Pipelines passing through hilly-terrain potentially have numerous rock dents. Some of them require further in-ditch investigation. However, in-ditch experience revealed elastic rebounding and re-rounding due to internal pressure that could cause cracking on dent outside surface when rock is removed even after following the commonly used pressure reduction by industry. Such OD-surface cracking in rock dent could pose safety issues to excavation crew and immediate integrity threat due to gas release. A preliminary research was performed to determine the required safe dig pressure level for rock dent excavation and address if there is a gap between the common industry practice for pressure reduction. This research could assist pipeline operators with setting a safe dig pressure level for rock dent excavation.
The research consists of four components. First, detail review of rock dents cracking experience during excavation has been performed and identified relevant parameters that contributed to OD-cracking. Then, performed several rock dent case studies with different dent depths, indenter sizes, internal pressures and developed criterion for OD cracking using Finite Element Analysis. Thirdly, a decision chart was developed for safe rock dent excavation and presented. Finally, full-scale denting tests with internal pressure was conducted to corroborate the safe dig pressure criterion and compared against FEA results. In this paper, all above components are presented with summary of findings and recommendations for future research.