The Dangers of Landslides and How to Protect Your Pipelines

The Dangers of Landslides and How to Protect Your Pipelines

Landslides are a constant threat to many pipeline sites. Landslides, mudflows, earth slumps, rockfalls, and other types of slope failures threaten job sites in many terrains, not just hills or mountains. They can be fast or slow, wet or dry, small or large, shallow or deep, and reactivated or new. Because of the long, linear nature of pipeline corridors, they often cross areas that are highly susceptible to landslides.

Landslides Impact Job Sites

When 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.

Landslide Causes

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. Erosion is the underlying cause of most landslides and easily the most preventable.

Erosion is the 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.

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.

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.

The Submar Solution

Submar can help 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 made up of flexible concrete elements connected by ultraviolet stabilized co-polymer extruded fiber rope.