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Technology & Services

Large Diameter Steel Riser for Semisubmersible Floaters in a Harsh Environment

a report by

Jon Erik Borgen

Inocean AS

The majority of new offshore field developments today are based on floating facilities connected to the seabed by dynamic risers. The dynamic risers for gas export are preferably large diameter steel risers due to the volume to be exported. In harsh environments, the dynamics of the floater are normally assumed to be critical for such riser systems. Existing riser technology, flexible pipes and steel catenary risers have limitations and so there is a need for new, improved riser technology. Inocean has developed a steel riser system for production and export risers for floating production facilities. Called L-riser, it avoids the integrity problems and size limits of other riser systems. The L-riser allows for large vessel motions in typical harsh environments. In addition, the elasticity of the riser configuration allows for relative large static platform offsets. Inocean is a company providing technology for the future exploration and production of energy offshore. Its major focus is on floating facilities, riser systems, mooring systems and subsea drilling systems. The Lriser design is the result of an in-house research and development project. This riser system overcomes some of the weaknesses of existing riser technology. The L-riser is based on a patent pending configuration using only well-proven components. This report describes the L-riser designed as a 28ID export riser in 850m water depth connected to a semisubmersibles production unit in the north Norway area. A technical description of L-riser, dynamic extreme storm analysis results, fatigue damage calculation and a preliminary installation method are covered. The L-riser is, in general, a variation of a simple catenary riser (SCR). The L-riser is one continuous pipe from floater hang-off to seabed termination. The steeply inclined upper riser section is similar to a typical SCR terminated at the floater. Through a 90 corner bend, the lower riser section is reversed 180 towards the seabed. The two pipe sections together form an L. The L-riser is supported at the corner bend by a mooring system to the seabed. The L-

Figure 1: Typical Configurations of L-riser and SCR

riser configuration allows for large floater motions in typical harsh environments. The 90 corner bend gives the upper steel pipe section dynamic flexibility for axial movements applied from the floater. The motion components parallel with the upper riser section will be transferred almost undamped to the corner and will set up transverse oscillations that will be damped out in the lower section. The L-riser, together with a typical configuration of an SCR, is presented in Figure 1. The mooring line maintains almost constant tension in the lower riser section, minimising ultimate limit state (ULS) and fatigue loads towards the seabed touchdown. The elasticity of the mooring system and the lower pipe section allows for the static platform offsets. For the floater in the far offset, the tension from the mooring system goes mainly to the top riser section, and the lower riser section is lifted more off the seabed. For the floater near offset, the upper riser section is more vertical. The tension from the anchor line is taken in the lower riser section, maintaining the configuration of the riser. This ensures sufficient tension in the riser, preventing over-bending due to the submerged weight. The riser corner bend is structurally supported by a double planar stress joint, which limits the bending


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Figure 2: Principle Design of Corner Bend Support Structure

corner design. The riser will then be terminated directly onto the riser base where tension, bending and torsion are transferred to the seabed. Seabed riser clearance is obtained from the mooring tension applied to the corner bend. The following challenges are defined as success criteria for a large diameter steel riser system design: riser hang-off at deck balcony of a semisubmersible floater; ULS and fatigue limit state (FLS) design criteria for a typical harsh environment; typical semisubmersible offset for a conventional moored floater; fatigue life for a harsh environment above 250yr assuming S-N curve class E; choice of dynamic seabed touchdown versus direct riser base termination; and standard steel material X65 or similar.

stress and stress range in the riser pipe. The support structure includes two pairs of tapered beams, clamps surrounding the pipe and a 45 stay between the ends of the pipe bend. This support structure transfers tension and transverse forces due to bending moments from the pipe. The beams are extended and connected to the mooring line termination. The long radius bend has the same wall thickness and diameter as the rest of the riser. The support structure from the 45 stay to the outer end of the beams functions as a stress joint. The beams are tapered so that the riser inside the support structure maintains a constant bending radius at the design conditions. The clamps nearest the pipe bend bear on a shoulder on the pipe section and transfer tension as well as bending moment reactions. The shoulder is shaped like a flange pair. The other clamps transfer only transverse reaction forces. Figure 2 shows the principle design of the bend. The L-riser may be designed without bottom touchdown by including a planar stress joint at the riser base termination similar to one section of the

Table 1 describes the load conditions defined for the 28ID riser system. The extreme storm condition for harsh environment is, in general, defined as severe. A large diameter steel export riser hang-off from a semisubmersible floater riser balcony at deck level is a severe loadcase. Time domain analysis of the floater and riser system in an extreme storm according to the previously defined seastate is performed. The design properties included in Table 2 are the basis for the riser design. The results of the dynamic analysis in the ULS load condition are presented in Figure 3. The two scenarios investigated are, first, with a riser seabed touchdown and, second, with a direct riser base termination. Results shows that the two scenarios give similar results in ULS load condition for most of the riser length. The tension, bending and torsion experienced in the seabed riserbase termination are distributed along the pipe when seabed touchdown is defined. The loads and load combinations defined for

Table 1: Load Conditions for ULS and FLS Limiting States Limit state ULS-1 ULS-2 FLS-1 FLS-1 Environment wave/current 100yr/10yr 100yr/10yr Scatter Scatter Offset (m) 100 100 0 0 Density (kg/m3) 153 153 153 153 Pressure (bar) 240 240 240 240

Comment Seabed touchdown Riser base termination Seabed touchdown Riser base termination

Table 2: Riser Properties Riser ID (m) 0.711 OD (m) 0.783 Wall thk. reduced (m) 0.030 Mat. factor Fab. factor Risk factor Yield stress MPa 448.0






Large Diameter Steel Riser for Semisubmersible Floaters in a Harsh Environment

Figure 3: Maximum Bending Stresses in Riser, Far and Near Offset, Seabed Touchdown

Table 3: ULS Code Check Stress Levels ULS 100yr far 100yr near Tension (kN) 5,120.0 3,000.0 Bending moment (kNm) 1,700.0 2,640.0 Pressure (bar) 240.0 240.0 Func. factor Env. factor UC 0.91 0.76

1.1 1.1

1.3 1.3

Figure 4: Riser Fatigue Life (Unfactored), Class D and Class F, Seabed Touchdown

a ULS condition are applied to the riser as summarised in Table 3, and the results give stress factor levels of less than 1.0. The basis for the fatigue damage calculation arises from the first order loading only (wave frequency loading). Individual regular waves for the whole range of corresponding wave periods according to the seastate scatter are applied to the floater and the riser system. All waves are conservatively assumed and applied unidirectionally from one extreme wave heading in line with the riser configuration. The heading is from the riser mooring anchor towards riser touchdown. The inline wave heading is found

as the most critical of the ULS load conditions. Analysis is performed with a time domain analysis program Orcaflex, where the non-linear riser dynamic is taken care of. Results of the time domain analyses are input to the fatigue damage calculations. Results of fatigue life calculations are included in Figure 4. The results shows that the whole length of the riser has more than a 250-year life when welding class F is applied. Most of the upper riser section obtains a fatigue life of above 250 years with welding class D. Preliminary studies have been performed on the riser installation methods. The large diameter steel pipe


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Figure 5: Riser Tow-out and Hook-up to Mooring and Installation Winches

has handling limitations due to its size. There are two methods that are most suitable for large size riser installations: tow-out and/or J-lay. The tow-out method is necessary for the prefabricated sections with welding class D details. It is the lower riser section of the L-riser that needs special care when it comes to welding details. Thus, one method for installation of the L-riser is to prefabricate the lower riser section together onshore with the corner bend and a 50m length of the upper section. Figures 5, 6 and 7 present the preliminary proposed installation method. The riser is supported by airbags along the riser length and towed out horizontally, pulled forward by one vessel and supported aft by another vessel. At the field location, installation winches operated from the floater are connected to the riser seabed termination end. The pre-installed mooring line is connected to the corner bend and the short upper riser section is guided into the J-lay rigging arrangement for welding of the upper riser section. Airbags are removed and the riser is lowered step by step with the upper section vertically and the lower riser section horizontally, while new pipe sections are welded onto the riser. When the riser is closer to the seabed, the riser seabed end is terminated at the base. The upper riser section is handed over to the floater for hang-off at riser balcony. The proposed methods assume airfilled risers. An alternative installation method is using 50m-long riser sections joined by flanges. All these defined success criteria for the riser system are met. The L-riser design is found to be a promising alternative to existing riser systems. The pipe dimension discussed in this report is an extreme riser size. More slender risers will have a similar or better flexibility towards the dynamic loading. Major deepwater offshore development areas like North Norway, West Shetland, Canada, Gulf of Mexico and Brazil experience challenging environmental conditions as described in this report. Areas like West Africa have other challenges like temperature and insulation. The next development phase of the L-riser starts in January 2003. Focus will be on deeper water and for different riser dimensions. s Inocean would like to thank and acknowledge the contribution from the participants of L-riser pre-study, Norsk Hydro and Statoil, who have, through constructive dialogue, supported and provided input to the progress of the work. Also, special recognition is given to Dr. Ing. Einar Kjelland-Fosterud of Inocean for his work in developing the L-riser.

Figure 6: Riser Installation Phase 2 Lowering the Riser During Offshore Assembly

Figure 7: Riser Installation Phase 3 Pull-in to Subsea Termination and Hand-over to Floater