Experimental Investigation on Internally Ring-stiffened Joints of Offshore Platforms

Dr T S Thandavamoorthy, Non-member
This paper presents results of the experimental investigation on tubular joints that are stiffened internally with three annular rings. The focus is mainly on the behaviour and strength of these types of joints subjected to axial brace compression loading. The nominal chord diameter of the tested joint was 324 mm and its thickness 12 mm. The corresponding dimensions of the brace were 219 mm and 8 mm, respectively. The joints tested were approximately one-fourth the size of the largest joints in the platforms built in a shallow water depth of 80 m in the Bombay High field. Some of the joints were actually fabricated by a leading offshore agency directly involved in the fabrication of prototype structures. Bending of the chord as a whole was observed to be the predominant mode of deformation of the internally ring-stiffened joints in contrast to ovaling and punching shear of the unstiffened joints. Strengths of the internally ring-stiffened joints were found to be almost twice that of unstiffened joints of the same dimensions.
Keywords: Offshore platforms; Tubular joints; Internally ring-stiffened; Strength; Bending

INTRODUCTION Steel tubular framed structures are installed on the sea bed for the exploration and production of oil from the sea bottom. They are called offshore platforms which serve as artificial bases, supporting drilling and production facilities above the level of waves. While a variety of platforms have been utilized offshore for exploration and production 1, the most popular structure for shallow water depth is the ‘jacket’ or ‘template’ platform that is fabricated mostly out of cylindrical steel tubular sections because of their merit over other structural shapes2. In the past four decades thousands of large tubular structures have been built for offshore oil drilling and production. At present there are more than 7000 offshore platforms worldwide3. There are about 148 platforms4 in the Bombay and other fields in the Arabian Sea and 10 platforms in the Ravvaa field of Bay of Bengal. The typical structure consists of a deck, a substructure, and foundation piles. The substructure is a prefabricated tubular space frame, which extends from the sea floor to just above the sea surface, and is usually fabricated in one piece onshore, transported by barge, launched at sea, and upended on site by partial flooding. Tubular pilings are driven through the main legs to fix the structure to the sea bottom, provide support for the deck, and resist the lateral loads due to wind, waves and currents. In the tubular frame, the intersection between two or more members, at least one of which is a tubular member, is called a tubular connection. In the tubular connection, the intersection between various members is welded and thus
Dr T S Thandavamoorthy is with Shock and Vibration Laboratory, Structural Engineering Research Centre Madras, CSIR Campus, Chennai 600 113. This paper (revised) was received on August 2, 2002. Written discussion on the paper will be entertained till October 31, 2003.

forms a joint called welded tubular joint. Because of welding, enormous heat is generated and hence the intersection becomes a heat-affected zone. Welding process involves deposition of metal at the intersection. Therefore, the joint in addition to the segments of various members, also consists of the weld deposit, heat-affected zone and the base metal at the intersection5. The main member is denoted as chord and the secondary member as brace or branch. The outside diameter of the brace is less than or equal to that of the chord. A joint reinforced with welding of annular rings inside the chord at the welding intersection is called internally ring-stiffened joint. Internally ring-stiffened tubular joints are used widely in the construction of fixed steel platforms6 and it is estimated that there are at least 2000 ring-stiffened joints in North Sea structures7. However, techniques for assessing the capacity of internally ring-stiffened joints are still lacking. Therefore, more research is needed over a wide range of geometric parameters before formulating guidelines to assess the capacity of internally ring-stiffened tubular joints. This paper presents in detail the experimental investigation carried out on tubular joints that are stiffened internally with three annular rings. Results of the static tests on internally ring-stiffened T and Y joints under axial brace compression loadings are presented. Comparison of the behaviour of the internally ring-stiffened joints under axial brace compression loadings has been made with that of the unstiffened joints of the same dimensions and configurations under identical loadings, published elsewhere8. EXPERIMENTAL INVESTIGATION The geometrical configuration of the internally ring-stiffened tubular T joint is shown in Figure 1 while Figure 2 shows the geometry of the Y joint. In each joint, three annular rings, each of 12 mm thickness and 75 mm width, have been welded to the IE (I) Journal—CV


Figure 1 Typical dimensions of stiffened T joint

Figure 2 Typical dimensions of stiffened Y joint

inside of the chord member at the intersection of the brace. While one of the rings has been welded at the centre of the brace, each of the other two is welded at either face of the brace as shown in Figure 1. The dimensions of both types of tubular joints are given in Table 1. The ends of the chord and brace members were sealed by 32 mm thick flange plates to facilitate mounting of the specimen in the test set-up. In all, two internally ring-stiffened tubular joints were tested under axial brace compression loading. One of them was a T and the other a y-joint. The material qualities of both chord and brace members conform to AP15L GB9 and IS:22610 with yield strength of 240 MPa and an ultimate tensile strength of 415 MPa. Vol 84, August 2003

The dimensions chosen for the tubular joints, correspond to a large number of the joints in the platforms of the Bombay High field. This field with 148 fixed platforms is the biggest
Table 1 Dimensions of tubular joints Dimensions of Joints, mm Remarks Chord Brace Diameter Thickness Diameter Thickness 323.08 327.22 12 12 221.54 221.23 8 8 Stiffened Stiffened

Specimen No UDT1b UDT1a

Note: a : AP15L GB Steel; b : IS226 Steel


Indian oil and gas field in the Arabian Sea. Compared with the largest joints in these platforms, the actual test joints were approximately one-fourth in size. In the fabrication of the tubular joint test specimens, the fabrication procedures, dimensions, materials, welding, quality control, etc, correspond as precisely as possible to actual offshore structures. Some of the tested joints were, in fact, fabricated with the same grade of steel used for offshore structures by M/s Mazagaon Dock Ltd, Bombay, which is directly involved in the fabrication of the prototype structures. This means that the tubular joints tested can be considered to be representative of a large number of platforms built in the Bombay High in shallow water depths of up to 80 m and also similar other environments elsewhere in the world. The joints were fixed to the pedestals by bolting. The pedestals were, in turn, fixed to the strong concrete floor by means of 60 mm size mild steel bolts. The entire assembly was placed under a reaction frame (Figure 3). On the flange of the brace member, and between the horizontal cross beam of the reaction frame and the flange, a built-up steel joist assembly and two numbers of 2000 kN Enerpack hydraulic jacks were placed as shown in Figure 3. Another 1000 kN hydraulic jack and a 1000 kN Proceq load cell were placed in a self-straining frame that was kept by the side of the reaction frame on the test floor. All the three hydraulic jacks were connected through distributors to the electrical pumping unit by means of high pressure rubber hoses. Axial brace compression loading was applied on the joints by means of the hydraulic jacks mounted on the brace. Load was applied on the specimen in equal increments11. Three dial gauges, with a least count of 0.01 mm, were mounted beneath the joint (Figure 3), one directly at mid-span

Table 2

Measured loads Experimental Ultimate Loads, kN 1887.60 1834.00

Specimen No UDT1 UDY1

under the load point and others approximately at third points, to facilitate measurement of the deflection under load. In the case of Y joint, dial gauges were fixed perpendicular to the chord member. For each load increment, deflection readings of all the three gauges were recorded. Load was monotonically increased till the joint reached its ultimate strength. The ultimate loads sustained by the T joint (UDT1) and Y joint (UDY1) are given in Table 2. Typical load—mid-span deflection curve for UDT1 is depicted in Figure 4. In the case of Y joints, the component of the deflection along the direction of loading was resolved from the measured values. Corresponding load-deflection curve for the mid-span for UDY1 is illustrated in Figure 5. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The experimentally measured ultimate load for UDT1 was 1887.6 kN. The maximum load sustained by UDY1 was 1834.0 kN. When compared to the already published8 ultimate load of unstiffened joints, the internally ring stiffened joint is almost twice strong as the unstiffened joint of the same configuration and dimensions. With the addition of three internal rings to the chord member the capacity of joint has increased to a great extent. The shapes of the load-deflection curve of the stiffened joints is similar to that of a typical prismatic beam subjected to flexural loading. They clearly exhibit the strain hardening characteristics of steel. The load-deflection curve is linear upto

Figure 3 Typical set-up for axial brace compression loading


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Figure 4 Load-midspan deflection curve for T joint UDT 1

about 900 kN in the case of T joint (Figure 4). Afterwards the curve is non-linear with larger increase in deflection with load. Near ultimate load the curve shows a plateau indicating excessive deflection of the joint. The chord member as a whole was bent like a prismatic member. Figure 6 shows clearly the bending and excessive deflection of the chord of an internally ring-stiffened joint tested under a simply supported condition as part of a preliminary investigation carried out at the Fatigue Testing Laboratory of the Structural Engineering Research Centre. Absolutely no deformation of the chord wall and consequent ovaling in the vicinity of the welded intersection of the internally ring-stiffened joints were observed in this experimental investigation. In the case of Y joint, the loaddeflection curve is linear upto about 600 kN (Figure 5), and then the curve is non-linear upto ultimate load. The plateau observed in the case of T joint is absent in this case. Because of the inclination of the brace, a horizontal force is created in the chord, which limits the deflection of the chord. Load-deflection curves of both T and Y joints are compared in Figure 7. It is observed that, in general, there is a close agreement in the behaviour of both the joints. Initially upto a load of 1000 kN the behaviour of the Y joint is slightly stiffer than that of the T joint. Above the load of 1000 kN and upto about 1800 kN, the T joint behaves in a stiffer manner than the Y joint. Right from the start of the loading till failure, bending was observed to be the predominant mode of deformation under axial brace compression loading. This predominant flexural behaviour of the ring-stiffened joints, quite different from that of the unstiffened joints, truly represents the Vol 84, August 2003

Figure 5 Load-midspan deflection curve for Y joint UDY 1

Figure 6 Bending of internally ring stiffened joint

realistic global behaviour of the structure which is quite evident from global frame responses obtained from the collapse tests conducted by Bolt et al12 on large scale tubular frames representative of offshore jacket structures initiated under the Frames project in 1987. 89

the prototype structure behaves in a similar manner, as is evident from the results of tests on large scale tubular frames, representing offshore structures, published in the literature 12. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This paper is published with permission of the Director, Structural Engineering Research Centre, Chennai, India. REFERENCES
1. D V Reddy, A S J Swamidas and S Reddy. ‘Introduction in Offshore Structures.’ D V Reddy and M Arockiasamy, (eds), Krieger Publishing Co, Florida, vol 1, 1991, pp 1-65. Figure 7 Superposition of deflections of stiffened T and Y joints 2. W J Chen and D J Han. ‘Tubular Members in Offshore Structures.’ Pitman Advanced Publishing Program, Boston, 1985. 3. K A Digre, W Krieger, D J Wisch and C Petrauskas. ‘API RP 2A Draft Section 17 Assessment of Existing Platforms.’ Behaviour of Offshore Structures, BOSS ’94, C Chryssostomidis, et al, (eds), Pergamon, Oxford, 1994, pp 467-478. 4. S Y Kekre. ‘Engineering and Construction Division of ONGC Bombay — A Vision for Globalisation.’ Oil Asia Journal, Petrotech ’95 Special, 1994, pp 9094. 5. P W Marshall. ‘Design of Welded Tubular Connections.’ Elsevier Science Publishers B V, Amsterdam, 1992. 6. Wimpey Offshore. ‘In-service Database for Ring-Stiffened Tubular Joints.’ Report No WOL 035/91, Wimpey Offshore Ltd, London, 1991. 7. N Tahan, N W N Chols, T V Sharp and S Y A Ma. ‘Uncertainties Associated with the Behaviour of Ring-Stiffened Joints Derived from an In-service Database.’ Behaviour of Offshore Structure, BOSS ’92, M H Patel and R Gibbins, eds, BPP Technical Services, London, Supplement, 1992. 8. T S Thandavamoorthy. ‘Behaviour of Unstiffened Tubular Joints of Offshore Platforms.’ Journal of The Institution of Engineers (India), vol 82, pt CV, February 2002, pp 224-228. 9. API RP 2A-LRFD. ‘Recommended Practice for Planning, Designing and Constructing Fixed Offshore Platforms — Load and Resistant Factor Design, American Petroleum Institute, Washington DC, 1993. 10. IS: 226. ‘Indian Standard Specification for Structural Steel (Standard Quality), Indian Standards Institution, New Delhi, 1975. 11. T S Thandavamoorthy. ‘Assessment and Rehabilitation of Damaged Steel Offshore Structures.’ Ph D Thesis, Anna University, Chennai, 1998. 12. H M Bolt, C J Billington and J K Ward. ‘Results from Large-scale Ultimate Load Tests on Tubular Jacket Frame Structures.’ Offshore Technology Conference, OTC 94, May 2-5, vol 2, 1994, pp 303-312.

CONCLUSIONS Two internally ring-stiffened joints were tested under axial brace compression loadings. The normal chord and brace diameters of the joints were 324 mm and 219 mm. The nominal thickness of these joints were 12 mm and 8 mm, respectively. From this experimental investigation, it has been observed that the strength of internally ring stiffened joints was almost twice that of the unstiffened joints of the same dimensions and configuration, the results of which have been published elsewhere8. Experimental results, obtained from the testing internally ring-stiffened tubular joints under axial brace compression loading, clearly show bending to be the predominant mode of deformation. This is similar to that of a prismatic member subjected to flexural loading and is in contrast to the primary mode of failure of ovaling and punching of the chord member of the unstiffened joints. However, the change in behaviour of the internally ring-stiffened tubular joints has not been reported earlier. It has been observed from the experimental investigation that welding of three annular ring stiffeners to the inside of the chord member has resulted in completely eliminating the local bending and ovaling of the chord wall in the vicinity of the welded intersection. This arrangement has also imparted enormous bending stiffness to the chord as a whole with the result the behaviour of the internally ring-stiffened joints has drastically changed from the punching shear to flexure. The predominant bending behaviour of the chord member truly represented the realistic global behaviour of the structure as


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