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Title: A radical alternative approach to design and construction of pipelines in deep water
Category: Papers by Dr Andrew Palmer
Downloadable: Yes 
Catalog No.: AP125
Date of Publication: 1998
Price: $25.00 US
Authors: A C Palmer
Abstract: The design of pipelines in deep water is conventionally governed by the external pressure. The line is laid air-filled, and the wall has to be strong enough to resist collapse and buckle propagation. This leads to extremely high wall thicknesses, often well over 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) even for modest diameters, to correspondingly high costs, and to additional difficulties with welding and possible repair.

Newcomers to underwater pipeline engineering often ask why the pipe is always laid air-filled. This paper pursues that question, and explores the implications of laying the pipe partially liquid-filled, so that the external pressure is partly balanced by internal pressure. It presents the results of design and lay analysis for such a line. The pipe can then be much thinner and cheaper. It may be heavier, but overall it turns out to be less costly to lay a thinner pipe, even if the lay equipment has to be somewhat stronger.

There are commissioning and operational implications if the line cannot be completely depressurised. These implications are much less serious for an oil or water line than for a gas line. The application is to economical design of large-diameter pipelines in deep water, such as the projected pipelines from Arabia to India and Pakistan. The results include graphs and formulas that can be used to design pipelines that will be laid partially water-filled.

The most significant aspect of this radical alternative is that it offers a way forward which breaks free of a traditional constraint.

The need for deep-water pipelines is clear. Some of the design and construction problems become easier in deep water, and some become more difficult. The principal difficulty is the inescapably large external pressure, which implies a large wall thickness if the pipeline is to be able to withstand the external pressure while it contains air at atmospheric pressure. A little can be done to lessen the problem by better understanding of collapse. A radical paradigm shift makes it possible to break free of the design constraint imposed by buckling.

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