Probabilistic methods have been used to develop the basis for free-span inspection of a gas pipeline system in the South China Sea. The objective of the probabilistic analysis was to study the probability of fatigue failure associated with postulated planar flaws in the HAZ of repair welds performed on some of the girth welds. The impact of flaws on the fatigue life under different free-span conditions were studied. Conventional free-span analysis involves computation of allowable free-span lengths based on onset of in-line vibrations and does not normally consider fatigue crack growth. To consider the effect of the weld flaws on the failure probability a combined probabilistic fatigue and fracture model is required. For the particular pipelines analysed automatic ultrasonic testing (AUT) was used replacing the conventional radiography of the girth welds. Conservatism in the free-span assessment can then be significantly reduced by taking into account detailed flaw sizing information from the AUT. The inspection records provide distribution of flaw height, length and position. Combined with information on current distribution, material strength and fracture toughness distribution, a detailed probabilistic fatigue crack growth and unstable fracture assessment can be conducted as per the Det Norske Veritas (DNV) 2000 Rules for Submarine Pipeline Systems [1] using the response models of the DNV Guideline 14 for free-span analyses [2]. The objective of this analysis is to estimate the critical free-span lengths and the time for fatigue cracks to penetrate the pipe wall.

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