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A MODEL STUDY OF THE ADVANTAGE OF ROCKER PIPES TO ALLEVIATE

DIFFERENTIAL SETTLEMENT INDUCED PIPELINE FAILURES


Wijeyesekera D.C.
University of East London, Dockland, United Kingdom

Reginold, J.T.
University of East London, Dockland, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: Soil-pipe interaction studies can help in the evaluation of settlement of pipelines. However, pipeline failures still
occur due to differential ground movements between a heavy yielding structure and a pipeline firmly connected to it. Such
differential movements induce excessive stress concentrations in the pipeline. Often pipeline failures are a consequence of such
movements, and the flexibility of plastic pipes can make them less vulnerable than rigid pipes.
The magnitude and location of the maximum bending moments in pipelines arising from the yielding of the heavy structure can be
determined by treating pipelines as beams on elastic foundation,. The provision of rocker pipe joints that entertain a permissible
rotation helps to redistribute the bending moments to acceptable levels and thereby alleviate distress in the pipeline. This paper
presents both a theoretical approach and a laboratory approach to the evaluation of the bending moment, shear force, vertical soil
resistance at soil pipe interface due to differential settlement and also assess the benefits of rocker joints to alleviate the distress in
pipelines. Innovative experimentation used in the laboratory research programme is presented.
The paper further presents results from a laboratory investigation of the soil structure interaction of flexible strip foundations and
articulated pipelines, with a view to establishing a method of assessing the distribution of soil sub grade reaction that is developed
as a consequence of non-uniform settlement. The influence of the stiffness of the structure on the soil reaction distribution is also
demonstrated and the effect of the various distributions on the bending moment distribution of the pipe is discussed. A few case
histories of failures are summarised, demonstrating these effects, and pointing the way to possible solutions, which could be
incorporated at the project design stage. Finally, the need for rational design procedures for pipeline foundations including rocker
pipes to be incorporated into codes of practice such as EN 1295 is emphasised.
Keywords: Differential Settlement, Displacement, Flexible joints, Soil sub grade reaction, Rocker pipes.

due to differential settlement and also assess the


benefits of rocker joints to alleviate the distress in
pipelines.

1. INTRODUCTION
Both rigid and flexible pipelines are vulnerable to
ground movements as a consequence of the
significant levels of stress induced in them. Any
form of unanticipated differential ground
movements between a structure on a yielding
foundation and a pipeline attached to it, can further
exacerbate the stresses in the pipeline to
unacceptable levels. Often such differential
settlements that occur are either ignored or not
allowed for in the design and the pipeline fails,
subsequent to construction and even before it being
fully commissioned.

When differential settlements occur between a


structure and the connected buried pipeline the
pipes will be subjected to longitudinal bending, and
the joints to shear and angular rotation. Olliff et al,
1994 [2] raised the awareness for provision to be
made for such differential settlements. The
Materials Selection for Sewers, Pumping mains and
Manholes (UK Water Industry Sewers and Water
Mains Committee, 1996 [6]) suggested that the first
joint should be within 150 mm of the face of the
structure. Authors of this paper suggested the
adoption of rocker pipes in Olliff et al, 2000 [4].
Subsequently, section 4.6.6 of the Sewers for
adoption, 5th edition, 2001 [8] recommended the

Both theoretical approach and laboratory approach


to the evaluation of the bending moment, shear
force, vertical soil resistance at soil pipe interface
1

need for a flexible joint to be provided as close as


feasible to the outside face of any structure in which
a pipe is built. Furthermore, the next length of pipe
(rocker pipe) away from the structure was
recommended to be as shown in table 1.

described. The method can be applied to pipes of


differing materials and different types of joints.

Table 1 - Recommended rocker pipe length (modified from


Sewers for adoption; 2001 [8] )

When differential settlements occur between a


structure and the connected buried pipeline the
pipes will be subjected to longitudinal bending, and
the joints to shear and angular rotation. The length
of the pipe section immediately adjacent to the
structure must be designed to keep all of these
considerations within allowable limits. A method of
determing this appropriate length of pipe section is
described. The method can be applied to pipes of
differing materials with different types of joints.

Nominal
diameter
mm
150
<600-150
675
<750-675
>750

Effective
length
mm
600
600
1000
1000
1250

2. PIPELINE FLEXIBILITY NEAR SETTLING


STRUCTURE

Length to
Diameter
Ratio
4.0
1.0
1.5
1.3
1.7

The term rocker pipe has caused much confusion


over the years. Engineers who are not acquainted
with the subject seem to assume that some sort of
mystical qualities are somehow bestowed on pipes
as soon as they are described as rockers. In fact,
there is nothing mystical about rocker pipes. They
are ordinary pipes, which because of their location,
can rotate in the vertical plane, so that two ends are
at different levels. This enables the pipe to
accommodate differential settlements. It is only the
location of the pipe, not its length, which dictates
that it will function as a rocker (Olliff et al, 2003
[5]; Wijeyesekera et al 2006 [9,10 &11] )

150 mm
Maximum
600 mm

2.1 ANALYTICAL STUDY


Failure to design pipelines to accommodate, or
avoid differential settlements is one of the more
common causes of structural failure, and a design
analysis should therefore be carried out for an
evaluation of permissible bending moments.
A prismatic beam (figure 2) connected to a structure
and supported continuously along its length by a
foundation will experience elastic deformation. The
resulting sub grade reaction can be assumed to be
linearly proportional to the beam deflection at any
point Wijeyesekera et al, 2006 [10&11]. Under such
conditions the reaction per unit length of the beam
can be represented by the expression ksy, where y is
the deflection and ks is a constant usually called the
modulus of the soil foundation. This constant
denotes the reaction per unit length when deflection
is equal to unity.

150 mm
Maximum
600 mm
Flexible Joint

Rocker Pipe

Rocker Pipe

This assumption helps in writing the stability


equations that are amenable to solution. This
represents an idealization closely approximating
many real situations. Beam behaviour of pipeline is
analysed according to the theory of beams on elastic
foundations (Selvadurai, 1984 [7]), a theory
validated by the results of many field studies and
experiments (Olliff et al 2000, 2003 [3&4]).

Fig. 1. Typical Joint detail with flexible joint at 150mm from


the face of structure

A length of the pipe section immediately adjacent to


the structure must be designed to keep all of these
considerations within allowable limits. A method of
identifying this appropriate length of pipe section is
2

M = 2 EIe x 2 (cos x sin x)

(4)

Structure

Differentiating the equation 4 then gives the shear


force at x;
V = 4 EI 3 e x cos x
(5)

X=
Soil Sub grade
Reaction

Soil Foundation

In the analysis for the location of the first flexible


joint, the pipe length (AA1) is considered to be
finite, see figure 3.

Y
Fig. 2. Semi-infinite beam on elastic foundation

For this particular case the corresponding equations


become;

In figure 2, x represents the location of the point


from the settling structure, at which the bending
moment is evaluated. The analysis presented here
establishes the minimum length required to ensure
that the allowable rotation of the flexible joint is not
exceeded. Knowledge of this length aids in
determining the bending moments in the rocker pipe
and the shear forces at its ends. If these are
excessive, they must be reduced to levels below the
allowable limits. This cannot of course, be done by
reducing the length of the rocker pipe, otherwise
the joint rotation criteria would not be met.

150mm [Finite Pipe Length]


Flexible Joint
Heavy
Structure

X=

Soil Sub grade Reaction [kr]

A
Y

Soil Foundation

Fig. 3. Semi-infinite beam with flexible joint on elastic

foundation

The deformed shape of a beam on elastic foundation


(Selvadurai, 1984 [7]) is given by the equation (1)

y = e x [A cos x + B sin x ] + e x [C cos x + D sin x ]

y = e x [A cos x + B sin x ] + e x [C cos x + D sin x ]

y ' = e x [ A(cos x + sin x) + B(cos x sin x)]

. .. .. (6)
+ e x [ C (sin x cos x) + D (cos x + sin x)]

.(1)
For the particular problem illustrated in figure 1, the
following boundary conditions apply; Reginold
(2006) [5]

. .. .. (7)
y '' = 2 2 e x ( A sin x B cos x) + 2 2 e x
(C sin x + D cos x)

For a semi infinite pipe (when x >150mm) the


deflection, y is zero. At the interface of the structure
and the pipe ( x = 0 ) the pipe deflection will be the
same as that of the settling structure () and the
slope of the pipe will be zero.

. .. .. (8)
y ''' = 2 3 e x [ A(cos x sin x) + B (sin x + cos x)]

+ 2 3 e x [ C (cos x + sin x) D(sin x cos x)]

. .. ..

The equation 1 then reduces to


y = e x [cos x + sin x]

(9)

For a 40mm diameter pipe, the solutions for the


equations 6 to 9 are presented graphically in figures
3 and 4. The vertical displacement variations in
figure 5 for the three pipe lengths of 1.5 and 3.0m
are coincident. The maximum uplift (1.60 to
1.75mm) of the pipes occur at x= 2782 mm (x/D
of 2.2 to 5.5). These variations are very coincident
and this is illustrated in figures 4 and 5.

. (2)

Differentiation of equation 2 gives the slope at x to


be
y ' = 2 e x sin x
.. (3)
Differentiation of equation 3 gives the bending
moment, M, at x;
3

Vertical Displacement "mm"

Vertical Displacement along the length of Pipe


-10

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

0
Length of Pipe

10

"mm"

10mm Settlement for L=3m


20mm Settlement for L=3m
40mm Settlement for L=3m
10mm Settlement for L=1.5m
20mm Settlement for L=1.5m
40mm Settlement for L=1.5m

20
30
40
50

Fig.4.Vertical displacement variations for pipe lengths of


3m and 1.5m

Fig. 6. Flexible Joint at structure pipe interface

Longitudinal Bending Moment along the


length of Pipe

Longitudinal Bending
moment "Nmm"

-8.E-03
-3.E-03 0
3.E-03
8.E-03
1.E-02
2.E-02

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Length of Pipe "mm"


10mm Settlement for L=3m
20mm Settlement for L=3m
40mm Settlement for L=3m
10mm Settlement for L=1.5m
20mm Settlement for L=1.5m
40mm Settlement for L=1.5m

Fig.5.Variation of bending moment in pipe lengths of


3m and 1.5m

As sometimes adopted in practice, it is prudent to


provide a flexible joint ( /rocker) at a distance no
greater than 150mm from the face of the structure
rather than providing one at at x=0, (Figure1).

Flexible Joint

This figure further illustrates the provision of a


permissible 2 rotation at this first flexible joint.
Figure 6 shows the adoption of this concept. Figure
7 and 8 also illustrates the adoption of these in
manholes both constructed in situ and prefabricated.

Rocker pipe
with Flexible Joint

Flexible Joint with


Allowable angle of Rotation

Figure 8 illustrates an example where the bending


moment at the structure is so severe that failure
occurred at 36.28m (13xD) from the face of the
structure. Failure can be alleviated by providing
rocker pipes ie further (2nd and 3rd) flexible joints
away from the structure. Following from the
discussions above the author considers the analysis
of a second flexible joint, with the first joint at a
distance of x =150mm from the face of the
structure.

Fig 7. Rocker pipe location for 100mm diameter pipe


connected to cast insitu manhole

Longitudinal Bending Moment for Fully Fixed and Flexible


Joint Condition for 10mm Settlement

CROSS SECTION
THROUGH PUMPHOUSE
3 GRP intake pipelines on
compressible
marine foundation
36.28m

L o ng itudina l B ending
M o m ent "kN .m "

-2.E-03

Position of
Fracture

-1.E-03

200

400

600

800

1000

0.E+00

Distance along the Pipe "mm"

1.E-03

Fully Fixed Condition - 10mm Settlement


One joint Condition - 10mm Settlement
Two joint Condition - 10mm Settlement

2.E-03
3.E-03
4.E-03

Fig.10. Influence of flexible rocker joints on


bending moment for varying settlement of 10mm.
Fractured GRP pipes
( 3 No.) at site due to
differential settlement

Figure 11 is a design chart developed to facilitate


the evaluation of the number of rocker pipes that
need to be provided to meet an anticipated
differential ground movement of .

Fig 8. Photographic evidence of offshore GRP pipeline


failure at pipe structure interface.

1.4

MCRITICAL / MFAILURE

1.2

3. ROCKER PIPE DESIGN


The analysis described above established the
minimum length required to ensure that the
allowable joint rotation is not exceeded, and
knowing this length, the bending moments in the
rocker pipe, and the shear forces at its ends, can be
calculated. If these are excessive, they must be
reduced by increasing the number of rocker pipes.
Figures 9 and 10 compare the influence of one / two
joints on the vertical displacement and bending
moment profile respectively.

Full length pipe-No Rocker Pipe Joint


One Flexible Joint Rocker Pipe
Two Flexible Joint Rocker Pipe

1.0
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

/D

Fig.11. Rocker pipe joint design chart


M CRITICAL: Maximum bending moment
M FAILURE: Bending moment at failure

Vertical
displacement"mm"

Comparision of Results for Fully Fixed and Flexible Joint


Condition for 10mm Settlement

-2
0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

From the information available from the


pipe/flexible joint manufactures and soil
investigation for structural foundation, the design
engineer can easily estimate the anticipated
differential settlement. And the required number of
flexible rocker pipe joints to accommodate the
distress induced on connected pipeline due to
differential settlement within the transition zone,
see figure 12.

500

Distance along the Pipe "mm"

2
4
6
8
10

Fully Fixed Condition - 10mm Settlement


One joint Condition - 10mm Settlement
Two joint Condition - 10mm Settlement

12

Fig.9. Influence of flexible rocker joint for varying


settlement of 10mm.

Intermediate length
of the pipeline

Flexible pipeline
joint

Original Position
of the Pipeline

Differential
Settlement

Position of the pipeline Settled profile of the


after differential
pipeline after
differential
settlement

Rocker Pipe

Transition Zone
Unsettled
ground profile

Flexible Joint

Fig.14. Rocker pipe location for 100mm diameter pipe


connected to prefabricated manhole

Fig.12. Influence of flexible rocker joint for varying


settlement of 10mm.

Other options for dealing with this conflict include


the following:

Reducing the backfill load by replacing some of


the fill by expanded polystyrene. This will
reduce the settlement, and also reduce the
bending moment and shear forces.

Increase the effective bending and shear


strengths of the rocker pipe, by supporting it
on a reinforced concrete beam. (Note: The use
of reinforced concrete beams can also serve to
increase the effective length of the rocker pipe.
Two or more standard length pipes laid on the
same beam will rock as if they were a single
pipe).

The above description of the problems of designing


pipelines with rigid pipes to accommodate
differential settlements highlights the potential
advantage
of
continuous,
fusion
jointed
polyethylene or polypropylene pipelines. These will
conform to a settled soil profile by bending, and
only if the bending is very severe, will there be a
risk of failure, by buckling.

4. EXPERIMENTAL STUDY
In view of the dearth of information from the
reviewed papers that deal with the soil interaction
with buried rigid/flexible conduits subjected to a
vertical movement/settlement, a laboratory research
program was performed.

Inspection
Chamber

Prototype field experiments to investigate the soil


structure interaction can be very expensive. In this
research programme, a series of laboratory soil box
test with specially design and built loading frame is
used to induce settlement of the structure relative to
the connecting pipeline (see figure 15). The
objective of the laboratory research programme is to
observe, evaluate and compare the mathematical
predictions for the stress strain regimes around a
pipe subjected to differential settlement.

Rocker Pipe
Flexible Joint

The laboratory tests were carried out with small


diameter plastic pipe generally used in the
residential drainage connections. Literature research
reviewed that such similar works are not carried out

Fig.13. Rocker pipe location for large diameter pipe


connected to insitu inspection chamber

in the past to practically design the rocker pipe


length.

sensors (PS), eleven linear displacement transducers


(DS), one load cell (LC) and eight strain gauges (S).
Following are the test assumptions made during the
testing, observation and analysis:
Fixed Boundary conditions during soil box
investigation. The pipe used in the soil box test is
very flexible, and is not stiff enough to elongate
laterally to exert horizontal thrust on the soil mass
with decreasing vertical diameter.
A mathematical model for defining the soil pipeline
interaction in response to differential settlement was
described in section 2.1. The results of the physical
full scale analysis described in this paper was
compared further with the mathematical modelling
outlined and referring to displacement from
differential settlement and pipeline joint
rotation/Rocker pipe is proposed , see figure 17.

View: A

View: B
45

Fig.15. Soil Box used and instrumentation setup

Test No: SB-FL1-h0 -J0-Y1

Predicted values and Observed values


for a vertical end settlement of 40mm 1

40

35
Predicted Value

100% Perfect
Match

2
2

30
25

1st Flexible Joint


@ X=150m m

20

1500mm

11

h=0mm

15

Fully 10

Restrained End

10
3
3
0
4-11 0 4-11

CH4-FF-Analy-40mm
5

10

15

20

h=0mm

Settlement End

h=0mm

SB-FL1-h0 -J2-Y1-40mm

2
1
3 Imposed

2nd Flexible Joint


@ X=250m m

Section

25

30

35

40

45

Observed Value

Fig.17. Compression of observed and predicted pipe


deformation for a differential settlement of 40mm with
two flexible rocker joints

5. CONCLUSIONS
The following conclusions can be drawn from the
study
Fig.16. Detailed Instrumentation along the length of the
pipe

Thirty observations were monitored in the soil box


experiments (see figure 9). Data logging was carried
out using the programmable data logging device to
record observations from ten flexi force pressure

Established
pipeline
design
procedures
frequently ignore or underestimate the
settlements of soil masses, pipelines and
structures.
Analysis of pipelines as strip foundations can
provide a useful estimate of likely settlements.
Pipeline design should include analysis of
settlements, and the provision of measures to

5. Reginold J.T., (2006) Rocker pipe solution


to alleviate differential settlement induced
distress in flexible pipes. Ph.D Thesis,
University of East London, London, United
Kingdom.

limit them and/or enable the pipelines to


accommodate their effects.
The ability to accommodate settlements should
be considered during the pipe material selection
process.
The effective modulus of a pipeline foundation
will vary from place to place, reflecting
inconsistencies in the placing and compaction of
bedding material, variations in bedding
thickness, and in sub-grade properties.
The first flexible joint or rocker pipe needs to be
within the first 150 mm from the yielding
structure.
If there is no provision in the form of rocker
pipes made, a failure of the pipe can occur at a
distance of 10 15 diameters from the face of
the yielding structure.

6. Robert S.,(1996) Material selection for


sewers, pumping mains and manholes. UK
water industry sewers and water mains
committee.
7. Selvadurai A.P.S., (1984) The flexure of an
infinite strip of finite width embedded in an
isotropic Elastic Medium of finite Extent
,International Journal of Numerical and
Analytical Methods in Geomechanics,Vol.8.
8. Sewers for adoption manual, 5th edition,
UK, 2001.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I am highly obliged and owe a great debt of
gratitude to my supervisor Professor D.C.
Wijeyesekera. Jonathan Olliff of Montgomery
Watson, with their expertise in buried pipeline
design. Ralph Potter for allowing me to use the
Pipeline Technology laboratory. I wish to especially
thank my father for sharing his worldly expertise in
the field of civil engineering.

9. Wijeyesekera D.C.,Reginold J.T.,(2006)


Rocker pipe- A solution for differential
settlement induced distress in pipeline.
ASME
6th
International
Pipeline
Conference Proceeding IP2006, Calgary,
Canada.
10. Wijeyesekera D.C.,Reginold J.T.,(2006)
Rocker pipe solution to alleviate differential
settlement induced distress in flexible pipes.
Advances in computing and technology
Conference
Proceeding
AC&T2006,
London, United Kingdom.

REFERENCES
1. Civil Engineering Specification for the
Water Industry, 5th Edition, 2003.

11. Wijeyesekera

D.C.,Reginold J.T.,(2006)
Study of the use of rocker pipes to allow for
differential ground movement in pipelines.
Plastic Pipes conference- xiii, Washington
DC, USA.

2. Olliff J.L.,(1994) Pipeline Foundation


Design, Document C164/165/JWG1, CEN.
3. Olliff J.L., Rolfe S., Wijeyesekera
D.C.,Reginold J.T., (2000) Soil Structure
Pipe interaction with particular reference to
ground movement induced failures, Plastic
Pipes conference- xi, Germany , pp 941-950.

12. Wijeyesekera
D.C.,Reginold
J.T.,(2007)
Mathematical and Physical study of pipelines
subjected to differential settlement. Advances in
computing
and
technology
Conference
Proceeding AC&T2007, London, United
Kingdom.

4. Olliff J.L., Rolfe S., Wijeyesekera


D.C.,Reginold J.T., (2003) Settlement
induced failures of plastic and other pipes,
Plastic Pipes conference- xii, Italy.