Mechanical dents often occur in transmission pipelines, and are recognized as one of major threats to pipeline integrity because of the potential fatigue failure due to cyclic pressures. With matured in-line-inspection (ILI) technology, mechanical dents can be identified from the ILI runs. Based on ILI measured dent profiles, finite element analysis (FEA) is commonly used to simulate stresses and strains in a dent, and to predict fatigue life of the dented pipeline. However, the dent profile defined by ILI data is a purely geometric shape without residual stresses nor plastic deformation history, and is different from its actual dent that contains residual stresses/strains due to dent creation and re-rounding. As a result, the FEA results of an ILI dent may not represent those of the actual dent, and may lead to inaccurate or incorrect results.
To investigate the effect of residual stress or plastic deformation history on mechanics responses and fatigue life of an actual dent, three dent models are considered in this paper: (a) a true dent with residual stresses and dent formation history, (b) a purely geometric dent having the true dent profile with all stress/strain history removed from it, and (c) a purely geometric dent having an ILI defined dent profile with all stress/strain history removed from it. Using a three-dimensional FEA model, those three dents are simulated in the elastic-plastic conditions. The FEA results showed that the two geometric dents determine significantly different stresses and strains in comparison to those in the true dent, and overpredict the fatigue life or burst pressure of the true dent. On this basis, suggestions are made on how to use the ILI data to predict the dent fatigue life.