A full scale fracture propagation test facility has been developed to validate the design, in terms of the ability of the material to avert a propagating fracture, of a major new pipeline to transport gas 1800 miles from British Columbia in Canada to Chicago in the USA. The pipeline, being built by Alliance Pipeline Ltd, will transport rich natural gas, i.e. gas with a higher than normal proportion of heavier hydrocarbons, at a maximum operating pressure of 12,000 kPa. This gas mixture and pressure combination imposes a more severe requirement on the pipe steel toughness than the traditional operating conditions of North American pipelines. As these conditions were outside the validated range of models, two full-scale experiments were conducted to prove the design. This paper will provide details of the construction of the 367m long experimental facility at the BG Technology Spadeadam test site along with the key data obtained from the experiments. Evaluation of this data showed that the test program had validated Alliance’s fracture control design. The decompression data obtained in the experiments will be compared against predictions from a new decompression model developed by BG Technology. The use of the experimental facility and the model to support future developments in the pipeline industry, particularly in relation to the use of high strength steels, will also be discussed.

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