Can a buried gas pipeline experience local buckling during earthquake ground shaking?

N. Psyrras, O. Kwon, S. Gerasimidis, A. Sextos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
273 Downloads (Pure)


The damage potential of spatially variable seismic ground motion on buried pipelines has long been confirmed by field evidence, but it is still debatable whether transient seismic loads can be truly detrimental to the pipeline integrity. In the absence of systematic scrutiny of the effects of local site conditions on the seismic behaviour of such structures, this study presents a staged approach to numerically investigate the elastic-plastic buckling response of buried steel natural gas pipelines subject to transient differential ground motions arising from strong lateral site inhomogeneities. The first stage involves the study of 2D linear viscoelastic and equivalent-linear site response for the case of two sites and the resulting seismic demand in terms of longitudinal strains for input motions of various intensities and frequency content. The influence of key problem parameters is examined, and the most unfavourable relative ground deformation cases are identified. In the second stage of analysis, the critical in-plane ground displacement field is imposed monotonically on a near-field trench-like 3D continuum soil model encasing a long cylindrical shell model of the pipeline. Next, the performance of the buried pipeline is assessed under axial compression. The impedance contrast between the laterally inhomogeneous soil profiles is shown to govern the amplitude of induced elastic strains, which are maximized for low-frequency excitations. It is also demonstrated that peak axial strains along the pipeline considering equivalent-linear soil behaviour under strong earthquake motion can be as much as two orders of magnitude larger than their linear counterparts, as a result of the severe, spatially variable moduli degradation. It is finally shown that the seismic vibrations of certain inhomogeneous sites can produce appreciable axial stress concentration in the critically affected pipeline segment near the material discontinuity, enough to trigger coupled buckling modes in the plastic range. This behaviour is found to be controlled by pronounced axial force-bending moment interaction and is not accounted for in code-prescribed limit states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-529
Number of pages19
JournalSoil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Soil-pipe interaction
  • Natural gas
  • Earthquake ground motion
  • Inhomogeneous sites
  • Wave propagation
  • Local buckling
  • Site response analysis


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