r+k and 50 years ELW

The relation between r+k and the Expertise Network Pipelines in Water management structures (water retaining dikes, waterways, roads) states back to the early 60’ties, when Gasunie started building its high pressure gas pipeline network all over The Netherlands after huge gas reserves had been found in the Northern part of the country.

As there was very little expertise in The Netherlands on pipeline design and construction, the management and operation of this big enterprise was outsourced by Gasunie to Bechtel in the United States. They had already a longstanding experience with building cross country high pressure pipelines, but mainly in arid areas. Everything went reasonably well as long as the building was done in the Eastern part of the country with its sandy underground, a relatively high location relative to sea level and without big rivers.

Dutch Dikes

This situation is quite different from the Western part of the country, where the soils are very weak and the location is below sea level. This part of the country will be flooded if there are no dikes to protect these areas. In fact this part of the country is a series of large bath tubs where the edges form the dikes. The tub becomes filled with water from rain and groundwater. To keep its bottom dry, the water is pumped over the edges into a gathering system (boezem), from where it is pumped into a river or the sea. It may be clear that these dikes are very important to protect lives and goods.

The management of this water infrastructure has always been done by a chosen water board consisting of inhabitants (farmers) of one or more of the tubs (polders). It is our oldest form of democracy and dates back to the thirteenth century. If one wants to cross such a dike, a license is required from the water board. The main requirement for a license was and still is to proof the pipeline does not endanger the safety of the dike. Problem was then how to proof this.

The advisor of Gasunie had no experience with pipelines in soft soils and the water boards had no experience with pipelines in their dikes. Gasunie asked r+k to design a methodology to compute the behavior of pipelines in soft soils and particularly in dikes. At the licensor side the water boards came together to discuss proving criteria for such a crossing license and formed the so-called “Gasclub”. Later on it became “The research group Pipelines for liquids and gases” as a working group of STOWA. On the 12th of November 2015 at the occasion of their 50 year anniversary, the name was changed to “Expertise Network Pipelines in Waterworks (ELW)” and during all these years gradually a Pipeline Code (PC’72) came into existence, based on experience and research, finally ending in the NEN 3650. More information about ELW can also be found on STOWA website (in Dutch).

This background of 50 years cooperation led to the invitation from ELW to r+k to give their personal input to the movie that ELW prepared for this anniversary.