Failure of a Squeeze-Clamped Polyethylene Natural Gas Pipeline
A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) natural gas distribution pipe (Grade PE 3306) failed by slow, stable crack growth while in residential service. The leak occurred at a location where a squeeze clamp had been used to close the pipe during maintenance. Failure analysis showed that the origin of the failure was a small surface crack in the inner pipe wall produced by the clamping. Fracture mechanics calculations confirmed that the suspected failure process would result in a failure time close to the actual time to failure. It was recommended that: materials be screened for susceptibility to the formation of the inner wall cracks since it was not found to occur in pipe typical of that currently being placed in service; pipes be re-rounded after clamp removal to minimize residual stresses which caused failure; and a metal reinforcing collar be placed around the squeeze location after clamp removal.