For a trenched and buried pipeline, the propensity to upheaval buckling (UHB) is a major design concern. Predictive UHB design is typically required at the outset to determine both trenching and backfilling requirements. Additional rockdump schedule can be established by analysing post pipelay OOS survey data incorporating appropriate safety factors based on a structural reliability analysis. The normal approach is to examine the as-laid pipeline imperfection survey statistics and data accuracy. The structural reliability analysis and load factor calculation is typically performed a priori based on the assumed initial imperfections using the universal design curve methodology. A new pseudo energy method for UHB and OOS is proposed and discussed in this paper based on the variational principle and modal analysis. The approach takes into account the effects of varying effective axial force, trench imperfections and vertical uplift resistance, by combining both axial friction and lateral resistance methods into a unified model. A new concept, effective uplift resistance and associated load is also introduced to deal with non-uniform backfill cover. Adjacent imperfections and backfill profiles are considered in detail. An FE model is developed to consist of 3-noded quadratic pipe elements using ABAQUS Ver 6.12 and iterations of FE analyses are performed to demonstrate the tangible benefits of the approach specifically for UHB OOS design in relation to target trenching and backfilling, leading to improved reliability and potential cost saving in UHB OOS design and rockdump installation.