Offshore pipelines and risers transfer oil and gas across long distances, from seabed to production facility to the surface. The long pipelines are formed by welding together pipe segments. The welded joints formed are a source of stress concentration and defects from which fatigue cracks can grow. Hence, it is imperative that the effect of the weld geometry on the stress concentration be understood so that appropriate measures can be taken to assess the potential remaining service life of the welded structure.

The effects can be understood by the linear elastic fracture mechanics approach, where the stress intensity factors quantify the stress concentration. While the classical equations of Newman and Raju have been long available for semi-elliptical surface cracks in plates, no similarly elegant stress intensity factor solutions are available for pipes. There have been solutions in tabular form which can be cumbersome in practice. Moreover, solutions of welded pipe geometries have not been developed. The objectives of the current work are to develop closed-form solutions for stress intensity factors for external semi-elliptical surface cracks in plates. The welded pipe geometry will also be studied to develop solutions for the weld toe magnification factors of welded pipe geometries. The stress intensity factors can be used to determine the propagation rate of cracks in pipe or welded pipe geometries.

The stress intensity factors are obtained by the J-integral output of the three-dimensional finite element method. First, a plate with a circular crack is modelled. The initial step transforms the model to a plate with a semi-elliptical crack with the appropriate crack aspect ratio and width. A second transformation follows to transform the geometry to pipe form. The main parameters studied are the relative crack depth to thickness, crack aspect ratio, radius and thickness. The developed stress intensity factor solutions can be reduced to the classical equations. The new solutions show good agreement compared to previous work. A similar approach is developed to study the welded pipe geometry to develop weld toe magnification factor solutions. The weld toe magnification factor solutions for certain geometries are presented as a function of the relative crack depth.

The stress intensity factor solutions are then applied to predict the crack growth rates of cracks in pipe geometries. The prediction was conducted by a program written to assess the fatigue life of single and multiple cracks in pipes and welded pipes. The fatigue life assessment of welded pipes using the weld toe magnification factor solutions shows how significantly the weld geometry affects fatigue life.

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