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Gustavo F. Acosta1, Ricardo Zamora 2

Copyright 2019, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute - IBP

This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Pipeline Conference and Exhibition 2019, held
between 03 and 05 of September, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the
Technical Committee of the event according to the information contained in the final paper submitted by the
author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is
presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute’ opinion, or that of its
Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Pipeline
Conference and Exhibition 2019.


Offshore pipelines are normally buried in the seabed for protection from damage produced by
hydrodynamic forces, or by human activities.

This paper presents a review of the existing research on the soil, sea and Pipelines interaction.

The principle of self-burial is a natural process of erosion and sedimentation around the pipe
causing them to sink into the seabed. This also creates additional movement of the water, which
locally stirs up the sediments causing a local scour hole.

In order to comprehend what happens with the interaction of the pipe, the flow and the
underwater soil it is key for understanding the self-burial. As well, the mathematical modelling
and numerical approach is important for understand the reality and simulating it.

Keywords: Pipeline. Self-burial .Scour.

MSc Gustavo F. Acosta – UPM / ITBA
PhD Ricardo Zamora - UPM
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1. Introduction

The extraction of hydrocarbons in shallow waters is a highly complex activity, where

pipelines do the connection of the platform on the sea up to the coast for the transport of the

In the last decades or so, a large amount of research has been done and a large volume of
knowledge was accumulated on the subject, in different countries such as Holland, United
Kingdom, Norway, United States of America, Denmark, Korea and some others.

When the pipe is located in the seabed causes flow turbulence, immediately after the sinking
process has begun the pipe is gradually decreasing the obstruction of the flow at the same time
the sedimentation process is beginning to backfilled the scour hole, covering the pipe. That
equilibrium position of the pipe between the small burial and the complete burial is determined
by the flow characteristics, geometry and the initial conditions.

This work is structured to understand what happens with the flow around the pipe, as well as
the natural burial and induced scour and finally the mathematical modeling and numerical

2. Scour around the pipe

When the pipe is lying over in the seabed, at the begging it buries itself by its own
weight. After that the pipe is exposed to a steady current flow, at the same time occur seepage
flow below the pipe. This filtration is cause by the pressure difference between lower pressure
in the leeside wake point B in the Figure 1 and the point A stagnation pressure, it starts
processing scour hole from around, with the formation of a tunnel directly underneath the pipe.

Figure 1. Vortex system around the pipe

When the flow finds itself approaching to the pipe, it divides itself into two branches: the upper
and the lower. The flow beneath the pipeline produces the erosion of the material and the
formation of the scour hole. (Chiew 1990- Mao 1986-Sume and Fredsøe 1991). This can
contribute to the beginning piping by limiting the streamline below the pipe, which causes an
increase in the hydraulic gradient.

In the separation point S, you see Figure 1, the pressure in this point is the stagnation and the
thereby the pressure in the wake becomes less negative, therefore the pressure is low because
the outside flow is high (Bernoulli), Fredsøe (2016). Figure 2, is an example where dashed
lines represent the scour development over time in minutes; also, you can see what happens at
the beginning of the pipe laid, and seepage flow which occurs in the sand beneath the pipe.
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Furthermore, the potential loosening of the soil beneath the pipeline when subjected to the
recurring motion associated with the orbital flow may play a role for easier onset in waves.

Figure 2. Pipe and lee-wake

The pipeline offshore is hydraulically rough, the wake flow is almost not affected by the
Reynolds number, but at the same time, the Reynolds number has smooth influence in the
downstream vortex shedding pattern.

In Figure 2, it is seen that there is some weak influence of the Reynolds number on the scour
depth, because a slight decrease after the point S, occurs for Reynolds number around 10 –
3x10 . Kjeldsen et al. (1973), Lucassen (1984), Mao (1986) and Kristiansen (1988) they
investigated on the scour depth below pipes exposed to a current.

In Figure 3, you can see the pressure difference in points M, N and P, between the flow above
the pipe and flow below the pipe, Fredsøe, J. (2016) and Terzaghl, K. (1948).

Figure 3. Different pressure

The seepage occurs in the sand beneath the pipe, this stage is called tunnel erosion, which is
followed by another stage called lee-wake erosion, Leeuwenstein et al. (1985), Hansen et al.
(1986), erosion downstream can be seen in Figure 4.

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Figure 4. Tunnel erosion and lee-wake erosion

An investigation of the effect of lee-wake on scour was made by Sumer et al. (1988b), they
demonstrated first the vortex shedding exists in the lee-wake from a rather early stage of the
scouring process, and secondly, the scour downstream of the pipe is eventually ruled by this
organized flow.

Jensen et al. (1990) investigated the velocity measurements nearly to the bed at different stages
of the scouring process. In Figure 5, it can be seen that the velocity below the pipe is increased
greatly at the initial stage of the scours process and different scour approaches the equilibrium

Figure 5. Velocity below the pipe

Sumer & Fredsøe 1991, has vinculated the onset of scour in waves to the latter through the
Keulegan-Carpenter number and expressed the critical condition for the onset of scour by the
following empirical equation. Sumer et al. (2001), the pressure gradient from point A and point
B in the Figure 1, is a function of the KC.

= 0.1 ln( )

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In which e∝ = the critical embedment of the pipe beyond which no scour occurs, = the pipe
diameter and KC= Keulegan- Carpenter number defined by

In which Um = the maximum value of the orbital velocity of water particles at the bed, T= the
wave period. For a sinusoidal motion of water particles KC will obviously be


In which = the amplitude of the orbital motion of water particles at the bed.

Thus, the pressure drop from point A to point B in the Figure 1 is inversely proportional to KC,
because the downstream wake is not completely developed at small value of KC, and flow
separation occurs further downstream on the pipe periphery than in steady current. Due to this,
the beginning in waves for the same embedment occurs in waves at a lower near-bed velocity
than in currents.

Regarding the steady case and the tidal flows and waves the main difference for scour is the
formation of the wake system occurs on both side the pipeline, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Flow in a pipeline in waves

The pressure gradient from A to B in a fully turbulent flow proportional to the flow velocity U
squared, in the Figure 7 shows, the beginning of scour beneath a pipe in current and with waves.
Data from Sumer and Fredsøe (1991) and Sumer et al. (2001). Squares 2≤KC≤7, Circles:
7≤KC≤15, Triangles 15≤KC≤30. The half-filled symbols include tidal flow to the waves.
Modified from Sumer and Fredsøe (2002). Fredsøe, J. (2016).

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Figure 7. Scour beneath a pipe in current and with waves

Zang et al. (2010) considered the waves‐plus‐current case for the onset of piping for the
combined motion. The critical velocity for the onset of piping was slightly larger in combined
flow, this was observed form experiments. The maximum critical velocity occurs when the
current velocity and the orbital motion have the same magnitude.

The Role of separation vortices that form in front and at the rear of the pipe in the process of
the beginning of scour was described by Mao (1986), furthermore he related the seepage flow
underneath the pipe to the onset of scour. Likewise, Chiew (1991) linked the onset of scour to
the phenomenon of piping, he also measured the pressure gradient around the pipe and

The failure below the pipe occurs when the hydraulic gradient (i) exceeds a critical value. The
floatation gradient if is given by:
= (1 − )( − 1)

Where n= porosity, s= relative density of the sediment to the fluid, and the right hand of the
equation denotes the submerged weight of a unit volume of water-sediment mixture.

In the shallow waters, (Chiew 1991a) found the flow changing significantly with decreasing
water depth below 6-8D, which can increase the possibility for starting the buried.

In Chiew 1990 experiments, no onset was observed when e/D > 0.5, because the pressure
gradient from point A to point B in Figure 1 shows, in a fully turbulent flow is proportional to
the squared of the flow velocity U, these can be rewritten as flows (Sumer and Fredsøe 2001).

= )( )
≥ ( / )

=Shields (1936) parameter

g = gravity , = a function that depends on the embedment depth, it also depends on the pipe
Reynolds numbers and roughness, because this have an impact on the wake pressure and thus
influence the hydraulic gradient in the soli below the pipe.

The pipe diameter D, the flow velocity V, the kinematic viscosity of the fluid v, the pipe
roughness k and the grain diameter d of the bed material, all of these quantities combined create
the flow picture. Sumer, B.M. and Fredsøe, J. (1992). Fredsøe, J. (2016).

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= ( ´, , ); k´ = is relative roughness, =VD/v is the pipe Reynolds number.

Kjeldsen et al (1973) determinate by experiments under controlled conditions, in that works

determinate the equilibrium scour depth.


For a free circular cylinder, this coincides with the transition from subcritical to supercritical
flow (Schewe (1983), Sumer and Fredsøe (1988)). In this transition region, the vortex shedding
be- comes less pronounced, which might lead to a smaller lee-wake erosion and hence less
scour depth.

It was found in an experimental study that the equilibrium depth of scour is a function that
depends on the amount of flow through the tunnel. When the ratio between the undisturbed
approach flow depth and the pipe diameter is large, the amount of flow through the tunnel
beneath the pipe is reduced, due to this there is a shallow scour depth and the other way round.
Chiew (1991a, b).

Fredsøe, J. (2016) say the scour depth has been studied extensively in the case of steady
currents (Chao & Hennessy (1972), Kjeldsenet al. (1973), Littlejohns (1977), Herbich (1981),
Bijker & Leeuwenstein (1984), Lucassen (1984), Leeuwenstein et al. (1985), Herbich (1985),
Herbich et al. (1984), Bijker (1986), Ibrahim & Nalluri (1986), Mao (1986), Kristiansen (1988)
and Kristiansen & Torum (1989).

The shape of the pipe is not suitable for stimulating self-burial of submarine pipelines. To
improve the self-burial capacity it is necessary to provide a cross section that will encourage
scour around the pipe. For this operation, the pipe needs to be attached to a spoiler on the surface
of a circular pipe to increase the rate amount of erosion around the pipeline. An important
parameter that need to be considered is the position of the spoiler in relation to the direction of
the approach flow. The spoiler on the surface of a circular pipe, increasing the blockage ratio
of the flow and altering the flow pattern around the pipeline

3. Mathematical Modeling and numerical approach

The mathematical and numerical research is important, it has been work in this line during the
last twenty years, one of them is the Sumer, B.M. and Fredsøe, J. (1992), in their paper they
divided three categories related to mathematical modeling of scouring process. 1. Mathematical
models based on potential-flow theory, 2. With k-e models, 3. Discrete-vortex models, to which
a fourth step would be added, 4. Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH).

3.1 Potential-flow models.

Chao & Hennessy (1972), they found simple potential solution to the flow in the gap between
the pipe and the bed. Von Muller described in early 1929the potential flow around a cylinder,
that potential flow description was modified by Fredsøe & Hansen (1987), they measured
velocity at the top and bottom edges of the cylinder and describes the sediment transport as bed
load and followed the evolution to equilibrium. In the same line Hansen (1986) developed
a potential theory for the cylinder over a scoured bed, the flow description agreed with the
experiments. Hansen (1992) extended this model so as to cover waves, this model give a good

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agreement with Summer & Fredsøe's (1990) empirical result. Bernetti (1990) he
developed a mathematical model of scour below pipelines.

3.2 With − models

Leeuwenstein & Wind (1984) used the − model to calculate the flow around the pipe over
a scoured bed and by the use of sediment continuity equation plus the sediment-transport
equation; they calculated the morphology of the seabed. Van Beek & Wind (1990) they studies
extended the model to cover also the suspended-load transport in the morphological
calculations, they applying the van Rijin (1982) sediment transport formulation.

Zang et al. (2009) modeled scour onset by applying − in this work they obtained the
pressure coefficient distribution along the bed, the calculations included different embedment
depth and they also included a discussion of the changes in the pipe Reynolds number, but only
in the subcritical regime, where the flow changes with Re is limited, they also applied the
numerical model to the wave case.

The Numerical finite element method (FEM) was used by Li and Cheng (1990), they described
the scour evolution with a detailed bed-load sediment transport, including bed slope effects.
Gao and Luo (2010) to study the current-alone case for the flow above and below the pipe.
They did not calculate the scour in the seabed, same as Zang et al., they justified their omission
by observations, which indicated that the initial scour wasn´t near the pipe.

Cheng and Li (2003) used the Navier-stoke´s equations with Smagorinsky subgrid model to
model the scour development under a sagging pipe. Their model predicted that the scour below
the pipe is indirectly proportional to the sagging velocity and that could reach more than one
pipe diameter for very small sagging velocities.

Zhao and Fernando (2008) have modeled the scour around a sagging pipeline with a Eurelian
two-phase model to describe the transport of sedimentation, and a k- ε model to describe the
fluid flow. Both studies agreed in comparison with the measured scour profile (Fredsøe et al.,

Fuhrman et al. (2014) used the k‐ε model from the open source code OpenFOAM® for studying
tunnel erosion in oscillatory flow. They successfully predicted the increase in maximum depth
with an increasing KC as observed from laboratory experiments, they established that a detailed
description of the sediment transportation is essential to calculate the shape of the scoured hole
without including suspended sediment, these calculations predicted a bump just beneath the
pipe due to the bed shear stresses opposite to the near-bed streaming pattern are directed
towards the center of the scour hole. This bump does not appear when the suspended sediment
transport is included because the time-averaged streaming pattern in the scour hole, which is
directed away from the hole.

Fredsøe, J. (2016). Refined flow modeling. If an even more detailed flow provides
improvements in the description of the scour is an open question. Liang and Cheng (2005a)
advanced these modeling by applying k‐ε, − and Smagorinsky´s subgrid scale (SGS)
turbulence model to study the flow around the circular pipe placed a small distance above the
plane wall. The conclusion was SGS performed best. However, scour calculations were not
included in any of these models.

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3.3 Discrete vortex models

Sumer et al. (1988a), Jensen et al. (1989) and Jensen et al. (1990) they studied models,
simulation of the flow around the pipe and they used the model called “cloud in cell” method.
This method is able to predict the gross behavior of the vortices in the lee wake of the pipe.
This allowed Sumer et al. (1988b) to study the effect of lee wake vortices on the bed shear stress
downstream of the pipe over both a plane bed and a scoured bed. For steady currents Jensen et
al. (1990) used this method, and for waves Jensen et al. (1989).

Fuhrman et al. (2014), studied numerically the backfill process form the change in wave impact
perpendicular to the pipe, they have found that by switching the KC, the scour profile adapted
to the new value of KC, which agrees with the experimentation. Their numerical analysis also
agrees with the experiments regarding the transitional period for the adaptation

Larsen et al. (2016) applied the same modeling tool as Fuhrman et al. (2014) for Waves plus
current, to research the scour for a wide range of combined KC and relative current strengths.
Concerning the equilibrium scour depth, they obtained similar tendencies in the combined
motion. Larsen et al. also suggested a formula for the timescale in combined flow, based on a
large number of model results.

3.4 SPH - Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics

Mirmohammadi,et al.(2011) they work in Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH), to stimulate

scouring due to wave around a marine pipeline on a sloping sea bed. This method is similar to
the so called, SPH projection, which consists of three steps. The first two steps are for
prediction, while the 3rd one a Poisson equations is used for both fluid and sea bed to impose
incompressibility constrain.

A two-phase simulation was used by Kazeminezhad et al. (2012) to describe de tunnel erosion
in oscillatory flow; in their description, they describe the scour profile and the two end-mound
around the pipe.

Zanganeh,et al. (2012). They used a Lagrangian coupling two-phase flow for stimulating the
scour processes beneath a marine pipeline with respect to the sediment and fluid phase
interactions. Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) has the capability to stimulate sediment
and fluid particles movement. They following to the Lagrangian coupling model development,
the current-induced scour beneath a pipe at tunnel erosion and early stages of lee-wake erosion
were explored and then compared with the experiments.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, the paper is a review of the investigations in order to understand the relation of
the pipeline floor and self-burial of the latter.

Mathematical Modeling and numerical approach are essential the increase of the knowledge of
the fluid around the pipeline during the process of scouring.

Therefore, to manage the local scouring and understanding that the self-burial is a constant
challenge, one of them is investigating additional elements to the pipeline in order to produce
this effect.
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