How, where and when buried water pipelines break?

Professor Jayantha Kodikara


Pipelines are lifeline structures that provide essential services to communities by transporting water, gas and petroleum products over long distances. For instance, nearly two-thirds of the oil and petroleum products are transported annually by pipelines. Similarly, bulk of water and gas to world’s urban centres and communities are transported by pipelines.

In fact, the buried pipelines and sewer systems constructed in the 19th century have made a significant impact on improving human health. Civil engineering legacy of this triumph is still evident since majority of water pipelines in urban centres such as in Melbourne, Sydney, London and New York are over 50 to 150 years old. Luckily, however, these pipelines, which were mainly manufactured of cast iron, significantly over designed, giving us long operational lives and appreciable remaining lives.

However, with material deterioration, primarily by corrosion, and increase of loads, pipeline failures have become common incurring significant economic, societal and environmental costs. The replacement of these old pipelines, on one hand is very costly and on the other, faces significant logistical constraints in developed areas. Therefore, utility managers are faced with the dilemma such as to keep these pipelines in the ground as long as possible, but to replace them just before failure. So basically, we are faced with answering the main research question: how, where and when would a pipeline fail in a network?

About Professor Jayantha Kodikarakodikara

Professor Jayantha Kodikara received his BSc (Eng) degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka in 1983 and PhD degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Monash University in 1989. After a period in other institutions and with Golder Associates, he came back to Monash in 2001, where he has developed vigorous research programs into both fundamental and applied research in civil engineering.

The fundamental research areas include modelling of unsaturated soil behaviour, atmosphere/ground/structure interaction, and soil and rock fracture and water flow. The applied research areas fall mostly in the themes of infrastructure resilience and energy, which include on-shore and off-shore pipelines, road pavements and smart monitoring using fibre optics.

He has published about 300 technical papers on a diverse range of topics. He is a Fellow of Institution of Engineers Australia and a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia. He is also the technical leader of global project on Advanced Condition Assessment and Pipe Failure Prediction Project, which has won four awards in 2016 including Best Research Innovation Project from International Water.

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