Large scale model tests have been conducted in a towing tank facility for the determination of the hydrodynamic coefficients of subsea blowout preventers. A subsea blowout preventer (BOP) is a large, complex device 10–15 [m] tall, weighing 200–450 [ton]. The BOP stack consists of two assemblies, the ‘lower marine riser package’ (LMRP) connected to the riser string and the BOP itself, connected to the wellhead. Together they represent a large lumped mass, which directly influences the natural frequencies and vibration modes of the riser system, particularly those of the BOP-wellhead-casing assembly.

Large uncertainties in the estimates of the hydrodynamic coefficients (added mass, lift and drag or damping) result in large uncertainties in the fatigue damage predictions of the riser and wellhead system. The trend toward larger and heavier BOPs, which could place BOP-wellhead-casing oscillation frequencies in the range of wave frequencies, has motivated Statoil and BP to start a new research project on this subject. The project involves a large scale model test for experimental determination of hydrodynamic coefficients.

Two different BOP designs were tested in a towing tank at model scale 1:12. The models weighed about 50 [kg] in air and were about 1.2–1.5 [m] tall. A six-degree-of-freedom oscillator was mounted under the carriage of the towing tank for oscillation of the models in different directions. Static tow tests and forced oscillation tests with and in the absence of steady current were carried out. Keulegan-Carpenter (KC) numbers ranged between 0.2 and 2.0, while the Sarpkaya frequency parameter β was in the range from 4,000 to 50,000. The Reynolds numbers of the static tow tests ranged between 50,000 and 150,000. This paper focuses particularly on tests in the surge direction with and in the absence of a steady current. Results indicate that the hydrodynamic coefficients for BOP stacks are quite different from those of simpler geometries like a circular cylinder. In addition, they provide new insight for analytical modeling of global hydrodynamic forces on BOPs in many configurations and scenarios.

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