Authors: Zefeng Zhou* Conleth D. O’Loughlin† David J. White‡

 

Abstract

Steel catenary risers (SCRs) are an efficient solution to transfer hydrocarbons from deep-water seabeds to floating facilities. SCR design requires an assessment of the fatigue life in the touchdown zone, where the riser interacts with the seabed, which relies on reliable estimates of the SCR–seabed stiffness over the design life.

Current models for SCR–seabed stiffness consider only undrained conditions, neglecting the development and dissipation of excess pore pressures that occur over the life of the SCR. This consolidation process alters the seabed strength and consequently the SCR–seabed stiffness. This paper summarises experimental data that show that long-term cyclic vertical motion of an SCR at the touchdown zone leads to a reduction in seabed strength due to remoulding and water entrainment, but that this degradation is eclipsed by the regain in soil strength during consolidation.

The main focus of this paper is on prediction of the temporal changes in seabed strength and stiffness due to long-term cyclic shearing and consolidation, to support calculations of SCR–seabed interaction. The predictions are obtained using a framework that considers the change in effective stress and hence soil strength using critical state concepts, and that considers the soil domain as a one-dimensional column of elements.

The merit of the model is assessed by way of simulations of SCR centrifuge model tests with over 3000 cycles of repeated undrained vertical cycles in normally consolidated kaolin clay. Comparisons of the simulated and measured profiles of SCR penetration resistance reveal that the model can capture accurately the observed changes in SCR–seabed stiffness.

Example simulations show the merit of the model as a tool to assess the timescale in field conditions over which this order of magnitude change in seabed stiffness occurs. It is concluded that current design practice may underestimate the seabed stiffness significantly, but the new approach allows rapid checking of this for particular combinations of SCR and soil conditions.

Keywords: consolidation offshore engineering pipes & pipelines soil/structure interaction

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