Thermally insulated hot buried pipelines pose a unique set of challenges. This paper discusses those challenges and how they were met during design and construction of the 150 km long Husky LLB Direct Pipeline, the longest thermally insulated oil pipeline in Canada.
Thermal insulation materials are soft and can be easily damaged during construction and backfilling, and by large restraining forces at bends when the pipeline is operating at high temperatures. The large temperature difference between pipeline installation temperature and maximum operating temperature leads to large axial compressive forces that can cause movement at bends, crush insulation, increase temperatures at ground surface, cause loss of restraint, and in the worst case, lead to upheaval buckling and loss of containment. Special design and construction features to deal with these challenges, including insulation specifications, insulation of pipe bends, pipeline pre-straining, long radius bends, deeper burial, and pipeline roping, were therefore necessary.
After pipe has been insulated with polyurethane foam it cannot be bent in standard field bending machines used for uninsulated pipes because the foam is too soft. The induction bends and cold bends that are shop insulated after bending are expensive. The Project minimized the number of these expensive insulated bends by using an engineered ditch bottom profile. This meant that shop bends were only needed to reduce excavation depth at sharp changes in ground surface elevation where the roped profile required excessive grading.
Care was therefore necessary in the selection and development of specifications for the insulation system and shop fabricated bends, and to design and construct a ditch profile to minimize forces on the insulation and control upheaval buckling. Close co-ordination with vendors and the construction contractor was crucial for a successful and timely completion.