Pipeline Design and Failure Analysis

Pipelines are an essential resource for modern living but notoriously dangerous and even deadly when poorly designed or maintained.  The Pipeline And Hazardous Materials Safety Administration  (PHMSA) reports a 5 year average of 667 incidents a year (2014-2018), resulting in 15 fatalities, 72 injuries, and damages costing up to $5 million. (Source)

Sources of Failures

Material, weld, and equipment failures are the most common root cause of pipeline failures based on PHMSA data representing 42% of all cases reported. Corrosion and incorrect operation follow– each at 13%. BEAR Engineers can identify, differentiate, and validate all of the various causes using our state-of-the-art equipment, testing lab and engineering experience.

Sites of Failures

Pipelines might not always be visible, but the United States has the largest network of pipes of anywhere in the world with over 2.4 million miles of pipeline (source).  This includes pipes the directly connect to homes and heavily populated areas, a majority of which are typically hidden underground or out of site.  This has been the case with many of our past projects.  Scroll down to read about some of our notable projects.

Corrosion & Materials Testing

PHMSA data shows that material, weld, and corrosion failures account for over half of all pipeline failures.  Berkeley Engineering And Research has extensive experience examining and identifying these types of failures using our in-house capabilities and investigative techniques, including metallurgical equipment, and advanced scientific microscopes.  Metallurgical, Material and Mechanical Engineers at BEAR have worked on hundreds of cases requiring detailed material analysis for insurance investigations and legal cases.

Pipeline Welds

Precision welding holds the many sections of pipelines together.  Although all procedures are required to be carried out by qualified welders, it only takes one faulty weld to lead to a dangerous and premature failure.  BEAR has the engineering capabilities to inspect and detect faulty welds and corrosion for both metallic and plastic piping.  Contact us to learn more about these methods and how we can help with your case. 

Corrosion & Deterioration

Corrosion is the process by which the environment can slowly degrade a material.  Certain materials are more resistant than others and there are ways to improve or restrict it when material choice is limited.  Material inspection techniques and modeling can show if corrosion is the root cause of a pipeline failure. 

 
Notable Past Pipeline Failures

The San Bruno pipeline disaster occurred when a natural gas pipeline owned by PG&E exploded into flames in a neighborhood just west of the San Francisco Airport. The failed section of the pipeline is shown above. The devastation was immense—almost 50 homes were destroyed, and nine fatalities resulted. 

 

BEAR inspected the aftermath and identified the failure as defective welds in the pipeline. The intensive pressure in the line and the increasing demand for energy from San Bruno’s expanding user base led to this failure.

 
 
 
About BEAR

Berkeley Engineering And Research, Inc. is one of California's leading scientific experts, serving law firms, insurance companies, government agencies, and other corporations.  Founded in 1988 by Glen Stevick, PhD, PE, BEAR engineers have consulted on hundreds of critical, high-profile projects including the Alaskan Pipeline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Milwaukee Brewers Stadium roof collapse, the Lan Chile airplane fire at the Miami airport, and the San Bruno pipeline explosion, among many others. 

For all instances, our investigative approach as problem solvers covers every angle. We seek to find out what happened, why it happened, who or what caused it to happen, and any possible preventative solutions - communicating our findings to our clients in a comprehensive and meaningful way.

Our labs and offices are proudly based in Berkeley, CA, and serve clients across the country and internationally.  Visit our main site at www.bearinc.com.

Our Experts
Dr. Glen Stevick, Ph.D., P.E., Founder, Principal Engineer, and CEO

 

A respected expert in the oil and gas industry, company founder and CEO of BEAR, Glen Stevick has gained national recognition for his consulting and technical research on the BP Horizon Oil Spill and his work on the Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit.  With more than 35 years of experience in mechanical engineering, Glen is a dynamic communicator who is able to bring complex scientific concepts clearly and concisely to nonprofessionals and to trial, making him a highly valued expert witness. 

email: glen@bearinc.com      call: 510-549-3300 ext.101

Dr. David Rondinone, Ph.D., P.E., Principal Engineer, and CTO 

Since 1993, David Rondinone has been an esteemed member of the BEAR team, providing expert consultation in the areas of design and failure analysis, finite element analysis, accident reconstruction and crashworthiness, and mechanical  and explosion testing.  As a highly regarded corrosion inspection expert for coke drums and refinery piping systems, Dave consults for Chevron, Phillips 66 and Marathon. Dave's research has included detailed studies of flange stress response, creep behavior of longitudinally welded pipes at high temperature, design of structural supports for a cryogenic superconducting MRI machine, 3D scanning and dynamic analysis of multistory manufacturing facilities. 

email: dave@bearinc.com     call: 510-549-3300 ext. 102

808 Gilman Street

Berkeley, CA 94710

Tel: 510-549-3300 x 105