For the second time, the European Pipeline Research Group (EPRG) hosted a meeting of key experts on fracture propagation in the pipeline industry to exchange knowledge and expertise, with the expressed aim of providing guidance to the industry with respect to a number of currently open questions in this context.
The control of fracture propagation is a key safety issue for gas pipelines. For more than 40 years, this technically challenging phenomenon has been investigated to ensure an increasing degree of safety to the level that pipelines have to date. Due to the nature of the phenomenon, challenges that were thought to be solved became an issue once again when the boundaries were pushed. In each period of time, and this is actually true from the beginning on, so-called modern steel as well as modern design facilitated the need to re-address the existing solutions. While in the past it was possible to modify these, the perception has grown that this way forward might be at its limits right now; the time has probably come to deliver a new approach to the pipeline community. Presuming this is the case, the obvious effect is that large research efforts will be necessary to deliver a viable solution once again.
As in the past, the most promising way forward is to draw on the combined knowledge existing internationally in the pipeline industry. In the early days, key players such as the American Gas Association (AGA), EPRG, British Gas and the High Strength Line Pipe (HLP) Committee in Japan have contributed majorly to the guidelines for design against fracture propagation which are implemented in current standards. In fact, EPRG was formed more than 40 years ago as a collaboration between manufacturers and operators to address the issue of fracture propagation. Therefore, it gladly agreed to provide an umbrella for the work and to lead the current activities. The first meeting of experts from Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan took place in December 2016 in Munich. While the participants could enjoy the beauty of Munich around Christmas time in the evening, the technical focus was addressing a subtopic within the general frame of fracture propagation. Due to the success of the meeting and the extremely positive feedback, a second meeting was organised in December 2017. Twenty-five international experts found their way to Munich once again. This time, the focus was on requirements to control ductile fracture propagation. A roadmap to outline future work was discussed, and first work packages initiated.
The most encouraging outcome of this meeting was the will of the group to keep on co-operating in the next few years. EPRG looks forward support this group for as long as needed; hopefully until a break-through has been achieved.