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OTC 19528

In-Situ Measurement of Pipe-Soil Interaction in Deep Water

A.J. Hill, BP, and H. Jacob, Fugro Engineers SA

Copyright 2008, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 2008 Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 58 May 2008.

This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

The paper describes the evolution of a new deep water in-situ testing system that is designed to measure the seabed soil-pipe
interaction forces in the vertical, axial and lateral directions in very soft clay encountered in the deep water environment. The
forces and displacements on the pipe are measured using an instrumented 8-inch diameter section of polypropylene-coated
steel pipe mounted within a deployment frame. In addition to the measurement of forces in three dimensions, changes in pore
water pressure are measured at discrete points along the underside of the pipe section. The system is suitable for deployment
from geotechnical and construction support vessels with a 20 tonne A-frame. The paper describes the development of the
equipment from the initial specification through field trials to readiness for deepwater deployment. It also discusses how the
data from in-situ measurements will complement and enhance the results from existing methods.

For unburied high temperature, high pressure pipeline systems, correctly predicting axial walking and controlling lateral
buckling is extremely sensitive to the selection of the pipe-soil interaction parameters. Very soft clay soils in deep water are
difficult to sample and characterise especially within the first half metre of the seabed where most deepwater pipelines interact
with the soil. Several authors have developed analytical models to characterise pipe-soil interaction, but there remains a
large degree of uncertainty in the soil behaviour. These models have been developed using numerical methods and model
tests on soils reconstituted in the laboratory and in the centrifuge. These techniques by their nature do not properly account
for in-situ conditions, particularly the soil structure which is destroyed during sampling and reconsolidation prior to
laboratory tests. The paper describes how in-situ measurements could fill this knowledge gap and discusses the relative
merits and limitations of each technique.

Results from the equipment are load-displacement curves in the three directions, coupled with pore-water pressure
measurements, enabling the effective stress state around the pipe to be understood. The data also provide information on the
rate of consolidation of the soil under the installed weight of the pipe and the build-up of and interaction with soil berms
created as the pipe displaces laterally. Comparisons are made between the in-situ test results, numerical models and 1g and
centrifuge model tests to demonstrate how these measurements can be used to complement existing techniques.

Subtle changes in the pipe-soil interaction parameters can make several tens of million dollars difference to subsea hardware
CAPEX and OPEX. There have been some well-publicised failures of such flowlines and equally probably many over-
designed systems. This subject is one case of soil-structure interaction where it is not possible to use a marginally
conservative estimate of interface resistance and apply it to each mode of pipeline movement i.e. what is conservative in the
axial sense may not be conservative in the lateral sense. The authors believe that in-situ measurements will reduce this
uncertainty and improve the reliability of unburied deep water pipelines.


The assessment of pipe-soil interaction of High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) and other deepwater pipeline systems in
deep water is a highly complex subject. One of the fundamental issues with the problem is the low contact effective stresses
(<10kPa) between the unburied pipe and soil. It is a poorly understood subject area within soil mechanics as most civil
engineering applications concern stress levels considerably higher. This is compounded by the uncertainties on pipeline
embedment due to the dynamic effects during pipeline installation, the variability in loading rate during start-up and shut-
down and the interaction between lateral and axial pipeline movement.
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Recent advancements in the study of pipe-soil interaction in the vertical, axial and lateral directions have been well
documented by White and Randoph, 2007 and Bruton et al, 2007. Those papers describe details of the tools currently
available to the engineer to calculate the interaction forces, represented as soil springs in three orthogonal directions. They
describe developments in the industry understanding beyond simple linear Mohr-Coulomb models for drained behaviour under
slow loading (and/or short drainage paths) and a constant alpha approach for undrained behaviour under rapid loading.

Traditional methods for establishing upper and lower bound ranges for the axial and lateral force-displacement curves often
yield envelopes which are unworkable in design. For axial assessment, the upper bound curve typically indicates that the
pipeline is effectively fixed in the axial direction for the life of the development, whereas the lower bound curve can lead to a
prediction that some pipelines will walk several metres downslope in a ratcheting style over the life of field. The challenge
for geotechnical and pipeline engineers is to narrow the axial force-displacement envelope reliably. Reducing conservatism in
the prediction of axial friction factors can produce savings of tens of million dollars in subsea hardware. These savings may
be made by eliminating anchor piles or avoiding dividing long pipelines into shorter lengths.

If the lateral load-displacement curves are better defined, the number of buckle initiators (sleepers and/or buoyancy) could be
optimized whilst minimizing the risk of rogue buckles or overstressing the pipeline at the planned buckle locations. The
nature of the pipeline and its associated critical limit state also influences the selection of the lateral pipe-soil force-
displacement relationship. For example under-predicting the lateral resistance for pipe-in-pipe systems may incorrectly show
yielding of the carrier pipe when a buckle is formed. However, under-predicting the lateral resistance for a wet-insulated
pipeline can overestimate fatigue life because the analysis would predict a smaller curvature in the buckle than would occur in
the field.

Despite the improvements in understanding of pipe-soil interaction, the solution to the problem is in its infancy so currently it
is prudent to have contingencies (such as a means for attaching retrofitted anchor piles) should the interaction models prove to
be unreliable in practice. There are relatively few HPHT systems installed globally and it is the infield performance that will
ultimately validate the new models. For this reason, instrumentation and detailed periodic surveys of installed pipelines are
paramount. If the CAPEX savings are sufficiently great to avoid conservative design, then the OPEX monitoring costs must
reflect this as a managed risk. Monitoring allows comparison between early life behaviour and predictions to determine
whether there is likely to be a problem in the longer term which can be prevented with remedial action. In civil engineering,
this is a valid approach known as the Observational Method, whereby the model is continually refined based on systematic
observations of in-place performance. Recent assessment of buckled shapes of operating pipeline systems and back-analysis
of one or two failed pipelines have shown that new methodologies, such as those presented in the SAFEBUCK JIP (Bruton et
al 2007) are more reliable predictors of pipe-soil interaction than traditional approaches.

With a subject area such as this, where research and practice are making rapid progress simultaneously, the key challenges are
that there are no public industry standard guidelines that address surface laid pipe-soil interection, JIP participation varies and
different operators have access to different datasets. This inconsistency is particularly apparent when comparing design
approaches on operated fields versus partnered but non-operated fields.

Methods available for predicting pipe-soil interaction

There are a number of means for measuring or predicting the interaction forces between pipelines and soil which encompass
most of the types of tools available to the engineer.

Soil Element Tests: Small samples of the seabed can be taken back to onshore laboratories, reconsolidated and subjected to
the types of loads expected in the field. This is the recognized means for designing foundations and anchors for other subsea
structures but as mentioned above, the low stress levels to which unburied pipelines are subjected to are less manageable in the
laboratory. New equipment has been developed to address low-stress soil mechanics testing but it is not readily available in
commercial laboratories. The Cam-Shear at the University of Cambridge and the Tilt Table (Najjar et al 2003) at University
of Texas, Austin are two such devices which can be used to measure the interface friction angle at low stresses between soil
and a pipeline. The Cam-Shear apparatus can be operated at different shearing rates to assess the speed at which a drained
response transitions through a partially drained response to an undrained response. The tilt table measures drained conditions,
recently verified by pore pressure transducer measurements. The third apparatus that can be used is the ring shear which is in
more common usage but can give unreliable results at applied stresses of less than 50kPa.

A comparison of drained friction angle between these three methods is presented in (Figure 1) for tests on a deep water site
consisting of very soft extremely high plasticity clay. Superimposed on the plot is the relationship proposed by White and
Randolph, 2007 based on results of tests on similar clay but for applied normal effective stresses in the range 50-300kPa. It
should be noted that the results arent perfectly comparable because the soil was tested against interfaces of slightly different
roughnesses and in some tests, the soil failed internally rather than at the interface. Despite this, and the limitation of the ring
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shear at low stresses, the agreement between these data and the White and Randolph trendline for higher stresses is good.

Model Tests: There are essentially two types of model tests that have been used successfully on recent years, which are near
full scale (1g) tests and small scale tests in a centrifuge. Much of the 1g model testing has been carried out by Cambridge
University and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute and both have produced results that have improved our understanding of
pipe-soil interaction. The full scale model testing requires collection of a large volume of soil (typically 3-4m3) which is then
mixed, wetted and reconsolidated under dead weight or a vacuum to try and replicate in-situ water contents and undrained soil
shear strengths. A T-bar is used to measure the strength profile achieved in the tank and compared to in-situ T-bar
measurements from the site investigation. An instrumented pipe section is then lowered onto the test bed and measurements
are made during embedment of the test pipe, consolidation of soil under the pipe weight and subsequent displacement in
vertical, axial and lateral directions.

Centrifuge testing has been carried out at a number of research establishments and the authors are aware of the work that has
been done at the University of Western Australia and Cambridge University. Testing can either be performed in a mini-drum
or in a large beam centrifuge. The sample volume is relatively small (less than 0.5m3) and the test bed is prepared by
consolidating soil in the centrifuge before inserting the small scale pipe models. The soil strength profile achieved is typically
inferred from measurements of moisture content but in-flight T-bar testing is now achievable in some centrifuges.

Numerical Models: Finite Element Analyses are continually evolving to address the pipe soil interaction problem. Various
soil models have been developed to deal with low shear strength, high water content materials subject to very low stresses.
The input to such soil models is derived from laboratory tests on site-specific soil samples and calibrated to model tests and
observed behaviour.

In-situ Tests: Over the past few decades, various attempts have been made to deploy full scale sections of pipe either as a
short length within a deployment frame or as longer sections of pipe towed behind a vessel, whilst measuring the tow forces
resulting from the interface forces between the test pipe and seabed. It is clear to see why these tests were performed as they
potentially offer a pragmatic solution to a complex problem. However, because of the dependency of pipe-soil interface
resistance on displacement rate and consolidation time (amongst others), there is a need to have much greater control if in-situ
tests are to be meaningful.

All of the techniques briefly described above have their merits but not one of them offers a complete solution to the pipe-soil
interaction problem. Together, they can be used to improve the reliability of deepwater pipeline systems. Of the four
techniques available, in-situ tests offer one of the biggest opportunities for improvement. This paper describes the recent
development of one such device and the knowledge gap that it is intended to fill.

Table 1 summarises the authors opinions on the reliability of each method. Naturally, this assessment is subjective and
individual proponents of each method will have their own bias but the overall trend and relative merits should be valid. Also,
some of the criteria are more important than others and will be project specific.

Soil Element Tests Model Tests

Numerical In-Situ
Criteria Cam- Tilt- Ring
1g Centrifuge Methods Tests
Shear Table Shear
1. Correct soil / soil model? High High Mod High High Mod High
2. In-situ conditions replicated? Mod Mod Mod Mod Mod Mod High
3. Correct pipe shape & diameter? Low Low Low High Mod High High
4. End effects negated? High High High Mod Mod High Mod
5. Correct pipe coating? High High High Mod Low Low Mod
6. Correct pipe embedment? Mod Mod Mod High High High High
7. Correct displacement rate? High Mod Mod High High High High
8. Sufficient load control? Mod Mod Low Mod Mod High Mod
9. Accuracy? Mod Mod Low Mod Mod Mod Mod
10. Multiple tests / repeatability? High High High Low High High Mod
11. Favourable cost? High High High Mod High High Low
12. Favourable schedule? High High High Low Mod High Mod
Table 1 Comparison of methods for predicting pipe-soil interaction
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Knowledge gaps and assumptions to be validated

There are several key areas where in-situ pipe testing can potentially fill the void in our understanding of pipe-soil interaction.
The primary knowledge gaps are the influence of the 10-20cm or so of very high moisture content slurry material that is
present on the seabed in many deepwater locations (Figure 2) and the soil structure and fabric immediately below it. In many
deepwater soft clay environments there is a crust beneath the slurry layer (albeit still very soft) which has an apparent
overconsolidation that has not been brought about by any obvious mechanical means. This is discussed by Ehlers et al, 2005
who suggest that the elevated strength in the crust arises from biogenic activity. This is the subject of ongoing research and
Figure 3 shows typical photographic evidence of it.

It is very difficult to replicate simultaneously both the in-situ shear strength and moisture content profiles in the laboratory, or
indeed within numerical soil models. Furthermore, there is a degree of homogenization of soil following sampling and
preparation for element tests or model tests. The samples are often taken with a box core to a depth of approximately 0.5m
below seabed and there are distinguishable soil types and layers within that depth interval. In some samples there are shallow
gasses and sulphate reducing bacteria which can change the behviour of soils when exposed to atmospheric pressure for the
several months that can elapse between sampling and testing.

The other key parameter that is notoriously difficult to measure by sampling and testing is the coefficient of consolidation (cv).
There is often a large degree of scatter (an order of magnitude is not unusual) in the traditional measurements. In-situ devices
which model the correct pipe geometry, embedment and have the right surface texture are much better placed to provide
realistic estimates of the duration of pore pressure dissipation following pipe lay. When the pipe subsequently moves axially
or laterally, accurate in-situ pore pressure measurements are fundamental in understanding whether the soil behaves as an
over-consolidated soil (dilates during shearing under drained conditions and generates negative pore pressure under undrained
conditions) or whether it behaves as a normally consolidated soil (contracts during shearing under drained conditions and
generates positive pore pressures under undrained conditions). The weight of the pipe will have an impact on the response in
that it may be heavy enough to transition the soil from an overconsolidated state to a normally consolidated state.
Furthermore, repeated cycles of pipeline movement may cause the soil to reach a residual or critical state condition where the
excess pore pressures generated are minimal. Pauses between cycles (i.e. during normal operation) may cause the soil to
reconsolidate around the pipe and increase the break-out force at the pipe-soil interface at the next shutdown. This increased
resistance is not always accounted for in design since its magnitude is difficult to predict.

Of course, not all deepwater sites have soft clays in the pipe-seabed interaction zone and phenomena such as faulting, salt
diapirism and erosion can lead to stiffer soils close to mudline. Although these conditions are atypical, they may represent a
sufficient proportion of a pipeline route to warrant study of the behaviour of pipelines laid on them. These conditions could be
modeled numerically or by using element tests on small soil samples but recovery of stiffer clays in sufficient volume for
model tests may not be practical. In this instance, in-situ tests have a distinct advantage.

Numerical models of the global pipeline system are sensitive to the shape of the force-displacement curve. Axial walking
predictions in particular are highly dependent on the displacement required to mobilize the ultimate resistance.

Aims of In-situ Measurements

As well as investigating the fundamental properties of the very shallow sediments such as consolidation rates, dilatant or
contractant behviour during shearing and stress-strain characteristics, in-situ measurements using a full scale instrumented pipe
can be used to test theoretical and empirical models in each mode of displacement.

Vertical Embedment Tests:

Estimating pipeline embedment accurately is critical in reliably predicting resistance to subsequent movement, particularly in
the lateral sense where undrained shearing is more likely. Several authors have proposed formulations for the prediction of
pipe embedment under a steady vertical load but estimations vary significantly. Some of the most widely used were reported
by Murff et al (1989), Aubeny et al (2005), Bruton et al (2006) and White and Randolph (2007). These theories can be readily
tested using in-situ equipment

The duration for excess pore pressures generated during pipe embedment to dissipate is unknown. The estimates of
consolidation time vary from physical and numerical models vary by at least an order of magnitude due to sample disturbance
effects (physical models) and assumption of drainage paths (numerical models). ROV surveys of deepwater pipelines often
show cracking of the soft soil around the pipeline which is somewhat counterintuitive given the high moisture content. This
cracking, coupled with the open structure potentially created by biological activity may lead to much quicker consolidation
times than anticipated. For subsequent shearing of the soil during start-up and shut-down these preferential drainage paths
may give a drained soil response over a greater range of pipe displacement rates than current estimates show.
OTC 19528 5

The dynamic contribution to overall pipe embedment is well recognized but difficult to predict. The embedment mechanisms
are reasonably well understood but the number of combinations of: soil properties; pipe geometry; line tension; stress
concentrations at touch down points and either side of sleepers/crossings; and environmental conditions during laying
operations, are such that it has so far proven impossible to collate a meaningful database. Therefore, empirical correlations
covering all of these permutations do not currently exist. In-situ measurements should allow the influence of many of these
key parameters to be assessed. The offshore industry is still tackling this issue relating to the interaction between the seabed
and steel catenary risers and there are some common learnings that can be shared through jointly funded studies, such as the
Safebuck JIP.

Axial Displacement Tests:

Following pipeline embedment and consolidation and equalistion of excess pore pressures, the pipeline is then typically
subject to a hydrotest prior to commencement of heating as operation begins. As the pipeline is heated progressively from one
end to the other, it will move axially relative to the soil at a variable speed at different points along the route. The range of
displacement rates has been estimated to typically vary between 0.0001mm/s to a maximum of approximately 0.7mm/s. The
extremes of this range are assumed to cause drained and undrained responses but this is still the subject of much debate and
has not so far included the effect of soil structure which in-situ testing by definition, will account for. When equated to an
equivalent friction factor which is normally used in pipeline design, the differences between drained and undrained (or
something in between) can be a factor of three or more. This assumption is critical in assessing pipe walking working on the
assumption of undrained behaviour if the reality is drained can cost a project $10MMs in accommodating or controlling the
movement that would be predicted.

The effect of pauses between successive movement cycles is also of great interest. The rate of consolidation between cycles
dictates how large the next break-out force is likely to be. An in-situ model test should shed light on how much break-out
resistance can be relied upon in design.

Lateral Displacement Tests:

Properly controlled lateral displacement tests are a significant challenge for physical models. The difficulty is allowing the
pipe to effectively find its own way in a vertical sense when it is displaced laterally. It is recognized that pipelines can be
considered over- or under-embedded immediately after installation. Over-embedded pipes are likely to rise during their first
lateral excursion and under-embedded pipes are likely to dive until they reach an equilibrium point. Predicting this behaviour
is not straightforward, as discussed previously, installation conditions have a major impact on the degree of initial pipe
embedment. Therefore, for a given static pipe weight and set of soil conditions, a range of initial embedments need to be
modeled to be able to classify a pipeline as relatively light, neutral or heavy with respect to its starting elevation. This is
shown schematically in Figure 4. To model this behavour correctly, the vertical load control during lateral displacement in a
model test is therefore critical.

Subsequent cycles of lateral loading involve scraping of soil to form a trench with an active berm on one side and a dormant
berm on the other. This process is described comprehensively by Bruton et al (2007). Laboratory model tests (at 1g and in the
centrifuge) have been instrumental in improving our understanding of these mechanisms and permitted calibration of
numerical models that can predict displacement vectors for a given pipe installation and soil history. Again, the missing
information is the motion of the pipe and behaviour of the berms in-situ. The in-situ test should be able to validate some of the
critical responses and supplement the tests in the onshore laboratory, where more time and reduced costs allow investigation of
more combinations of loads.

As for the axial tests, in-situ lateral tests can be targeted towards assessing the effect of pipe break-out forces and the effect of
varying the displacement rate. Current thinking suggests that because of the amount of soil that it is being sheared during
lateral loading, the response is more likely to be undrained over a greater range of displacement rates than it would be for axial
movement. This assumption can be tested with the in-situ equipment, and if the behaviour is largely undrained, the magnitude
and sense (positive or negative) of the pore pressures can be measured.

In-Situ Testing System Description and Field Trials

System Description
The instrumented pipe section is suspended underneath the frame by means of a hydraulically activated trolley system. The
deployment frame is also equipped with: a mini T-bar; a camera; sensors to measure ambient pressure; roll and pitch; a data
acquisition system; a lamp/camera control unit and a hydraulic power pack. A load pin measures the umbilical load in the
umbilical bullet (Figure 5).

Vertical, axial and lateral movements of the instrumented pipe section are recorded using displacement transducers. A vertical
displacement transducer records the frame penetration depth. Lateral frame movements and rotations around the axis of the
6 OTC 19528

test pipe are assumed to be essentially negligible this was confirmed during the field trials. In addition to forces and
displacements, changes in pore water pressure along the bottom of the pipe section are recorded at nine locations (Figure 6).

Mini T-bar tests are performed from the frame to allow correlation between the model pipe test results and standard soil
parameters. The T-bar is also the most popular reference test used to measure near surface shear strength profiles in the full
scale and centrifuge tests onshore.

The system incorporates a seabed computer which gathers all the raw data from the sensors on the seabed frame. It is then
transmitted via a fibre optic cable to the surface where it is logged, pre-processed and viewed in real time. The same fibre
optic link is also used to control remotely the testing functions as the test proceeds.

The in-situ testing system can be deployed via a single lifting/logging cable, from vessels equipped with a stern-mounted 20
tonne capacity A-frame at least 5m wide and 7m tall. The maximum operational water depth is currently 2,500m.

Instrumented Pipe Section

The core component is a section of polypropylene-coated steel pipe, representative of pipes used in the field, which has been
instrumented with a set of sensors. It has an outside diameter of 225 mm (8) and is 1200 mm long including the dummy
sections which have been designed to reduce end effects. The central section of the pipe, which is the actual measuring part, is
776 mm long. It is instrumented with nine pore water pressure sensors, two triaxial load cells and one temperature sensor as
illustrated in Figure 6.

Pore Pressure Transducers

A total of nine pore pressure transducers (PPTs) are mounted in the underside of the pipe section. Five PPTs are mounted
along the invert. At each end of the instrumented section, two PPTs have been mounted at positions 30 degrees clockwise and
anticlockwise from the invert.

Triaxial Load Cells

The pipe section is suspended on two triaxial load cells. The load cells are directly in line with the connection flanges of the
axial travelling carriage frame. The load cells measure the forces exerted on the pipe section in three orthogonal directions.
Combined movements are possible in two of the three directions at the same time.

Axial Movement
The pipe moves in the axial direction using a spindle mechanism, right to left or the reverse, in displacement control mode.
The axial stroke is 500 mm and the spindle mechanism has two distinct speeds: a slow speed of 0.04 mm/sec, and a fast
speed of 0.12 mm/sec. It is possible to combine axial displacement with vertical load controlled displacement. The fact that
the test pipe section is suspended at either end somewhat complicates the calibration of the system but has the advantage of
increasing the systems rigidity which reduces the likelihood of any pipe rotation during testing.

Vertical Movement
Two vertical hydraulic rams with a vertical stroke of 500mm allow the instrumented pipe section to travel at a fixed speed of
2mm/sec both upward and downward when in displacement control mode. In vertical load control, the target load determines
the speed.

Lateral Movement
The travelling carriage supporting the pipe section is moved along tracks (backwards and forwards) by a hydraulic ram. This
creates the lateral movement of the pipe. The lateral stroke of this system is 1500 mm and the lateral speed can be varied
between 0.8 mm/sec and 30 mm/sec. Lateral displacement-controlled movement can be combined with vertical load-
controlled movement.

Further details about the testing equipment can be found in Hawkins and Wintgens, 2007.
OTC 19528 7

Field Trials

Two series of wet field trials (Figure 7) were carried out in order to test all system features and general robustness required for
offshore deployment. The main objectives were to:

Assess the functionality of the system in a shallow marine environment

Acquire data from the onboard sensors
Interpret and understand the data from a geotechnical perspective
Correlate recorded data against predictive curves using in situ and soil laboratory data
Assess the quality of the data
Assess modifications / improvements that should be made to the system.
Confirm negligible frame movements with respect to the pipe motions, by surveying of the frame.

Test Site Conditions

The soil at the field test site comprised very soft to soft silt of very high to extremely high plasticity. Shear strength profiles
and index properties are presented on Figure 8. A low normal stress interface friction angle of 35 was measured on a
sample of the material recovered to an onshore laboratory. The field trials were carried out in a tidal estuary in a siltier clay
than encountered in most deepwater sites. However, the shear strength profile was comparable and subsequent analysis of the
test results showed that the field test site responded in a manner similar to the soft clay models that have been developed. In
the field trials, the tidal effects impacted the pore pressure response and the buoyancy forces on the pipe had to be accounted
for in the post-processing of the data.

T-bar tests were performed at each location during the second field trial. The shear strength profiles have been derived using a
reduced T-bar factor NTbar to take into account the shallow penetration (White et al 2007). They are presented on Figure 8 and
match the laboratory test results relatively well.

Vertical Tests
Several vertical tests were performed during the field trials, the results from which were compared with some available
models. The soil resistance to pipe vertical penetration has been assessed for a simplified, best-estimate shear strength profile
(shown on Figure 9) in four different ways:

Using Bruton et al. (2006) empirical equation linking FV, Su, St and z;

Using Aubeny et al. (2005) relationship linking FV, Su and z through a power law, with fitting coefficients
corresponding to a less than half embedded rough pipe and a strength gradient such that 0 ( = kD/Su0)

Using a simplified assessment mentioned by White and Randolph (2007), which considers that FV/DSu is a constant

Using Murff et al. (1989) upper-bound solution, linking soil resistance to the Su and to a soil-pipe adhesion factor

Figure 9 shows results of all penetration tests completed, with vertical loads scaled for one meter length of pipe and the
normalised pipe penetration (i.e. penetration divided by pipe diameter). Overall, the resistances to penetration recorded match
the undrained predictive models quite well. It should be noted that the soil properties vary between each test footprint and the
shaded area shown on Figure 9 illustrates the range of predicted penetration resistance for the expected shear strength
envelope, using the simplified assessment method.

Figure 10 shows the responses from the nine pore pressure transducers from one of the tests during pipe penetration and during
the maintained vertical position. The data demonstrate the resolution of measurements, the consistency of the five sensors at
the pipe invert level and the front and back transducers which are mounted at 30 from the invert either side of the pipe.
The short pause after initial embedment shows the dissipation in pore pressures. However, it should be noted the pipe was
held at a fixed vertical position rather than a constant vertical load on that particular test, which will be the case for future tests
designed to assess consolidation parameters.

Axial Tests
The result of an axial test is presented on Figure 11. Two curves have been plotted versus displacement of the pipe: the axial
soil resistance and the axial soil resistance divided by the vertical load. This normalized load represents the axial friction
coefficient that would be used in drained models. A clear peak in the soil resistance can be observed at the start of the
8 OTC 19528

The soil resistance to axial displacement of the pipe for a given embedment has been predicted in two ways:

Assuming an undrained response, computing the simplified friction assessment as FA = A(z)Su, where A(z) is the
contact area and is the adhesion factor, which depends on the relative roughness of the pipe (Oliphant and
Maconochie, 2007). Using shear strength profiles shown on Figure 8 and = 0.8 - 1.0 leads to peak axial resistance
values of 0.2 to 0.6 kN/m and residual resistance values of 0.2 to 0.5 kN/m.

Assuming a drained response and using an effective stress approach (White and Randolph, 2007), i.e. the resistance
after full dissipation, with assumed to be between 0.7 and 0.8.

Recorded data match the predictions from both approaches very well, with the drained models showing a particularly good
match, especially given that the envelope is much narrower for that case. The pore pressure measurements during this slow
axial test were rather masked by tidal influences. The general trend was for an initial positive excess pore pressure (1-2kPa) to
be developed at the start of shear and when the shear direction was reversed which then dissipated as displacement continued.
This will be a particular focus of future tests. Two other noteworthy features of the curves are the post-peak strain softening in
the first load and the reduction in resistance between the first load and the reverse movement. Both of these effects should be
explored further, by examining the relationship between set-up times (and displacement rates) with break-out forces and also
by conducting multiple cycles of axial loading.

Lateral Tests
Lateral tests were performed at different pipe penetrations and at different rates. Figure 12 presents typical lateral test results
during which several loading cycles were carried out with the second and third cycles returning to the starting position. The
measured break-out resistances were compared with several methods that assume undrained behaviour:

Using Bruton (2006) empirical expression for break-out resistance as a function of vertical force, embedment,
undrained shear strength and submerged weight;

Using Verley and Lund (1995) empirical equation, function of vertical force, embedment, undrained shear strength
and total weight;

Using Merifield et al. (2007) expressions for a rough pipeline yield envelope, where maximum lateral load is
computed from embedment, theoretical maximum vertical resistance at a given depth, and undrained shear strength.

Residual resistance usually occurs within a pipe movement of 3 to 5 pipe diameters implying that the residual values have not
quite been reached in all cycles of the test shown on Figure 12. However, on the reverse portions of the second and third
cycles, the curves are tending towards values of 0.20 to 0.25 kN/m, with FV ~0.3 kN/m. Residual lateral resistance computed
using Brutons equation for such a vertical load gives a result of 0.16kN/m which is a reasonable agreement with the measured

Figure 13 shows the predicted lateral break-out resistances and data from the cyclic lateral test plotted against pipe penetration.
The resistance peaks recorded show reasonable agreement with the predicted ranges.

The pore water pressures generated during the lateral test are shown in the lower half of Figure 14. The excess pore pressures
are small but indicate very little dissipation during shearing which supports the undrained expectation. It is also interesting to
observe the trends of the pore pressures on the front (leading edge), invert and back (trailing) edge of the pipe. Positive excess
pressures are induced on the leading edge, small positive pore pressures are induced at the invert and suctions on the trailing
edge of the pipe. When the pipe direction is reversed, the pore pressures switch which, although anticipated, proves the
functionality of the transducers especially in the shallow water, where saturation of the transducers could have been an issue.


The in-situ testing device described here has the potential to be an important advancement in our understanding of pipe-soil
interaction. It will complement the existing techniques and should be considered as an addition to the geotechnical and
pipeline engineers toolbox. Its main advantages are that it accounts for soil structure and fabric which are destroyed during
sampling and preparation for onshore model tests and are not included in numerical models. In particular, consolidation
characteristics will be much better understood and the fundamental pore pressure response (drained or undrained) during
pipeline movement will be revealed.
OTC 19528 9

The equipment is also operable in areas where stiffer soils exist that cannot be readily sampled in bulk. It also has the benefit
of delivering rapid results, without the need for shipping samples to onshore laboratories and preparation of them prior to
testing which can take several valuable months within key engineering phases of developments. There are also a near-infinite
number of footprints available for testing which is a constraint for model testing in an onshore test bed.

In-situ testing involving vessel time is inevitably expensive compared to onshore testing, especially if soil consolidation times
are high. One development under consideration is a detachable reaccessible test rig so that soil consolidation is vessel -
independent. Meanwhile, the authors believe that the selective use of in-situ tests can still be cost-beneficial by providing
reliable complementary data that will help to resolve many unanswered questions about pipe-soil interaction, and increase
design confidence with further significant savings in pipeline CAPEX and OPEX.

The authors would like to thank colleagues within BP and Fugro for their support and expert opinion throughout the
development of the in-situ testing equipment. In addition, the advice from David Bruton from Atkins Boreas and Dave White
from the University of Western Australia has been particularly appreciated.


Aubeny C. P., Shi H., Murff J. D., 2005, Collapse Loads for a Cylinder Embedded in Trench in Cohesive Soil, International Journal of
Geomechanics, ASCE, pp 320-325

Bruton, D. et al. 2006. Pipe-Soil Interaction Behavior During Lateral Buckling, Including Large Amplitude Cyclic Displacement Tests by
the Safebuck JIP. Offshore Technology Conf., Houston, 14 May 2006. Ref. OTC 17944

Bruton, D., Carr, M. and White, D. 2007. The Influence of Pipe-Soil Interaction on Lateral Buckling and Walking of Pipelines the
SAFEBUCK JIP. Offshore Site Investigation and Geotechnics, 6th International Conference, London 11-13 September 2007. pp 133-

Dendani, H. and Jaeck C., 2007, Pipe-Soil Interaction in Highly Plastic Clays. Offshore Site Investigation and Geotechnics, 6th International
Conference, London 11-13 September 2007. pp 115-124

DNV RP F105, 2006. Free-Spanning Pipelines, Rational design criteria and guidance for assessment of pipeline-free spans subjected to
combined wave and current loading.

Fugro Offshore Geotechnics, 2006. Project Plan, Development of Deep water in-situ Pipeline Modelling System Joint Industry Project
SMARTPIPE, Project Plan No. R525/PP, 2nd February 2006

Fugro Offshore Geotechnics, 2007. Field Trial Report, Fugro Smartpipe, Field Trials, Gweek, Cornwall, Report No. I983-R-001 (02), 10th
May 2007

Hawkins, R. and Wintgens, J.F. 2007. In-situ Measurement of Pipe-Soil Interaction in Deep Water Very Soft Clay and Direct Use in
Pipeline Design. PetroMin Deep Water and Subsea Technology Conference and Exhibition, 2930 Oct 2007, Kuala Lumpur

Jacob, H. and Looijen, P. 2008. Development of a Deepwater Tool for In-Situ Pipe-Soil Interaction Measurement and its Benefits in Pipeline
Analysis. Offshore Pipeline Technology Conference and Exhibition, 2728 February 2008, Amsterdam

Merifield R.S., White D.J. and Randolph M.F., 2007, Analysis of the Undrained Breakout Resistance of Partially Embedded Pipelines

Murff, J. D., Wagner, D. A., Randolph, M. F. 1989, Pipe penetration in cohesive soil. Gotechnique 39, No. 2, pp 213-229

Najjar, S.N., Gilbert, R.B., Liedtke, E.A., McCarron, W. Tilt Table Test for Interface Shear Resistance Between Flowlines and Soils. Proc.
Conf. on Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering (2003)

Oliphant, J. and Maconochie, A., 2007, The Axial Resistance of Buried and Unburied Pipelines, Proceedings of the 6th International
Offshore Site Investigation and Geotechnics Conference, pp125-132

Verley, R. L. P. and Lund, K. M. 1995. A soil resistance model for pipelines placed on clay soils. Proc. Offshore Mechanics and Arctic
Engineering Conf., Copenhagen, 18-22 June 1995, Vol V, pp. 225-232

White, D. and Randolph, M. 2007. Seabed Characterisation and Models for Pipeline-soil Interaction. International Journal of Offshore and
Polar Engineering, Vol. 17, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 112
10 OTC 19528


Drained Interface Residual Friction Angle, ( ) 40

Ring Shear

Tilt Table
35 Cam-Shear

White and Randolph (2007)

from tests at 50-300kPa



0 10 20 30 40 50
Normal Effective Stress (kPa)

Figure 1 Friction Angles at Low Effective Stresses


Figure 2 Box Core

OTC 19528 11

Figure 3 Evidence of Biogenic Activity




Figure 4 Trajectory of Pipe During Lateral Displacement According to Initial Embedment

12 OTC 19528

Figure 5 In-situ Equipment Components

Figure 6 Instrumentation in Test Pipe

OTC 19528 13

Figure 7 Equipment at Field Trials Site

Undrained Shear Strength, Su (kPa) Plasticity Data (-) Density (Mg/m)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 0 50 100 150 200 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5

Lab tests
Fall cone
Lab vane

50 Tbar tests envelope


Simplified profiles
Low Estimate
100 Best Estimate
High Estimate
Depth (mm)




Liquid Limit (%)

Plastic Limit (%)
Moisture Content (%) Bulk Density


Figure 8 Soil Properties at Field Trials Site

14 OTC 19528

Vertical Load (kN / m of pipe)

0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5
Recorded data
Bruton - St = 1 & 1.5

Penetration of Pipe Invert / Diameter of pipe (z/D)

Aubeny - Smooth & Rough pipe
Murff & al.
Simpl. Assessment




All prediction curves displayed here use SuBE

Range of results for SuLE < Su < SuHE is shown in grey, using
the simplified model (V = 4.5*Su*D')
Figure 9 Vertical Penetration Tests


Displacement (mm)





Pore Water Pressure



11:24 11:27 11:30 11:33 11:36

Figure 10 Pore Pressure Response During Vertical Penetration Tests

OTC 19528 15


0.8 = 0.75
Axial Load / Vertical Load



0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35
Axial Displacement of Pipe / Diameter of pipe

Predicted Range* for...
Peak Resistance (Undrained)
0.6 Residual Resistance (Undrained)
Axial Load (kN / m of pipe)

Residual Resistance (Drained)




*Based on SuLE and SuHE profiles, St=1.2, =0.8-1.0 and =0.7-0.8

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Axial Displacement of Pipe (mm)

Figure 11 Axial Displacment Tests

16 OTC 19528


Cycle 1
Cycle 2
0.5 Cycle 3
Cycle 4
Lateral Load (kN/m)



0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Lateral displacement of pipe / Diameter of pipe

Figure 12 Cyclic Lateral Load vs Displacement

Lateral Load (kN/m)

-1.2 -0.8 -0.4 0 0.4 0.8 1.2

Recorded Data
Verley & Lund
Penetration of Pipe Invert / Pipe Diameter (z/D)

0.1 Bruton





Prediction curves displayed here use SuBE

Range of results for SuLE < Su < SuHE is shown in grey,
using Merifield & al. model

Figure 13 Vertical Penetration during Lateral Displacement Tests

OTC 19528 17

Displacement (mm)




Pore Water Pressure


0 Invert

13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00

Figure 14 Pore Water Pressure Response During Lateral Tests