As has been noted in industry publications and conferences in the recent past the use of more modern deepwater capable 5th and 6th generation semisubmersible drilling rigs in relatively shallow water applications (when compared to design water depth) is likely to become more commonplace. Water depths of 500m or less will necessitate the use of mooring systems in order to maintain position close to the well centre whilst drilling. For fatigue assessments of moored MODUs, the current industry practice to estimate fatigue damage in the drilling riser and the wellhead, using global riser analysis techniques, is to consider both wave and VIV fatigue effects. Standard wave fatigue analysis considers two key response parameters, firstly the impact of the hydrodynamic loading on the riser joints due to drag forces, inertia and added mass effects, and secondly the effects of vessel motions on the riser system and wellhead loading. Standard practice for wave fatigue analysis is to consider only first order motion effects as described by the vessel RAO (response amplitude operator). However, for a moored MODU low frequency (100s-200s period) vessel response can have a significant impact on the overall vessel motions.
The actual response and magnitude of MODU motion will be influenced by the size and displacement of the vessel in addition to the configuration of the mooring system. First order lateral motions for a semisubmersible tend to increase as wave period is increased and therefore at lower periods first order motions can be quite low. However, the opposite can be said of wave drift forces that contribute to second order response. Although the wave drift forces are largest for lower wave periods, these low period drift forces have a significant influence on the resulting long period second order response of a moored MODU. This has important implications for drilling riser and wellhead fatigue analysis as in many cases the critical seastates for fatigue damage are low period seastates with a large number of occurrences. Thus the current global analysis techniques for fatigue calculations may lead to an underestimation of fatigue damage contribution from low period seastates.
The purpose of this paper is to present the key conclusions and findings of a study carried out in order to determine the effects of low frequency moored MODU motions on wellhead fatigue. These results are derived from a case study of a moored 6th generation semi-submersible drilling vessel in 500m water depth.