Upheaval buckling (UHB) is a major design concern for a trenched and buried subsea pipeline operating at high temperature and pressure. A predictive assessment is necessary during the detailed engineering design and optimisation to evaluate and define any measure that may be utilised for UHB mitigation such as deep trenching, backfilling, blanket or spot rockdumping. A pre-emptive UHB structural reliability analysis (SRA) has to be performed prior to pipeline installation based on the typical trench imperfection out of straightness (OOS) statistics. The SRA results are updated once survey data is made available. A rockdump schedule can be established by incorporating appropriate safety or load factors to address uncertainties in the design parameters and as-built OOS survey measurement accuracy.

This paper examines the basis for processing the OOS features from survey data and stochastic distributions assumed for SRA with a view to improving the SRA OOS analysis. A number of OOS issues are considered. To cut conservatism an alternative distribution and interpretation is proposed for the key SRA input parameters with regards to imperfections and survey resolution. The random imperfection height assumption used in the current SRA practice for UHB is thus challenged — the rationale and argument for an alternative approach are constructed through a review of stochastic process theory, additional integrity criteria, a parametric analysis and evaluation of multiple OOS survey data sets. To add to the strength of the argument, a range of engineering issues are discussed in the context of stochastic distributions of imperfections. A worked example and case study is presented leading to a rationally reduced load factor and rockdump volume requirement for OOS UHB mitigation and protection.

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