Offshore pipelines experience strains greater than yield during pipelay and in service. Installation by reeling introduces high levels of plastic strain, typically on the order of 2 percent for a 12 in. flowline. Controlled lateral buckling in offshore pipelines, due to high operating pressures and/or temperatures, may also give rise to high strains and large cyclic loads. Similarly, frost heave or ground movement in onshore pipelines can cause high strains. To date, most of the cases involving high strains are to be found in offshore pipelines, in terms of both design and the assessment of accidental states. However, some of the experiences in the offshore industry have relevance to onshore pipelines. Fracture control in this context is designing pipelines to address the implications of these high static and cyclic strains during installation/construction and operation. Pipeline design codes such as DNV-OS-F101 and DNV-RP-F108 give guidance. Two issues to consider are: the degradation of the material properties, and the failure of the girth welds. High strains may cause failure or the growth — by stable ductile tearing — of preexisting flaws in the weld. Subsequent fatigue loading may cause pre-existing flaws to grow to failure. Engineering critical assessments (ECAs) are conducted during pipeline design to determine tolerable sizes for weld flaws. Standards such as BS 7910 and API 579 are primarily stress-based and it is not straightforward to apply them to strain-based situations. DNV-RP-F108 addresses this gap by providing additional guidance derived from UK and Norwegian research programmes. Assessing flaws subject to high strains is at the ‘cutting-edge’ of applied fracture mechanics. ECAs often have a reputation of being ‘over-conservative’. ECAs of pipelines subject to high strains may indicate that only very small flaws would be acceptable, whereas practical experience has shown that the girth welds are highly tolerant to the presence of flaws. It is therefore instructive to consider under what situations might ECAs be too conservative, and when they may be non-conservative. The available guidance for ensuring fracture control in pipelines under high plastic strains is discussed in this paper, and the wider issues are addressed.

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