Following some experiences of bending stiffeners fatigue failures during full scale tests performed at Flexi France on flexible pipe and stiffener assemblies, Technip decided to launch in 1999 a major research program on fatigue life analysis of bending stiffeners made of Polyurethane material. This fatigue life assessment is now systematically performed by Technip for all new design of flexible riser bending stiffeners. This totally innovative method comprises a number of features as follows: Firstly fatigue behaviour of polyurethane material is described. The theoretical background, based on effective strain intensity factor, is detailed, together with experimental results on laboratory notched samples, solicited under strain control for various strain ratios, to obtain fatigue data. These fatigue data are well fitted by a power law defining the total number of cycles at break as a function of the effective strain intensity factor. The notion of fatigue threshold, below which no propagation is observed, is also demonstrated. Secondly the design used by Technip for its bending stiffeners, and most of all the critical areas regarding fatigue for these massive polyurethane structures are presented. Thirdly the methodology for fatigue life assessment of bending stiffeners in the critical areas defined above is discussed. Calibration of the strain calculation principle is presented versus finite element analysis. Based on all fatigue test results, the size of the equivalent notch to be considered at design stage, in the same critical areas, is discussed. Finally, a comprehensive calibration of the methodology according to full and middle scale test results is presented. The present paper is therefore a step forward in the knowledge of fatigue behaviour of massive polyurethane bending stiffener structures, which are critical items for flexible risers integrity, and widely used in the offshore industry. The confidence in bending stiffeners reliability is greatly enhanced by the introduction of this innovative methodology developed by Technip.

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