The bearing capacity of a pipeline foundation is crucial for the pipeline stability design. It is usually inappropriate to analyze the bearing capacity for the pipeline with special circular section directly by employing the theory for conventional rectangular strip footings. In this study, the ultimate loads of the pipeline on clayey soils are investigated numerically. A plane-strain finite element model is proposed to simulate the quasi-static process of the pipeline penetrating into the soil, in which the adaptive-grid technique and the ‘contact-pair’ algorithm are employed, and the Drucker-Prager constitutive model is used for modeling the soil plasticity. Based on the proposed numerical model, the development of soil plastic zone and the incremental-displacement vector field beneath the pipeline are examined numerically. It is indicated that, according to the obtained pipeline vertical load-displacement curves, concurrently referring to the plastic strain field and/or the soil incremental-displacement vector field, the shear failure type (e.g., general shear failure, punching shear failure) and the collapse loads can be thereby determined. The present numerical results match well with the analytical solutions of slip-line theory in plasticity mechanics.

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