Abstract

For subsea well drilling, the drilling rig is connected to the subsea well by a marine riser and subsea BOP equipped with a remotely controlled wellhead connector latched onto the subsea wellhead profile.

The level of cyclic loading on subsea wellheads is steadily increasing due to use of increasingly larger drilling rigs with larger BOPs, the drilling of wells in harsher environments characterized by strong high waves.

The remotely controlled wellhead connector forces a series of locking dogs into an externally machined profile on the wellhead. This external profile is generally referred to as a wellhead profile. The fatigue resistance of this safety-critical connection is typically estimated by FE analysis. Due to the large size of the equipment, and high cost of testing, very limited fatigue testing, if any, has been carried out. A test method has therefore been developed, where a special test fixture is used to apply realistic boundary conditions and variable tensile loads to a small sector or segment of a wellhead connector. A primary objective is to generate fatigue-critical stress fields in the segments under tensile test load that closely replicates the stress fields in a full-scale connector subject to bending loads. A secondary objective is to support the introduction of the practice of testing several segments cut from a single wellhead connector. The testing of narrow sector segments allows the use of readily available test apparatus. It is thereby envisaged that the total cost of testing (specimens and test laboratory costs) can be substantially reduced in comparison with full-scale connector fatigue testing.

This paper describes the text fixture, the connector locking dog, and wellhead segments designed to replicate the stress fields in a full-scale wellhead connector.

The test fixture and test specimens are designed to match conditions and fatigue stress of the full-scale connector. The test specimens are instrumented with strain gauges at fatigue hotspots. Digital image correlation (DIC) is used to measure the relative motion between the wellhead segment and the locking dog. The measured strains are compared with corresponding values from finite element analysis of the test. The DIC results are also used for estimating the coefficient of friction between wellhead profile and locking dog.

Very good agreement is found between measured hotspot strains and strains from the FE analyses for consistent load conditions. The test fixture is therefore considered suitable for segment fatigue testing, where the test results can be used to estimate the bending fatigue capacity of a full-scale wellhead connector.

Results from fatigue testing by this test method are presented in a separate OMAE2020 paper.

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