Pipe-Soil Interaction on a Clay Seabed

  • Damian Morrow

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Subsea pipelines form an integral part of the infrastructure associated with offshore oil and gas developments. These pipelines fulfill a range of functions from linking extraction wells to other subsea infrastructure to transporting products onshore, or to a central processing facility. Ancillary pipelines may also be present for gas or water injection to the reservoir or transporting additives.

Pipelines are typically installed directly onto the seabed and, in the absence of significant drivers to undertake burial operations, they may remain on the seabed for the remainder of their design life. This is typically the case for deepwater developments. Subsea pipelines are subjected to a wide range of load cases including, self weight, installation loads, thermal and pressure driven expansion and hydrodynamic loading. Design of pipeline systems to accommodate these load cases requires an understanding of pipe-soil interaction.

This thesis reports the results of a research study investigating pipe-soil interaction on a clay seabed, as relevant to the design of subsea pipeline systems. This study has utilised numerical analysis techniques based on the finite difference code FLAC to investigate a range of problem definitions. These problem definitions include pipelines subject to both vertical loading (V) and combined vertical and horizontal (V-H) loading. Factors such as variation in interface conditions, large strain and large displacement effects, soil unit weight effects and variation in shear strength conditions were considered in these problem definitions. Reliability based analysis techniques have also been used to investigate both V and V-H loading problem definitions.

The analyses and investigations undertaken as part of this study generally achieved the following; reproduction and validation of earlier research with additional interpretation, extension of problem definitions to deeper pipeline embedment depths and investigation of pipe-soil interaction problem definitions that have not previously been considered. Reliability based analysis techniques have also provided some interesting insights into the impact of soil shear strength variation as well as providing a fundamental link between safety factors and probability of failure. Application to design practice of this, and similar studies, has been considered as part of this thesis and potential areas for future research have also been suggested.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndrew Brennan (Supervisor) & Mark Bransby (Supervisor)


  • Pipe-soil interaction
  • Subsea pipelines
  • Clay
  • Numerical analysis

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