Accurate computation of tensile armor wire stresses remains a major challenge in flexible riser fatigue life predictions and integrity management. Accuracy of the results relies heavily on capturing the kinematics of the flexible’s helically contra-wound tensile armor layers and their interaction with the other metallic and thermo-plastic layers in a dynamic simulation. The standard industry practice to assess the fatigue life of flexibles is to use high fidelity 3D Finite Element Models (FEMs) to capture the complex kinematics and produce accurate stresses. However, direct simulation of flexible riser detailed FEMs is limited to regular wave analyses and computation of wire stress time-histories subjected to irregular waves have been computationally infeasible. This is due to the complexity of the nonlinear FEM and the long simulation time of the irregular wave environment coupled with large number of fatigue sea states. As a result, simplified approaches which do not directly simulate the local model and instead assume that wire stresses can be interpolated based on static stress versus curvature material curves within a pre-defined tension /pressure envelope have been utilized.
This paper utilizes Nonlinear Dynamic Substructuring (NDS), a simulation-based approach that that extends the framework of dynamic substructuring to nonlinear problems. NDS enables the efficient nonlinear dynamic simulation of multiple pitch lengths of detailed flexible riser FEM subjected to irregular wave inputs and the computation of wire stress time-histories at any location on the local model.
In this paper, a 14-inch diameter flexible riser under consideration by ExxonMobil is subjected to vessel motion and wave load in irregular wave environments and is modeled using a detailed 3D FEM and simulated via NDS. The flexible riser design features four tensile armor layers to mitigate localized lateral buckling of the wires near the touch down point. Tension and curvature time-histories of the riser near the hang-off, calculated from a conventional beam model global analysis, is used to drive a 5.1m long local model. Irregular wave wire stress time-histories extracted at the corners of the tensile armor wires are used to compute the fatigue life of the flexible. To demonstrate the inaccuracies associated with the regular wave approach, fatigue life is computed via the regular wave approach and compared against the irregular wave approach. It is shown that the NDS capability to efficiently compute irregular waves mitigates over- and under-predictions due to environment idealizations leading to a more accurate and reliable flexible riser life prediction and structural integrity assessment.