by electrochemical and (or) microbiological corrosion. Corrosion activity (internal and external) can manifest in various forms, but in many cases will lead to reduced pipe thickness, which in turn leads to an increase in pipe stresses induced by the external and internal loads. Currently available analytical procedures to estimate pipe stresses are based on oversimplifications such as the two-dimensional (2-D) analysis based on Winkler springs, limiting their application to general pipe burial conditions. This paper describes the application of a three-dimensional (3-D) finite element method to analyse a buried pipe subjected to external and internal loads. Firstly, the finite element model is validated against the data from field tests conducted on the basis of a cast iron pipe that was laid in 1930 at Strathfield, Sydney, Australia. The results of these 3-D finite element analyses are then used to develop a closed-form expression to predict maximum stresses in pipes of different sizes buried in different soil types. Having obtained a good agreement between the proposed model outcomes and the 3-D finite element analysis results, the proposed model has been validated against the field test data under different internal and external loadings. The verified outcomes of the model reveal that it can be used to predict maximum stresses without conducting a full-scale finite element analysis, which often requires specific computational resources and computational skills. Furthermore, the proposed model can be used in probabilistic analyses, where a large number of calculations need to be carried out to account for the uncertainty of the input variables. The applications of the model are also discussed in relation to the assessment of pipe performance and remaining safe life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1331
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Analytical models
  • Buried pipes
  • Failure prediction
  • Field tests
  • Internal water pressure
  • Pipe corrosion
  • Stress analysis
  • Traffic loads

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