A characteristic of pipeline installation by the reeling technique is the generation of high plastic strain around the majority of the pipeline’s circumference as it is spooled onto a drum, under displacement controlled conditions. It is well-known that the application of sufficiently high amounts of mechanical or thermal energy will “anneal” (relax) weld residual stresses and, therefore, under the gross plasticity experienced during reeling it should be expected that initial girth weld residual stresses will be entirely relaxed during the first reel cycle.

The residual stress state needs to be taken into account in Engineering Critical Assessment (ECA) procedures of girth welds when predicting allowable defect dimensions. ECA codes such as DNV-OS-F101 and BS7910 assume the welding residual stress to be equal to the yield strength of the parent material and relaxation of welding residual stress under overload is allowed. However, the treatment specified in DNV is established from load-controlled scenarios and may result in un-realistic allowable defect dimensions in displacement-controlled situations such as reeling.

Welding residual stress in reeling ECA is concerning to the subsea pipeline industry. By performing reeling simulations with 3D finite element analyses (FEA), this paper examines the welding residual stress before and after reeling and assesses the extent of residual stress relaxation. It was found that reeling axial strain causes significant relaxation of the weld residual stress at the pipe intrados and extrados. At the saddle points there is a slight disruption to the residual stress field. The full weld residual stress is relaxed from a value equal to the material yield stress, and is replaced by a plastic deformation induced stress of much lower magnitude, typically in the order of 100 MPa or less. The plastic deformation stress is of equal magnitude whether or not the pipe section contains initial weld residual stress and, therefore, it is concluded that weld residual stress can be ignored following the first reel cycle.

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