Development of a Numerical Model to Analyze the Condition of Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP)

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Virginia Tech

Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) is a large-diameter and high-pressure conduit for drinking water and wastewater transmission. Due to its large diameter, high pressure, and mode of breakdown, PCCP failures usually have catastrophic consequences. To mitigate failures, it is very important to assess the condition of the pipe and take proactive measures, such as repair, rehabilitation, or replacement.

There are many challenges in assessing the condition of PCCP. PCCP has a complex structure with several layers of materials (e.g. mortar coating, prestressing wire, steel cylinder, and concrete core) working together under loading. This means that there are many factors that can cause pipe failure, and that failure mechanisms are complicated. Data collection could be difficult, and existing data are often unavailable or unreliable.

Considerable research has been conducted by scholars and engineers in developing models to evaluate the condition of PCCP. There are mainly two types of models: statistical models, and numerical models using finite element method. Statistical models consider only a few factors, such as pipe age and failure rate, to predict the failure of PCCP. However, the failure of PCCP can be caused by many other factors including pipe material, and loading conditions. Models only considering a few factors are not robust enough for reliable results. The current numerical models assume that all broken wires are centrally distributed in the same location and broken wires have no prestress, thus all broken wires are completely removed from the model. These assumptions could be overly conservative when actual broken wires are distributed in different locations along the pipeline and broken wires have remaining prestress due to the bond between the wire and mortar coating. Therefore, a more comprehensive numerical model is needed to have a better understanding of the condition of PCCP.

In this research, an extensive literature and practice review was conducted on PCCP failures to understand the critical factors that affect pipe condition. The available technologies commonly used to detect pipe defects were reviewed in order to better understand the accuracy and uncertainties of the collected data. Existing models were reviewed to better understand their limitations and to advance the research on condition analysis of PCCP using numerical models.

Based on these comprehensive reviews, this dissertation proposed a numerical model to analyze the condition of PCCP for its long-term performance management. Detailed structural components such as concrete cores, prestressing wires, steel cylinder, and mortar coating were modelled. The interactions between different layers of pipe components were considered. An algorithm was proposed to account for the bond between the prestressing wire and mortar coating, which is a critical factor for the condition of PCCP with broken wires. A FORTRAN program was developed to assign linear stress distribution between the broken point and the full-prestress resuming point.

The proposed numerical model was verified utilizing data from lab tests and forensic study. Lab test data helped to understand the functionality of the model and to verify the model parameters used in analyzing pipe components and the simulation of interactions between different layers. The forensic data helped to verify the model under actual field working conditions of the pipe.

Validation of the proposed numerical model was conducted using a 66-inch Embedded Cylinder Pipe and two Lined Cylinder Pipes (42-inch and 48-inch, respectively) from a water utility. In the validation, field data were collected for model development. The simulation results were consistent with the field observation, which proved the validity and applicability of the proposed numerical model in practice.

A series of sensitivity studies were conducted to investigate the impact of longitudinal and circumferential location on the structural integrity of the pipe. These investigations showed that considering the actual longitudinal and circumferential location of broken wires is very important to get accurate analysis of pipe condition, while assuming that all broken wires fail in one longitudinal location (assumptions by current numerical models for PCCP) will overestimate the actual damage to the pipe caused by broken wires.

To consider the bedding condition, a critical factor for PCCP, the four most common bedding types found in practice were analyzed. Results show that poor bedding could lead to cracks in PCCP, which could cause corrosion in prestressing wires. Therefore, it is very important to account for bedding conditions in the PCCP analysis.

The model presented in this dissertation is more comprehensive and robust compared with existing numerical models, and could provide a better understanding of the condition of PCCP. This is because the proposed model considers the contribution of remaining prestress in broken wires due to the bond between the wire and mortar coating. This model can consider the actual longitudinal and circumferential location of broken wires rather than centrally distribute them, and it can consider the actual bedding locations, and the interaction between different layers of materials. This model was calibrated using lab test data and forensic data, and was further validated using field data which showed consistence between simulation results and field observations.

The proposed model does have limitations due to limited availability of data and assumptions. Material tests were not conducted to verify the material properties used in the model, which could cause accuracy issues in the results. A full-scale simulation of the interaction between prestressing wire and mortar coating was not considered because it could significantly increase the computation time. Lab tests were not conducted to verify the parameters used for the simulation of interaction between concrete core and steel cylinder which could lead to accuracy problems. Finally, it is acknowledged that the model was only validated in one water utility and validations in more geographically distributed utilities might further test the model's validity and robustness.

Nonetheless, the comprehensiveness and robustness of this proposed model improved the analysis of the condition of PCCP. The findings and results of this research will provide guidance for better management of PCCP pipelines for water utilities, and provide reference for future research on numerical modeling of PCCP as well.

Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP), PCCP Failure, Condition Assessment, Numerical Model, Numerical Simulation, Finite element method