Ground cracking and frost heaving associated with chilled gas pipeline operations in Britain

  • Denis P. Greene

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates the soil-pipeline interactions associated with the operation of large-diameter chilled gas pipelines in Britain, these are frost/pipe heave and ground cracking. The investigation was biased towards the definition of the mechanism of ground cracking and, the parameters which influence its generation and subsequent development, especially its interaction with frost heave. The study involved a literature review, questionnaire, large-scale test and small-scale laboratory model experiments. The literature review concentrated on soil-pipeline interactions and frost action, with frost/pipe heave often reported but ground cracking was seldom reported. A questionnaire was circulated within British Gas to gain further information on these interactions. The replies indicated that if frost/pipe heave was reported, ground cracking was also likely to be observed. These soil-pipeline interactions were recorded along 19% of pipelines in the survey and were more likely along the larger diameter, higher flow pipelines. A large-scale trial along a 900 mm pipeline was undertaken to assess the soil thermal, hydraulic and stress regimes, together with pipe and ground movements. Results indicated that cracking occurred intermittently along the pipeline during periods of rapid frost/pipe heave and ground movement and, that frozen annulus growth produced a ground surface profile was approximated by a normal probability distribution curve. This curve indicates maximum tensile strain directly over the pipe centre. Finally a small-scale laboratory model was operated to further define the ground cracking mechanism. Ground cracking was observed at small upward ground surface movement, and with continued movement the ground crack increased in width and depth. At the end of the experiments internal soil failure planes slanting upwards and away from the frozen annulus were noted. The suggested mechanism for ground cracking involved frozen annulus growth producing tensile strain in the overlying unfrozen soil, which when sufficient produced a crack.
Date of Award1992
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRoger J Kettle (Supervisor)


  • Ground cracking
  • frost heaving
  • chilled gas
  • pipeline operations
  • Britain

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