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Thermal Analysis of Oil Pipeline on Permafrost

In the operation of buried pipelines laid in permafrost, the main hazard is represented by the formation of thaw bulbs around the pipes. This phenomenon can provoke thaw settlement of long distance.

 
Operation of oil pipelines in permafrost regions
 

Without appropriate engineering measures, this inevitably leads to the cost for fixing the construction zone around the pipeline. A thaw bulb that grows in the lateral direction can also be hazardous for objects situated close to the pipeline: power transmission lines, side roads, etc.

 
Modeling and calculation of thermal processes in grounds
 

The best way to assess the reliability of engineering measures is via computer simulation. To ensure the accuracy of the computation of the thermal impact of an oil pipeline on perennially frozen ground, the following critical factors require consideration:

 

  • Actual geometry of the simulated objects.
  • Inhomogeneous geological and lithological structure of the ground, including ice wedges.
  • Changes in thermophysical ground properties as a result of phase transitions.
  • Ground thawing and freezing velocity.
  • Changes in meteorological conditions over time.
  • Presence of thermal insulation materials.
  • Thickness and type of thermal pipe insulation.
  • Temperature and velocity of oil pumped through the pipe.
  • Structural features of the trench in which the pipeline is located.

 

Frost 3D Universal by Simmakers is unlike any other software solution on the market because it allows forecasting of ground thaw bulb formations around pipelines, factoring in all of the above mentioned parameters.

 

Frost 3D Universal addresses all of the requirements of modern users conducting thermal analysis in terms of accuracy, speed, and presentability of results.

 

Sample Computation of the Thermal Impact of an Oil Pipeline on Permafrost in Frost 3D Universal

 
Problem statement
 

To calculate the development of a thaw bulb caused by the thermal impact of the pipeline on ice wedges for the section of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean (ESPO-1) main oil pipeline, for 2 years from September 2011.

 

The section of the ESPO-1 pipeline. This area contains perennially frozen ground with an average temperature of –1.1oС, which has underground ice deposits with the thickness of up to 4 m.

 
Goal
 

To determine the geocryological danger, expressed numerically as the magnitude of thaw bulb around the underground pipeline lying in terrain containing ice wedges.

 
Novelty
 

Numerical estimation in a three-dimensional recreation of the thaw bulb around the pipeline lying in terrain with ice wedges, with simultaneous consideration of multiple factors: time-varying meteorological conditions, velocity and temperature of pumped oil, thickness and type of thermal pipe insulation and structural features of the trench in which the pipeline is located.

 
Mathematical model and numerical method implemented
 

The solution of the problem required employment of the nonlinear heat equation. For more details, please visit the section “Computer Simulation of Artificial Ground Freezing”.

 
Numerical simulation of thaw bulb
 

The computation was performed using the following configuration: a pipeline running through a layout with ice wedges.

 
Oil pipeline running through ice wedges

Configuration of mutual arrangement of the pipeline and the ice wedges

 

The following geometric parameters were factored in:

     

  • Linear dimensions of the simulation area: 25×25 m in the horizontal plane and 15 m in depth.
  • Ice depth: 0.7 m, thickness: 4.3 m.
  • Pipe wall thickness: 10 mm.
  • Pipe insulation thickness: 70 mm.

 

The discretization of the simulation area was carried out on a hexahedral computational mesh consisting of 2,905,980 nodes.

 
The thermophysical characteristics of soil layers around the trench with the pipeline were specified in accordance with the table below:
 

No. of soil layer Ground Layer thickness, m Heat conductivity coefficient of thawed and frozen ground λTF , W/(m∙K) Volumetric heat capacity of thawed and frozen ground СTF , kJ/(m3∙К) Volumetric water content, m3/m3
1 Peat 0.7 0.5 / 2 3600 / 1300 0.33
2 Peat, predominantly decomposed, plastic frozen, icy. Contains ice wedges 4.3 0.5 / 2 3600 / 1300 0.33
3 Sandy loam soil, icy 2.2 1.45 / 2.3 2867 / 2030 0.57
4 Sandy loam soil with high ice content 7.8 1.25 / 2.3 3160 / 205 0.42

 

The ice wedges were assigned with a heat capacity equal to 1860 kJ/(m3∙К), and heat conductivity – 2.25 W/(m∙K).

 

It was assumed that the oil was pumped through the pipeline with a temperature of +8oС, and the average flow was 30 tons per year.

 
Results
 

According to the computations for two years, it was determined that the maximum ground thawing around the pipeline formed in the directions in which the heat insulator was absent, and did not exceed 0.9 m. The amplitude of annual fluctuations of the temperature field in the ground in the vicinity of the pipeline varied between 3 to 5oС.

 

This case only necessitated the results for two years, but the Frost 3D Universal software package is well capable of forecasting the evolution of the thaw bulb over 5, 10 and 30 years.

 
3D temperature field calculated in the Frost 3D Universal software

3D temperature field calculated in the Frost 3D Universal software

 
Results of the calculation of the thermal field in the form of temperature isolines in August

Results of the calculation of the thermal field in the form of isolines in the cross section of the simulation area in August

 
Computation of thaw bulb around the oil pipeline in permafrost

Simulation results of the ground thawing area around the oil pipeline

 
Ground thaw bulb around the oil pipeline in the YZ plane in August

Ground thaw bulb around the pipeline in the YZ plane in August

 
Ground thaw bulb around the oil pipeline in the YZ plane in January

Ground thaw bulb around the pipeline in the YZ plane in January

 

It is also worth mentioning that the thermal impact of the pipeline did not lead to the melting of the ice wedges beneath it. This is primarily due to the fact that the pipeline is located in a trench where the underground ice was removed and insulating material was placed.

 
 

 

FROST 3D UNIVERSAL

Software for thermotechnical calculations of:

 

  • Thermal stabilization of permafrost
  • Artificial ground freezing

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From the outset, the team of specialists at Simmakers Ltd showed a high degree of professionalism by carrying out detailed preliminary research of the problem before concluding the contract; we were very impressed with this approach.

D.G. Dolgikh
Deputy CEO
Fundamentstroyarkos RPA Ltd, Russia

 

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