- Pipeline Management
- Inspection Services
Why Use FEA?
As water and wastewater infrastructure around the world continues to age and reach the end of design life, many utilities are beginning proactive condition assessment programs to determine a baseline condition of their assets.
While condition assessment technologies can provide various levels of detail on the condition of a pipe section, FEA is used to further examine distressed pipe sections identified through inspection and should be used in conjunction with a condition assessment program.
Some pipeline rehabilitation decisions can be made using only condition assessment data. However, more challenging pipelines often warrant a more thorough assessment before a decision is made.
FEA can determine if a distressed pipe section can be safely operated and estimates under what operating conditions it will fail, providing operators with the necessary risk-based data to make a final decision. By completing FEA on specific distressed pipe sections in critical areas, operators are able to make responsible and scientifically defensible rehabilitation decisions on their most critical assets.
Below is a video showing a FEA of a large-diameter pressure pipe as it responds to changes in pressure.
This video shows a large-diameter PCCP pipe responding to increases in operating pressure; the blue color represents the pipe in good working condition. As pressure is increased incrementally, we begin to see areas of distress as the color shifts towards red and eventually white showing complete failure. The video shows that this particular pipe will eventually fail at the joint as pressure increases beyond the yield limit.
What is needed to Complete FEA?
FEA can be completed without dewatering the pipeline; in general, the following inputs should be gathered for the most accurate results:
What does the operator get from FEA?
After completing FEA, the operator will know when the pipe section is likely to fail under various operating conditions. This is represented in terms of how long the pipe will last in relation to changing conditions, not time.
FEA also provides information on how much additional deterioration the pipe section can sustain under specific operating pressures, also accounting for pressure surges. This is referred to as the yield limit.
Yield limits are estimated conservatively to allow operators enough time to intervene before a pipe fails. Once a pipe reaches its yield limit, it is in a state of incipient failure. Completing FEA is essential for operators that want to know when their pipe is near failure, or past its yield limit. A conservative estimate is made to provide a buffer between when a pipe needs to be replaced and when it will fail.
Below is the performance curve for a 60-inch Lock Joint ECP pipe with 1-foot of earth cover.
The Limits of FEA
Like any condition assessment tool, there are limitations with FEA, which is why the process should be used in combination with structural inspection and monitoring to ensure pipelines are operated safely.
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