Pipelines might not always be seen, but the United States has the largest network of pipes of anywhere in the world with over 2.4 million miles of pipeline (source). This includes pipes the directly connect to homes and heavily populated areas, a majority of which is typically hidden underground or out of site. A failure is can be catastrophic.
According to the PHMSA, weld/material failures and corrosion failures cause the majority of failures. The BEAR Engineers have worked on the Alaska Pipeline (see images below) in addition to gas pipelines in urban centers, refineries and chemical plants and steam pipes in commercial buildings and under city streets. Other major projects include the San Bruno Pipeline explosion, and the New York Steam Pipe explosion. Visit our Pipelines page to download our Pipeline White Paper to learn more.
BEAR's laboratory is fully equipped with specialized machinery and knowledge to test pipelines for its material properties, the types of stresses it undergoes, and strains inside of pipelines.
gas pipeline explosion
In one case, an underground gas pipeline was struck by a farmer using a "ripper." The resulting explosion lead to comprehensive damage and many injuries. The BEAR team was asked to assist in the assessment and analysis. The damaged pipe wall is shown on the right.
steam pipe explosion
In another case, a steam-heating pipe exploded under a busy intersection in Manhattan, NY. The BEAR team was asked to assess the maintenance procedures and make recommendations to avoid future incidents. The photo on the right shows the exposed underground pipes.
syncrude pipe failure causes $2 billion loss
The BEAR team approached this case with diligence and rigorous scientific analysis, considering all possible theories. The wax casting and computer stress analysis eliminated all possible scenarios except one.
Casting and reassembling of the failed pipe clearly showed that the rupture occurred only after the pipe was "buckled" by a nearby explosion.
The picture at left shows the pipe in wax after buckling, but before rupture.
pipe failure in mohave desert
Dr. Stevick conducted a primary research on the steam pipe failure at the Mohave Southern California Power Plant. The rupture destroyed the power plant and resulted in five fatalities. The pipe ruptured along a weld seam due to the mismatch of high temperature properties between the weld and basemetal.
Dr. Stevick's analysis resulted in a change in the piping code for high temperature service. His contribution to this and other codes has been substantial and continues to improve industry practices.