Offshore oil and gas exploration continues to move into deeper and more harsh environments and consequently the response of drilling riser systems and associated fatigue loading transmitted to the wellhead and conductor system are of key importance in the design of offshore wells. In addition the presence of ageing infrastructure in mature areas combined with requirements for future workover operations requires careful consideration of both past and future fatigue damage accumulation. In order to estimate remaining fatigue life for the wellhead and conductor the accumulation of damage from each stage of a drilling campaign and phase of operation of a well, including workover and completion operations, must be considered. Thus a detailed global finite element analysis of the impact of riser response, under wave and vortex induced vibration (VIV), on the conductor and wellhead structure is of critical importance.

Traditional engineering evaluation methods to estimate fatigue of wellhead systems in offshore regions with limited availability of environmental data may result in an over estimation of fatigue damage accumulated in the wellhead. Any assumptions regarding fatigue current profiles can also lead to over-prediction of fatigue damage in the wellhead. This can have implications for the planning of future workover operations and may also lead to unnecessary over-design of the system. A further limitation of traditional wellhead fatigue evaluation criteria lies in the assumptions regarding riser tensioner system load response. These methods do not account for the highly nonlinear load response of the tensioner system and can thus significantly underestimate fatigue damage contribution.

This paper presents a more detailed wellhead fatigue analysis methodology to incorporate new analysis techniques, as used for a number of recent applications, to assess with a greater level of refinement the impact of the riser motions on the wellhead fatigue. Specifically this methodology incorporates the generation of a detailed global finite element model of the riser and wellhead system to include detailed non-linear riser tensioner system models, accurate models of the wellhead and conductor, detailed non-linear soil response characteristics and the use of more refined current data as input to VIV calculations.

The details of the riser and wellhead system model are presented and the conservatisms associated with traditional modeling methods with regard to VIV and riser tensioner load variations are discussed. A number of case studies are presented to illustrate the effects of various data assumptions and simplifications on estimated wellhead fatigue.

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