Pipeline operators are often faced with excavating deformations caused by bottom-side indenters (e.g., rock dents). These dents are typically constrained by the rock, but during excavation, after the rock is removed, the dent is no longer constrained. Many operators have felt that it is prudent to perform in-the-ditch (ITD) non-destructive examination (NDE) techniques, such as liquid penetrant testing (LPT) and magnetic particle inspection (MPI), to determine if external cracking is present so that an appropriate repair method can be selected. Unfortunately, these external surface NDE methods do not identify the presence of internal cracking. Recent research [1], along with metallurgical analyses of cracks at bottom-side dents, demonstrates that the fatigue behavior of constrained dents is different than that of unconstrained dents, and that identifying the correct crack mechanism can be difficult.

The paper discusses cracking mechanisms (e.g., stress corrosion cracking, fatigue, etc.) at bottom-side dents, ITD crack identification methods, differences between constrained and non-constrained dents, repair methods for dents, and presents a case study that uses NDE (MPI, unconventional LPT, and laser scanning) and destructive techniques (metallography, fractography, and hardness testing) to determine the metallurgical cause of a failure. The case study involves a pre-formed composite sleeve system that was used to repair dents in which correct installation procedures were followed but ultimately resulted in a delayed in-service failure.

In hindsight, if ITD NDE methods were chosen based on our current knowledge of recent research, the operator may have been aware of the presence of cracking and selected a different repair method, and therefore would have likely prevented an in-service failure. This paper provides a case study to help increase awareness regarding how to properly evaluate cracking in dents. Operators should ensure that their excavation and repair procedures are updated to reflect the most current industry knowledge to help prevent a similar failure.

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