Dents in a pipe result in alteration of its structural response when subjected to internal pressure. Excavation activities further lead to change in load and boundary conditions of the pipe segment which may exacerbate the stress state within the dented region. Depending on the severity of a dent, excavation under full operating pressure may lead to failure, injuries or fatalities. Although uncommon, an incident has been reported on a gas pipeline where a mechanical damage failed during investigation leading to one death and one injury . While current pipeline regulations require that operators must depressurize a line to ensure safe working conditions during repair activities, there are no detailed provisions available in the codes or standards on how an operator should determine such a safe excavation pressure (SEP). As a result, the safe excavation process of dents has received attention in the industry in recent years.
A detailed review of the recent research on dent SEP showed that the current recommendations are primarily dependent on one of two aspects: careful assessment of inline inspection (ILI) data, or a fitness for service (FFS) assessment of the dent feature leveraging numerical models. Enbridge Liquid Pipelines had previously demonstrated a feature specific assessment approach which incorporated both ILI data and finite element analysis (FEA) to determine the SEP. This assessment also accounted for uncertainties associated with material properties and ILI tool measurement. In the previous publication, the authors demonstrated a methodology for assessing the SEP of dents at a conceptual level from both deterministic and reliability-based standpoints. In this paper, a validation study has been performed to compare the results of fracture mechanics based FEA models against ten full scale burst tests available in literature. The study showed good agreement of the burst pressure of dent-crack defects predicted by FEA models with those observed in the full-scale tests. The assessment method is further streamlined by incorporating the API 579  Failure Assessment Diagram (FAD) method on an uncracked FEA model as opposed to explicitly incorporating the crack geometry in the FEA model. The results of FEA in conjunction with FAD are compared with the full-scale tests to ensure accuracy and conservatism of burst pressure prediction. A reliability-based approach is then designed which accounts for the uncertainties associated with the analysis. A case study is presented where the reliability-based SEP assessment method has been implemented and feature specific SEP has been recommended to ensure target reliability during excavation.