Free span assessment has more and more become an important part of modern pipeline design. The reason for this is partly that the remaining hydrocarbon reservoirs are located in more challenging places, e.g. with very uneven seabed. Another explanation is that the pipeline design codes a few decades ago did not allow for vibrating free spans, while the modern, state-of-the-art pipeline codes, such as DNV-OS-F101 “Submarine Pipeline Systems” (2007) [1] and its Recommended Practices, opens for long spans that are allowed to vibrate as long as the structural integrity is ensured. By opening for longer free spans significant seabed intervention costs associated with trenching, rock dumping and supporting spans by other means are saved. One of the governing parameters to ensure the structural integrity of free spans is the natural frequency of the span. This is a parameter that the designer can to some degree control by means of moderate seabed intervention, e.g. span support. Since the natural frequency of the span together with the water flow velocity normal to the span determine the vibrations and the cyclic loading it is of vital importance to be able to estimate a realistic value of this frequency. The natural frequency is influenced by several effects. One of them is the effect of the internal pressure. This may represent a challenge since the effect of the pressure is the opposite of what one instantaneously thinks is correct. Quite recently some discussion about the effect of internal pressure on free spans were raised and some experimental data presented that claimed to prove that the way the internal pressure was handled in the DNV-RP-F105 “Free Spanning Pipelines” (2006) [2] is wrong. The intention of this paper is to show how the internal pressure influences on the structural response of free spans, and that the DNV codes and standard non-linear FE software, e.g. Abaqus, handle this effect in an adequate manner.

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