In 2002, several mooring chains of a deepwater offloading buoy failed prematurely within a very small time frame. These chains were designed according to conventional offshore fatigue assessment using API recommendations. With this first deepwater buoy application, a new mooring chain fatigue mechanism was discovered. High pretension levels combined with significant mooring chain motions caused interlink rotations that generated significant Out of Plane Bending (OPB) fatigue loading. Traditionally, interlink rotations are relatively harmless and generate low bending stresses in the chain links. The intimate mating contact that occurs due to the plastic deformation during the proof loading and the high pretension of the more contemporary mooring designs have been identified as aggravating factors for this phenomenon.
A Joint Industry Project (JIP), gathering 26 different companies, was started in 2007 to better understand the Out of Plane Bending (OPB) mooring chain fatigue mechanism and to propose mooring chain fatigue design recommendations.
This paper summarizes the computational Finite Element Analysis (FEA) scope of work that provided the understanding and validation of the OPB mechanism through correlation with the test program results on chains. In addition, a multiaxial assessment of the fatigue stresses is studied and the main results are presented in this paper.