Suction embedded caissons are efficient and economic solutions to anchor floating structures. A more recent caisson application is to support seafloor structures such as manifolds, PLEMs, pumps, etc. For a deepwater hydrocarbon field, many types of seafloor structures are required, each with their own characteristics and slightly different design. Caisson designs increasingly use resistance envelope methodology. This eliminates non-linear 3D FE analyses (except for assessing responses or soil reactions), and facilitates probabilistic and optimisation analyses. In general, there is a requirement for a reliable method of assessing caisson capacity under general VHM load. Resistance envelope equations for “deep” circular caissons (1.5 < L/D < 6) have been presented by Kay and Palix (2010) for a wide range of soil undrained shear strength profiles. This paper extends the study to cover near-surface caissons (i.e. 0 ≤ L/D ≤ 1.5). As in previous studies, a quasi 3D non-linear finite element program (HARMONY) was the primary numerical analysis tool. Three soil shear strength profiles were investigated for 13 caisson embedment ratios. In the range 0 ≤ L/D ≤ 1.5, VHM envelope shapes transform from a “scallop” at L/D ≈ 0 into a “tongue” above a critical caisson embedment ratio (L/D)crit of about 0.5 The equations originally developed for the rotated ellipse/ellipsoid (i.e. “tongue”-shaped envelope) in Kay and Palix (2010) for L/D ≤ 1.5 have been extended for (L/D)crit ≥ L/D. All parameters are simple functions of L/D and soil shear strength profile. Major limitations and assumptions made were (a) foundation-soil tension was permitted and (b) no internal scoop failure (i.e. within the soil plug inside the caisson) was possible. These are important for low L/D: both may adversely affect VHM resistance.

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