Undertaking a systematic pipeline geohazard assessment may be driven by the design and regulatory permitting needs for proposed new pipelines or as an input to the integrity management of operating pipeline assets. Yet the leading international pipeline codes do not provide explicit direction on undertaking such assessments, rather providing considerable latitude in the guidance to do so which in turn provides several options. The methods for identifying and assessing the potential likelihood and severity of geohazards vary significantly, from purely expert judgment-based approaches relying largely on visual observations of geomorphology to analytically-intensive methods incorporating phenomenological and/or mechanistic models and route, pipeline properties and, where applicable, operational monitoring data. Each of these methods can be used to assess hazard and risk associated with specific geohazards in terms of qualitative, semi-quantitative or quantitative approaches provided that associated underlying assumptions are clearly understood. Some of these methods are better suited to provide a continuous contiguous geohazard risk assessment for a pipeline system while others are better suited for localized site-specific risk assessments. Following a brief review of pipeline codes, this paper provides an overview of the range of pipeline geohazard assessment approaches and explores the “fitness for purpose” strategy that allows for continuing improvement during design stages and into operations.

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