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Proceedings of The Twelfth (2002) International Offshore and Polar Engineering Conference Kitakyushu, Japan, May 26 31, 2002

Copyright 2002 by The International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers ISBN 1-880653-58-3 (Set); ISSN 1098-6189 (Set)

A Simplified Procedure to Assess the Fatigue-Life of Flexible Risers

C. A. Martins and C. P. Pesce
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, University of So Paulo So Paulo, Brazil

Evaluating the fatigue life of a flexible riser requires several dynamic problems to be solved, considering a consistent representation of all environmental loads imposed to the structure. For each load case the stress field over the distinct concentric layers has to be determined. Accordingly, slip between adjacent layers must be considered as the resulting wear may reduce the section of the armour wires. This paper presents a design-oriented simplified methodology to assess the fatigue life of flexible risers, directly applicable in preliminary and early design stages.

analytical models for the local stress-strain-slippage fields, to a standard numerical code that deal with the riser's global structural dynamics. Many of such analytical models can be found in the literature; e.g., Fret and Bournazel (1987), Fret et al. (1995), Lanteigne (1985), Witz and Tan (1992a,b), Ramos and Pesce (2001a, 2002). Many authors have recently improved most of these. A recent work, following a deep consistency analysis, including Antman's analysis (1974), can be found in Ramos (2001). The detailed fatigue assessment procedure can be found in Pesce et al (1997). It is worthwhile to mention that theoretical service-life prediction of flexible pipes has been an issue for many investigations as, e.g., in Fert et al (1986), Claydon et al. (1992), Fuku et al (1992). Nevertheless service-life assessment continues to be a rather difficult research subject, involving a vast source of combined modeling aspects, not yet comprehensively resolved as, for example, the simultaneous occurrence of wear, mechanical fatigue and material aging, what has serious implications on the definition of proper limit criteria. This work restricts the focus on some of those aspects, namely on wear and fatigue-life assessment.

KEY WORDS: Flexible; riser; fatigue; simplified procedure; wear. INTRODUCTION

Twenty years is a usual figure for the expected oil production-life of a deepwater field. It is therefore mandatory that the flexible risers, attached to the floating unit, can operate safely and properly during all this time. As the production unit moves around its equilibrium position due to the environmental loads, waves, wind and current, imposing cyclic loads to the risers during the whole production life, fatigue may turn into a significant problem. Flexible risers are complex structures formed by several interacting layers made of rather different materials. A consistent model constructed to represent the structural behavior of such structures must take into account this interaction, including the contact pressure and the slip between adjacent layers. The wear resulting from that interaction must also be taken into account. On the other hand, the environmental conditions vary randomly and continuously along the oil field production-life, so that any fatigue analysis should consider the load history, a rather hard and time-consuming task. The main purpose of this paper is to present a simplified procedure suitable to assess the fatigue-life of flexible risers in the early stages of design. This procedure is not intended to present very precise numerical results but, otherwise, to serve as a comparison-tool among different alternative riser's conceptions. The procedure is based on incorporating

The first step of the analysis is to study the global mechanics of the riser, calculating tension and bending moment along the suspend length. For simplicity, only a two-dimensional free-hanging configuration will be considered.

Static Model
Firstly, the riser is modeled as a non-extensible and perfectly freehanging flexible cable, submitted to an in-plane ocean current. This problem is solved numerically, using a fourth-order Runge-Kutta method, with adaptive step size control. The bending stiffness effect is confined to two small boundary-layers near the ends, and is latterly included by means of experimentally verified asymptotic analytical solutions at the touchdown point (Aranha et al (1997), Pesce et al.


(1998) and at the top; Martins (2000), Martins et al. (2000).

Dynamic Model
Risers motion amplitude, at the top region, has the same order of magnitude as sea waves amplitude and it is much smaller than the static span, which have the same order of magnitude of the sea depth. So the risers dynamics can be considered as a small perturbation around its static equilibrium position and the dynamic equations can be linearized around that configuration. The riser is still firstly modeled as a perfectly flexible cable and the bending stiffness effect is included later. If all non-linearities are properly treated, one can turn the problem discrete via a linear finite element model and solve it in the frequency domain. The excitations considered are the motion of the risers top and the forces due to sea waves and current acting along the riser. The boundary condition at the touchdown point is geometrically nonlinear as its position varies with risers motions. However, as TDP motion effect is only local, one can firstly hinge the riser at a horizontal damped-spring connection, placed at the static TDP position, previously determined. TDP motion and bending stiffness effects are then included, using the asymptotic expression presented in Aranha et al. (1997), and experimentally verified in Pesce et al (1998). Similarly, local pipe bending stiffness and top-end connection flexibility effects are incorporated as presented in Martins et al. (2000). The non-linearity due to the hydrodynamic viscous drag is treated considering a per cycle energy loss balance, between the result obtained by the non-linear Morison equation and its linearized form. This is achieved trough an iterative process, which corrects the drag coefficient at each numerical step.


The present procedure is essentially based on Fret et al. (1986), which considers that a fatigue limit criterion is achieved whenever the fatigue limit stress is reached in any particular wire of any section along the riser. Such a model considers that the stress increasing is simply inversely proportional to the thickness decreasing, which is proportional to the wear history. A simultaneous rupture limit criterion can be easily included. However, the wear history determination poses a practical problem, towards the construction of a simplified procedure. A possibly better way is a comprehensive Monte-Carlo simulation. An alternative and simpler way, however, is to assume that all environmental conditions can be well represented by N harmonic (equivalent) sea-states, with know periods T j and probabilities of occurrence Pj . For each one of those sea-states the global analysis can be run and all the stresses, contact pressures and slippage amplitude, per cycle, can be calculated.

Sea-states Sequence
The order according to which the loads are applied influence the fatigue-life of a structural member. One possible approach is to assume that the sea-states are applied according to the order of magnitude of the damage induced per cycle. Another possible approach, which seems to be more reasonable, is to consider a sea-states sequence that repeats itself until a limit criterion is reached. This sequence is assembled such that all representative sea-states are arranged from the most to the less severe one. As the typical strong storm lasts about three hours, this is assumed to be the duration of the sea-state corresponding to the smallest probability of occurrence in the sequence. If Pk is the probability of this sea-state, the total duration of the sequence T in hours will be: T= 3 Pk (1)


With the global dynamics determined, it would be possible to calculate the stress distribution on the several layers and the contact pressure between layers via, e.g., a finite element model. Obviously, such a task would be a very time consuming process. Another way is to employ analytical expressions that can be found in the literature. This work applies a model based on the well-known and simple Fret and Bournazel's (1987), which assumes that only armour layers can resist to tension. Although a broad discussion about all those strong main hypotheses can be raised (as in Ramos, 2001), such a model is considered to be suitable to a simplified procedure. Improvements concerning, e.g., radial deformations, can be easily done, by incorporating more consistent and comprehensive models as, e.g., the model presented in Ramos (2001).

and the duration corresponding to all other sea-states will be proportional to their probabilities of occurrence, Tj = 3 Pj Pk

A very important point is to consider the slippage between two adjacent armour layers, as wear may cause loss of wire (and plastic) materials.. The friction forces between layers play a fundamental role in slippage and wearing. Fret et al. (1995) model has been applied. Slippage and friction interactions between armour layers are treated through a Coulombian approach. All analytical difficulty on modeling this problem arises from the complex helical tendons' geometry variation, under cyclic bending. A set of two nonlinear differential equations for each transversal section of the riser is obtained, enabling to determine the slipping histheresis loop between armour-layers and between those and evolving plastic ones. That system is solved by means of a fourth order RungeKutta method, with adaptive step size control.

Annual wear
Let j be the slippage amplitude of an armour wire per cycle, at any particular structural section along the riser, during the j-th sea-state in the sequence. Let also n j be the number of cycles of that sea-state in one year. The corresponding annual wear (thickness reduction), caused by the j-th sea-state can be calculated by the Archards formula: ej = k p cj n j j 9 y (2)

where p cj is the contact pressure between two adjacent layers, y the yield strength of the material and k the wearing rate in the contact.


Cumulative wear
The cumulative wear, just after the i-th sea-states sequence application, for an armour layer at any particular structural section along the riser, will be, therefore, as one year has 8760 hours,
Dynamic Stress
Go od ma n's Cu rv e

t i = t i 1 +

8760 e
j =1



Assuming a homogeneous wearing at a considered particular wire at a given section, the thickness of this armour wire, after the i-th sea-states sequence application, will be reduced according to t i = t i 1 t i and the sectional area of the wire will be at this moment Ai = t i b where b is the width of the wire. (5) (4)


Static Stress

Fig. 1 Haighs diagram and Goodmans curve

This simplified methodology was applied to a production riser with two rectangular-wire armour layers covering an inner plastic one. The main risers data are presented in tables 1 to 3. Table 1 presents the risers global data. Table 2 presents the data of the two armour layers and Table 3 presents the data of the plastic layer. Data on the external plastic layer and the carcass are not presented. Table 1. Riser data External Diameter (6) Weight per Unit Length Axial Stiffness (EA) Sea-Bottom Friction Coefficient 119 mm 246.13 N/m 224 MN 0.4

Limit Criteria
The application of sea-states sequences is carried on until one of two limit criteria cannot be verified any more: the rupture criterion and the fatigue criterion. Rupture criterion: being r the maximum admissible tension for the armour wire material, Fmax the maximum axial force applied to a given section of this wire and S f a predefined safety factor, the condition Ai r > Sf Fmax

must be satisfied at every section of the riser for the wire not to break . Fatigue criterion: as one deals with a large number of cycles' fatigue, it is desirable that the maximum stress at a wire remains below the fatigue limit stress of the material. Being Fmed the mean (static) force at a given section of the armour wire, y the yield strength and f the fatigue limit of the material and defining the mean stress s as F s = med Ai and the cyclic stress, d , as (7)

Table 2. Armour layers data Property Angle Width Thickness Wires External Diameter Internal Layer 18.4 8 mm 3.5 mm 35 101.9 mm 210000 MPa 0.3 0.2 40 MPa 0.02 % 588 MPa Outer Layer -18.4 8 mm 3.5 mm 37 108.9 mm 210000 MPa 0.3 0.2 40 MPa 0.02 % 588 MPa

d =

Fmax Fmed Ai


Elasticity Modulus Poison Coefficient Friction Coefficient Fatigue Limit Stress Wearing Rate Yield Stress

the pair ( s , d ) must lay below Goodmans curve in Haighs diagram (Fig.1), such that, OB >Sf OA in order to fatigue does not occur. (9)


Table 3. Plastic layer data Thickness External Diameter Elasticity Modulus Yield Stress 4 mm 117 mm 700 MPa 21 MPa

Table 6. Sea data: duration of each sea-state in the sea-states sequence Sea Number 1 2 3 4 Duration 35 h 384 h 583 h 294 h 132 h 48 h 12 h 9h 3h

The parameters that define the static configuration considered in the analysis are presented in Table 4. Table 4. Static configuration Depth Top Angle (horizontal) Total Length Suspended Length Effective Top Tension Touchdown Position 822.1 m 83.0 4991 m 929 m 135 kN 4062 m

5 6 7 8 9

For each sea-state a frequency domain dynamic analysis was carried out, applying a motion to the top of the riser, with the horizontal and vertical amplitudes presented in Table 7 for each one of the sea-states. Those amplitudes were obtained from the motion of the semisubmersible the riser is attached to. Table 7. Top movement

Table 5 presents a set of 9 representative sea-states. As the smallest probability is 0.2 % (sea-state 9) the total duration of the sequence will be 1500 hours. Table 6 presents the duration of each sea-state in the sea-states sequence. Table 5. Sea data Sea Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Period 8.33 s 8.50 s 8.76 s 9.26 s 9.86 s 10.35 s 11.19 s 11.30 s 12.10 s Probability 2.3 % 25.6 % 38.9 % 19.6 % 8.8 % 3.2 % 0.8 % 0.6 % 0.2 %

Sea Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Horizontal Amplitude 0.020 m 0.037 m 0.059 m 0.088 m 0.128 m 0.181 m 0.306 m 0.365 m 0.591 m

Vertical Amplitude 0.095 m 0.195 m 0.329 m 0.524 m 0.773 m 1.038 m 1.457 m 1.688 m 2.189 m

The following figures present some results illustrating the analysis. Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 show some results concerning the global dynamic analysis, focusing on sea-state 9, that represents the most severe load condition considered on the fatigue analysis. Fig. 2 shows the maximum effective tension along the risers span and Fig. 3 the maximum bending moment for the same load condition. For simplicity, the riser is supposed to be articulated at top, so that the only fatigue hot spot is the TDP. On a comprehensive analysis, the bending stiffener must be included as the top is another possible hot spot.


Fig. 2 Maximum effective tension for sea 9

Fig. 4 Maximum stress due to tension on the external armour layer for sea 9

Fig. 3 Maximum bending moment for sea 9 Fig. 4 presents results of the stress distribution analysis focusing seastate 9, showing the maximum stress along the risers span due to tension for a wire of the external armour layer, considering all the points for each transversal wire section, taking into account external and internal pressure, the pressure between adjacent layers and compounding the normal, binormal and tangential stresses on a triple state of tension. Fig. 5 shows the maximum stress due to the bending moment that occurs at each section of the armour layer along the risers span. As the global dynamic model was two dimensional, the torsion moment was not considered in the analysis. Fig. 6 presents the maximum stress, considering the combination between tension and bending moment. Notice that, for this particular case of a hinged top-end, the maximum stress, considering the whole risers length, occurs near the static touchdown point (4062 m). Fig. 7 refers to the maximum stress in the plastic layer along the risers span for sea-state 9. Fig. 6 Maximum Combined Stress on the External Armour Layer for Sea 9 Fig. 5 Maximum stress due to bending moment on the external armour layer for sea 9


Fig. 9 Slip of the internal layer for sea 3 Fig. 7 Maximum plastic layer stress for sea 9

Fig. 8 shows, for sea-state 9 and for a wire in the internal armour layer, the maximum slipping amplitude, in a cycle; Fig. 9 presents, for the same wire, the slippage for sea-state 3. For both cases the maximum slipping amplitude occurs near the static touchdown point. The maximum slipping for sea-state 9 is over four times the slip for the seastate 3.

Fig. 10 Wear on the internal layer for sea 9

Fig. 8 Slip on the internal layer for sea 9 Fig. 10 shows the total wear for a wire of the internal layer, for seastate 9; Fig. 11 presents the wear for sea-state 3. Note that although the slip per cycle corresponding to sea-state 3 is smaller than that for seastate 9, as the probability of occurrence of sea-state 3 is larger, sea-state 3 is the most significant, considering the cumulative wear. Fig. 11 Wear on the internal layer for sea 3 Defining the safety factor as 1, for the critical section of the riser, one can plot the relative safety factor for all sections along the riser relative to the critical one. The results are shown in Fig. 12.


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Fig. 12 Relative safety factor along the riser, with respect to the TDP region, considering fatigue limit stress criterion In this case study, the failure criterion firstly reached in the critical section was fatigue. The failure criterion was not the same for all the sections of the risers and there were points where rupture of the armour wire can occur before the fatigue limit is reached. The fatigue life obtained in the analysis was 71.8 years. Adopting a safety factor of 3 and considering that it was used the fatigue limit and not an S-N curve, it can be concluded as a first approach that the riser will survive the desired 20 years. The failure position was near the static touchdown as could be anticipated.

A simplified procedure aiming to assess the fatigue life of a flexible riser was proposed. Following a set of analytical results presented in the technical literature, many modeling simplifying hypothesis have been adopted, to make the analysis feasible in early phases of design. The most important one is to rely on the assumption that wearing would be the most important phenomenon to be considered and that fatigue could be avoided if the limit fatigue stress is not reached. Concerning stress field distribution modeling, improvements concerning radial deformations, contact pressures etc., can be easily done, by incorporating more consistent and comprehensive models as, e.g., the model presented in Ramos (2001). A simple case study illustrated the usefulness of the procedure. Experimental results still lack to assert the accuracy of results. Nevertheless, the procedure may be used, already, if one restricts on the comparison between different conceptions for the riser.

The authors acknowledge CNPq - Brazilian National Research Council, grants no. 304062-85 and 469095/00-8, and FAPESP State of S. Paulo Research Funding Agency, for their financial support.


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