Structural Behavior of Buried Pipe Bends and Their Effect on Pipeline Response in Fault Crossing Areas

Polynikis Vazouras, Spyridon Karamanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pipe bends, often referred to as “elbows”, are special pipeline components, widely used in onshore buried steel pipelines. They are sensitive to imposed deformations and their structural behavior is quite flexible and associated with the development of significant stress and strain, which may lead to failure. In the present paper, the mechanical performance of buried steel pipeline bends is investigated first, using rigorous finite element models that account for the pipe-soil interface. Three 36-inch-diameter pipe elbows are considered, subjected to pull-out force and embedded in cohesive soils. The elbows have bend angles equal to 90, 60 and 30 degrees, and bend radius-over-diameter ratio ( ) equal to 5. The results show the increased flexibility of the pipeline bend with respect to the straight pipe, and are reported in the form of force-displacement diagrams. Furthermore the deformation limits of each elbow are identified in terms of appropriate performance criteria. The second part of the paper investigates the effect of pipe bends on the response of pipelines crossing active faults is using a three-dimensional rigorous finite element model. The numerical results refer to a 36-inch-diameter pipeline crossing a strike-slip fault, and show that the unique mechanical response of pipe bends, in terms of their flexibility, may offer and efficient tool for reducing ground-induced deformations. The three-dimensional model employs the load-displacement curves of the first part of the paper as end conditions through nonlinear springs. Furthermore, the results show that there exist an optimum distance of the elbow from the fault plane, which corresponds to the maximum allowable ground displacement. Therefore, pipeline elbows, if appropriately placed, can be employed as "mitigating devices", reducing ground-induced action on the pipeline at fault crossings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4999–5024
JournalBulletin of earthquake engineering
Early online date15 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 May 2017


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