Heated pipelines buried in soft clay can develop a very challenging behavior. The thermal expansion of the pipelines normally induces buckles, which will be supported by the passive soil reaction. The buckles of the pipelines in soft clay can generate a non-linear inelastic behavior that is an unstable situation named “snap through”. In such situation the pipeline can jump from a configuration of a few centimeters displacement to another of meters displacement. Once the snap through situation has developed, there is the possibility of a local pipeline buckling, causing the pipeline rupture and as a consequence an oil spill. This paper presents the results obtained during the analysis of the rupture of a buried heated pipeline in the Guanabara Bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A very sophisticated procedure including a simulation of the thermal mechanical interactions between the soil and the pipeline structure was developed for back analysis of the thermal inelastic pipeline buckling. Computer modeling was carried out using the finite element method considering of the non-linear material behavior of the soil and pipeline, and nonlinear geometrical behavior of the pipeline. A cyclic thermal-mechanical soil-pipeline structure interaction model was the challenging aspect of the simulation, that explains the trigger mechanism of the snap through behavior of heated pipelines, which was responsible for the rupture of the pipeline in Guanabara Bay.

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