Pipe corrosion modelling

Corroded iron pipe
Plot showing the extent to which the pipe failure model under-predicts (blue) or over-predicts (red) the number of pipe failures

Water companies manage extensive networks of pipes for water supply and sewerage and over time, these pipes can fail, resulting in leakage to the surrounding soils. This causes loss of pressure in the system and an increased demand on water treatment works. Pipes can also fail catastrophically, leading to more severe flooding and significant local inconvenience. Water companies have an obligation to reduce leakage and failures and thus are keen to understand where to invest in maintaining their network to avoid problems caused by geological factors.

The BGS has won two NERC grants to work with Yorkshire Water to model the geological factors that can cause pipe failure. This project aims to identify relationships between pipe failure and the properties of the ground, such as how corrosive the ground is to iron pipes, the impact of ground instability, and the role of other factors such as terrain and ground wetness. If we can correlate pipe failures with locations that have particular ground conditions, then we can start to predict where failures might happen. In order to ensure that the knowledge of pipe engineers is taken into account in our work, this project funded stakeholder engagement with Yorkshire Water engineers to analyse their experiences of why pipes fail in some localities.

This project has yielded a shortlist of ground properties that correlate with previous pipe failures and work continues to refine the model and improve its predictive capability.

It is hoped that the outputs of this project will provide information that can be used to:

  • select more appropriate pipe materials for given ground conditions
  • screen areas for future asset investment or renewal
  • identify areas where additional factors may need to be incorporated into the model (e.g. where other issues are resulting in pipe failure)

This project will consider how best to deliver this information back to water companies and will liaise with other water companies to determine how appropriate the results may be to other regions.


Contact Andy Tye or Rachel Dearden for more information.