For engineers who work on pipelines, there are external threats to be aware of and respond to. Lines that cross through hilly or mountainous terrain are susceptible to land movement or subsidence. Studying the terrain and the types of landmass movement is essential for engineers and geologists; they can play a role in determining where a pipeline could or should be built. Knowledge of potential subsidence allows engineers, geologists, and operators to prepare a response should a landslide or rockfall breach a pipeline. Because of the long, linear nature of pipeline corridors, they often cross areas that are highly susceptible to landslides.
Whenever a landslide occurs near a pipeline, it’s not only a work delay issue – it’s a safety issue. Buildings, roads, and entire neighborhoods can be impacted. Slope movements do not need to be large to be destructive. Slope creep or small, early-stage landslide movements can cause substantial structural damage to critical pipelines, potentially resulting in major economic damage and loss of life.
There are a whole host of causes that can trigger a landslide. Rainstorms, landscape irrigation, broken pipelines, grading, inadequate surface drainage, earthquakes, and most importantly, erosion, which is the underlying cause of most landslides and the most preventable.
Erosion is movement of individual grains of soil rather than entire masses. This persistent grain-by-grain movement can also cause significant damage. Rapid coastal erosion after a storm or hurricane can undermine buildings, roads, and other coastal facilities, including pipelines. Erosion can also occur underground, creating linear cavities by a process known as “piping” in which soil particles are carried away by seeping ground water. This hidden threat is a particular concern in the siting, design, construction, and failure analysis of dams.
River scour is riverbed erosion that typically occurs during periods of high flow, deepening river channels. This can uncover bridge pier foundations and buried pipelines or undermine levee slopes, risking potential failure.
How Submar Can Help
Submar can help to fight the types of erosion that lead to landslides. Articulating concrete revetment mats are a cost-effective, long-term solution that will stand up to most types of erosion that threaten pipelines over time. These mats are composed of flexible concrete elements connected by ultraviolet stabilized copolymer extruded fiber rope. The Submar revetment mattress is an articulating concrete that fights erosion before it begins.