Traditionally, it has often been assumed that the flow conditions in a moonpool are only moderately altered when an object is introduced therein. Moreover, the hydrodynamic forces acting on the object has typically been estimated by Morison’s equation for small volume structures, using the fluid kinematics of the empty moonpool as a basis and applying correction factors for the confined flow conditions, as for an object in a tube or a channel.

To investigate the validity of the traditional approach, an experimental study on the forces acting on objects in a moonpool was performed at NTNU/MARINTEK in Trondheim, Norway in 2013. The experiments were done using a simplified 2-dimensional moonpool model which was given a forced heave motion. Two objects, both with square cross sections but of different sizes, were put inside the moonpool one at the time. The resulting wave elevations inside the moonpool and the forces acting on the objects were recorded and analyzed. To get a deeper understanding of the flow characteristics in the moonpool, PIV measurements were used to obtain the fluid velocity fields.

The experiments revealed that even moderately sized objects (relative to the size of the moonpool) change the fluid motions in the moonpool to a large extent; the overall wave elevation amplitude is strongly reduced and the resonance period is altered. A consequence of this is that there is a large discrepancy between the hydrodynamic forces acting on the objects measured in the experiments and the forces calculated using the traditional approach. The PIV results showed the formation of vortices at the inlet of the moonpool and at the edges of the objects, which is the main source of non-linear damping of the wave elevation inside a moonpool.

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