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Rockfall is a significant phenomenon that is present in many slopes throughout the world. Despite the fact that rock boulders are usually characterized by relatively small size, they travel at high speeds (ranging from few to tens of meters per second), while their path may be sliding, rolling or even bouncing. As human activities expand to rocky areas, a rockfall may affect structures and infrastructures, such as pipelines. In the case of a non buried pipeline, the impact of a rockfall is direct, and then the use of protection measures (e.g. nets or barriers) is the only solution. On the other hand, in the case of a buried pipeline, the rock boulder may damage the pipeline either by penetrating it through the cover soil or by breaking the pipeline by excessive impact stress.
This paper presents a simple procedure for calculating rockfall penetration in order to estimate the optimum pipeline burial depth, since great burial depths are usually prohibited by constraints of the cost and of the construction process. Moreover, a parametric analysis involving mass of rock boulder that will be landed on a buried pipeline and its initial vertical impact velocity is also presented. Additionally, indicative case studies with buried pipelines designed against rockfall are illustrated.