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June 28, 2019
Category: Research Update 

Energy Pipelines CRC - A Snapshot of its Legacy

The Energy Pipelines CRC was established in early 2010 to facilitate collaboration between researchers and the energy pipeline industry sector in Australia. The goal was to provide Australian energy pipeline industry with the knowledge and technology necessary to extend the life of the existing natural gas transmission network, and to build better, more efficient and safer networks necessary to support increasing demand for energy.

The Energy Pipelines CRC has remained true to its vision. With the successful completion of over a hundred research projects its legacy will have long lasting impact in the day to day operations of the Australian pipeline industry.

The CRC’s value has come about largely as a result of both research success and industry uptake of research. These outcomes have been demonstrated by completed projects and by uptake of results, for example into the overarching industry standard for pipelines AS 2885. Examples of such outcomes include:

Fracture control in pipelines

Research undertaken at the University of Wollongong has made very significant progress in the understanding and control of fracture in pipelines. This work encompasses pipeline decompression and the influence of pipe roughness and diameter, fracture mechanism, toughness requirements for fracture arrest and the measurement of toughness in drop weight tear testing (DWTT) and Charpy tests.

The work has resulted in new recommended practices for performing DWTT, an Industry Code of Practice for Fracture Control and EPDECOM, a commercially available decompression/arrest toughness software package.

Sociology of safety

The work undertaken by the RMIT research team raised serious interest in how the structure and culture of companies directly affect the safety of their assets. The work led to a number of changes to the safety management provisions in AS2885 Part 1 ‘pipeline design and construction’ and the creation of Part 6 ‘pipeline safety management’.

Coatings and Cathodic Protection

Research undertaken at Deakin University led to the establishment of the National Facility for Pipeline Coatings Assessment. The only independent NATA accredited testing facility of its kind in Australia; the facility provides both a testing and research platform that has advanced pipelines coatings research to world leading standards. An example of the latter is research that assessed the performance of coatings installed by HDD.

Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC)

A team of researchers at the University of Adelaide and Deakin University provided new insights into the mechanism and sentencing of SCC. This form of cracking in Australian pipelines has an unusual ‘inclined’ morphology, only reported elsewhere in Canadian pipelines. The work resulted in a clear explanation of the mechanism for the formation and growth of angled cracks, thereby providing confidence in SCC management practices used by industry.

Industry guidelines and models

A number of other design guidelines and models have been delivered based on completed research. These industry guidance notes focus on specific aspects of pipeline design, construction and operation. These have included:

  • Direct industry guidance on the strain demand thresholds during pipeline construction activities to prevent the coating damage;
  • A scientific basis for removing a constraint that prevents certain Australian pipelines from increasing their operating pressure once it is demonstrated that the operating pressure increase is safe;
  • Models to predict the pipe metal temperatures during gas venting operations;
  • Industry guideline to determine the design, placement and operation of vents for new or augmented pipelines in both rural and urban locations;
  • A methodology that is capable of screening a large number of potential pipeline energy fluids based on a number of techno-economic criteria;
  • Support for professional engineering judgements made regarding risk acceptability in accordance with the principle of As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP);
  • A pipeline industry guideline for communicating with third parties who intend to work around pipelines to minimise the risk of damage;
  • Numerical models to understand horizontal directional drilling damage to pipelines so that pipeline engineers doing safety management studies can make valid assessments of the risk presented by such equipment;
  • Improved design model for occasional loading on shallow buried pipelines;
  • Industry guideline providing advice on the use of engineering calculations as a new method for determining fugitive emissions from pipelines; 
  • Industry guideline for the design of concrete mattresses for stabilising pipelines on shore and river crossings; 
  • Field pressure test modelling software PipeStrain has been developed and significantly improved by the Energy Pipelines CRC;
  • Guidelines on the critical voltage value for holiday testing of Dual Layer FBE coatings;
  • Engineering guidance for the design and operation of CP systems at pipeline shoreline crossings;
  • Models and knowledge that allowed the extension and use of the Standard AS2885.1 to cover carbon dioxide pipelines, as well as the development ISO Standard ISO27913 ‘Carbon dioxide pipeline transportation systems’. 
  • A new standardised approach for assessing the relative remaining lifetime of PE pipes that includes material grade, pipe location and age; 
  • A ‘Linepipe specification’ to assist Australian pipeline industry to purchase overseas linepipe with greater confidence. It covers specification of high frequency welded (HFW) and longitudinal-submerged arc welded (LSAW) pipes for gas transmission application in sizes up to DN650; and
  • Practical geotechnical guidelines for the industry in relation to two geotechnical issues, i.e. soil restraint against buoyancy forces and the loads on pipe due to vibratory compaction.


The research reviewed, evaluated and verified a number of technologies potentially suitable for monitoring of pipeline integrity at critical pipeline sections. This led to the design of two new sensors by Deakin researchers. The first sensor can monitor three major ‘worst-case scenario’ pipeline safety and durability hazards: CP excursions due to stray current influences, cathodic disbondment of pipeline coatings, and corrosion under disbonded coatings. The sensor has been tested in the field on a number of locations in Victoria and forms the basis for new commercial integrity solutions. The second sensor can be used for detecting the location and size of coating defects, as well as CP efficiency at such defects, under HDD pipeline conditions.

Collaboration and research dissemination

The Energy Pipelines CRC was supported strongly by the Australian pipeline industry. Collaboration between industry and researchers has been substantial over the life of the CRC with industry personnel and researchers working together from research proposal to outcome assessment.

International collaboration was evident through strong partnerships with the European Pipelines Research Group (EPRG) and Pipelines Research Council International. The exchange of world leading pipeline research at the bi-annual Joint Technical Meeting (JTM) has been a highlight in the Energy Pipelines CRC research calendar. The Energy Pipelines CRC now provides an equal number of presenters compared to other participants. This demonstrates the quality and capability of research conducted through the Energy Pipelines CRC.

In addition to the JTM papers over 250 articles based on Energy Pipelines CRC research have been published in academic journals and close to 200 papers have been presented by Energy Pipelines CRC researchers at national and international industry conference and seminars. Furthermore, two books focusing on organisational safety - ‘Nightmare pipeline failures: fantasy planning, black swans and integrity management’ (Jan Hayes and Andrew Hopkins) and ‘Risky Rewards: How company bonuses affect safety’ (Andrew Hopkins and Sarah Maslen) - are available for purchase.

Capability building

Overall the industry end-users agreed that the Energy Pipelines CRC research programs have provided the industry with value and a strong flexible research capability in Australia. On this topic industry advisor commented:

“It is important to recognise that the industry doesn’t always know what the questions will be, but having access to accumulated knowledge, skills and human capital helps us address emerging issues and the questions which become important to address. It is vital that we not give this away lightly.”

“Going back to days prior to the privatisation of the energy industry a lot research was done, and was shared with other government organisations and also with the larger interstate gas companies. Before the Energy Pipelines CRC was established, that had all disappeared. Not a great deal was being done and there was a lot of reliance on what suppliers were providing. Contractors would rely on information from overseas that was being taken at face value without work being done to validate what we were being told. So the value of the CRC being there is in being able to do research focused on some particular Australian issues and also as our facility for quality checking and failure investigations that would otherwise be very difficult to undertake in Australia.” 

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