This paper describes temporal variations in embedment of several existing pipelines on the North-West Shelf (NWS) of Australia, and the sediment mobility processes that cause them. Distinct and explainable patterns in the extent, distribution and rate of the development of pipeline embedment have been revealed through systematic detailed examination of repeated annual integrity surveys by ROV. This represents a unique data-set that has been used to optimize the reliability of a newly designed pipeline. This paper explains why these clear findings should not be overlooked in both the buckling and stability design of initially unburied pipelines, which is in contrast to currently established industry practice. This new information supports the presumption that conventional approaches for calculating the hydrodynamic stability of unburied pipelines may be more conservative than necessary. Conversely, and arguably more importantly, it is shown that conventionally accepted methods for calculating pipe-seabed resistance forces when planning buckling schemes should be considered unsafe if embedment due to sediment mobility is possible. Consequently, this paper proposes an innovative calculation methodology that statistically captures these sediment mobility effects, and which facilitates a more justifiable geotechnical input to pipeline engineering than what is conventionally adopted. This methodology is currently being used by the authors as a state-of-the-art design practice for unburied offshore pipelines in regions of sediment mobility.

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