According to the PHMSA data on reportable incidents, for the 20 years ranging from 1995 to 2014, excavation damage accounted for 16.4% of the incidents on 301,732 miles of gas transmission pipelines and 15.6% of the incidents on 199,210 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines. On the whole, excavation damage is a major cause of incidents, ranking third following incidents caused by material/weld/equipment failure and corrosion.

For the purposes of this study, mechanical damage is separated into two categories, i.e. immediate failures and delayed failures. An immediate failure is one which occurs at the instant the damage is done to the pipeline. A puncture, for example, is an immediate failure. Delayed failures involve damage that is not sufficient to cause a leak or a rupture at the time it is inflicted. On average, 14.6% of the mechanical damage incidents in gas transmission pipelines and 13.3% of the mechanical damage incidents in hazardous liquid pipelines can be classified as delayed failures.

The immediate failures are generally minimized through the preventative measure and design efforts. For instance, it is shown herein that the puncture probability can be calculated through the comparison between the likelihood of any given external load being imposed and inherent pipe resistance.

While preventative measures serve to reduce the occurrences of delayed failures as well as the occurrences of immediate failures, delayed failures are largely mitigated through in-line inspection and timely remediation actions. The fact that the assessment methods for mechanical damage are generally not as robust as those for cracks and corrosion tends to limit the reliability of deterministic calculations of response times. Therefore, in the study described herein, risk-based approaches to minimizing delayed failures were developed. Three different approaches to deciding which dents need to be excavated after an ILI were pursued. One involves the use of reportable incident rates based on the PHMSA statistics in conjunction with the number of ILI dent indications per mile to get a probability of failure. The second consists of a decision-making process based on the ILI-reported dent depths and the dent fatigue life probability-of-exceedance function. The third relates to a decision-making process based on successive excavations of dents located by ILI, in which the Bayesian method is applied to compare predicted versus actual severity and thereby determine the probability of failure associated with stopping after a specific number of excavations.

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