ADDED VALUE OF COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS IN OFFSHORE PIPELINE DESIGN

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ADDED VALUE OF COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS IN OFFSHORE PIPELINE DESIGN

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Proceedings of the 9

th

International Pipeline Conference

IPC2012

September 24 28, 2012, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

IPC2012- 90225

ADDED VALUE OF COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS

IN OFFSHORE PIPELINE DESIGN

F. Van den Abeele

OCAS N.V.

Zelzate, Belgium

J. Vande Voorde

ArcelorMittal Global R&D Ghent

Zelzate, Belgium

F. Kara

Cranfield University

Cranfield, UK

ABSTRACT

The advent of high performance computing systems has

unlocked the promising potential of computational fluid

dynamics (CFD) to assist in the design, calculation and

optimisation of engineering structures. Indeed, CFD provides a

powerful and efficient means of evaluating flow mechanics and

predicting hydrodynamic loads on offshore structures. In this

paper, the added value of CFD in offshore pipeline design is

demonstrated with two practical case studies: stability of subsea

pipelines, and vortex induced vibrations in marine risers.

First, the stability of offshore pipelines in close proximity

to the seabed is studied. In traditional offshore pipeline design,

the on-bottom stability is governed by the Morisons equations.

According to this set of equations, offshore pipelines are

designed to satisfy two stability conditions: the submerged

weight of the pipe has to be greater than the lift force, and the

horizontal friction force should exceed the combined drag and

inertia forces. It is common practice to use fixed hydrodynamic

coefficients (drag, lift and inertia) to calculate the pipeline

stability, based on the assumption that the pipeline is either

trenched or in contact with the seabed. However, due to uneven

seabed topology and/or scouring, a gap may exist between the

pipe and the seafloor. In such a case, the force coefficients not

only depend on the relative gap between the pipe and the

seabed. Moreover, in unsteady oscillatory flow (induced by

waves), the time-dependent laminar or turbulent characteristics

of the boundary layers become important. In this paper, a CFD

model is presented to evaluate lift, drag and inertia forces

exerted on subsea pipelines to reveal the effect of boundary

proximity.

In the second application, turbulence modelling is applied

to predict vortex induced vibrations (VIV) in multiple marine

risers. One of the most important design requirements for

marine risers in (ultra)deep water is to limit the fatigue damage

caused by VIV. Even moderate currents can induce vortex

shedding, at a rate determined by the flow velocity. Each time a

vortex sheds, a force is generated in both the in-line and cross-

flow direction, causing an oscillatory multi-mode vibration.

Vortex induced vibration (VIV) can give rise to cyclic stresses

that might cause fatigue failure. For floating production

platforms in particular, there is a risk of interference between

adjacent production or export risers, or possibly between other

combinations of tendons, drilling risers and production risers.

Numerical simulations of fluid flow and vortex shedding allow

calculating the optimum spacing between multiple marine risers

in tandem arrangement.

COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNAMICS

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is an emerging field

of research with promising potential, and has been receiving

more and more attention from the offshore in the oil and gas

industry the last few years. A CFD solver typically uses a

generalized version of the Navier Stokes equations, solving for

the velocity field u and the pressure p. In its most general form

this set of equations comprises an energy balance, a continuity

equation expressing the conservation of mass, and an equation

for the conservation of momentum [4]. Assuming a constant

(seawater), the Navier Stokes equations reduce to the

formulation of incompressible Newtonian flow:

_

p

w

ou

ot

- v

|-pI

+p(vu +(vu)

1

)] +p

w

(u v

)u = F

u = u

In general, these equations are solved for the three-

dimensional flow field. In the present formulation, the velocity

field is taken as two-dimensional, i.e. u = (u, :).

When the fluid flows past a fixed cylinder like a marine

riser or an offshore pipeline, a region of disturbed flow is

formed, like schematically shown on Figure 1. In this

simulation of laminar flow, the free stream velocity is shown in

green. Lower velocities are depicted in blue, whereas yellow

indicates values higher than the stream velocity.

2 Copyright 2012 by ASME

Figure 1: Regions of disturbed flow

Evidently, the velocity varies in terms of magnitude,

direction and time, and four regions can be distinguished:

1. The retarded flow is a narrow region in front of the

cylinder, where the local (time-averaged) velocity is

lower than the free stream velocity

2. Two boundary layers attached to the surface of the

cylinder

3. Two sideway regions where the local (time-averaged)

velocity is higher than the free stream velocity

4. The wake, which is the downstream region of

separated flow where the local (time-averaged)

velocity is less than the free stream velocity

The fluid flow around a circular cylinder, like shown on

Figure 1, is a well known and documented [5-7] problem in

computational fluid dynamics, and often used as a benchmark

for CFD solvers [8]. The flow pattern in the wake of the

cylinder is primarily governed by the Reynolds number

Rc = I

o

u which expresses the ratio of inertia forces to

viscous forces, with I the fluid flow velocity,

o

the total outer

diameter, and the kinematic viscosity u.

A detailed analysis of the different flow regimes around

subsea structures can be found in [9-10]. In summary, the

regimes of fluid flow across a smooth subsea structure can be

divided in

Unseparated flow for very low (Rc < S) Reynolds

numbers

The regime for S < Rc < 4u , where a pair of Fppl

vortices develop in the wake

The transition range (1Su < Rc < Suu) from laminar

flow to turbulence

The regime where the vortex street is fully turbulent

(Suu < Rc < S 1u

5

)

For even higher numbers (S 1u

5

< Rc < S 1u

6

),

the laminar boundary layer undergoes turbulent

transition, and the wake will be narrower and

disorganized

At very high Reynolds numbers (Rc > S 1u

6

), re-

establishment of a turbulent vortex street occurs

For the range of Reynolds numbers relevant to offshore

pipeline engineering, the flow is fully turbulent, and it becomes

increasingly difficult if not impossible- to predict the transient

flow behavior with a laminar solver for the Navier Stokes

equations. The possible options for CFD simulations at very

high Reynolds numbers are:

Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS), which solves the

Navier Stokes equations for the pressure and the

velocity components in a time-dependent domain. This

approach requires a very fine mesh size and very small

time steps to resolve the smallest eddies and capture

the fluctuations in the turbulent flow [03]. As a result,

this approach is not economically feasible for pipeline

design.

Large Eddy Simulation (LES), where large turbulent

eddies are computed in a time-dependent simulation,

whereas small eddies are predicted with a compact

model. Indeed, smaller eddies have an isotropic (and

hence more universal) behavior, but larger eddies in

the turbulent flow tend to be anisotropic, and their

behavior is directly influenced by the problem

geometry. The viability and accuracy of Large Eddy

Simulation for complex turbulent flows at high

Reynolds numbers is investigated in [11], but has

proven to be not feasible for full 3D analysis of

offshore structures [12].

Reynolds Averaged Navier Stokes (RANS) turbulence

model. In the RANS approach, all flow characteristics

are decomposed as the sum of a steady (mean) value

and a fluctuating term. This decomposition gives rise

to a Reynolds stress tensor, which adds six unknowns

to the system of equations. As a result, turbulence

models are required to provide additional transport

equations to close the system [13]. In this paper, the

Spalart-Allmaras Turbulence model is applied to study

the stability of offshore pipelines close to the seabed,

and an enhanced k -e model is used to simulate

vortex induced vibrations in multiple marine risers.

ON BOTTOM STABILITY OF OFFSHORE PIPELINES

In traditional offshore pipeline design, the on-bottom

stability of submarine pipelines is governed by the semi-

empirical Morisons equations [14]. Assuming that waves are

approaching the pipeline with a velocity u and at an angle o,

and the current with steady velocity I is approaching at an

angle [, the fluid flow will impose a lift force

F

L

=

1

2

C

L

p

w

o

(u coso +Icos[)

2

(1)

and a drag force (2)

3 Copyright 2012 by ASME

F

=

1

2

C

p

w

o

(u coso +Icos[) |u coso +Icos[|

where C

L

and C

In addition, the wave induced acceleration o gives rise to an

inertia force

F

I

= C

I

p

w

n

o

2

4

o coso

(3)

with C

I

the inertia coefficient. The Morisons equations show

that the drag and lift forces are proportional to the square of the

fluid particle velocity, and that the inertia force is directly

proportional to the fluid particle acceleration. The drag force

acts in a direction parallel to the fluid flow, while the lift force

is generally upwards (i.e. normal to the seabed). The inertia

force acts in the direction of the flow or against it, depending

on whether the flow is accelerating or decelerating.

The Morisons equations are used to determine the

appropriate thickness of a concrete weight coating to ensure

offshore pipeline stability. The pipeline stability condition is

considered to be satisfied when the forces that resist the

pipeline displacement are greater than the forces that tend to

displace it. As a result, the pipeline is stable when the

submerged weight of the pipe w

p

is greater than the lift force in

vertical direction:

w

p

= w - F

B

z F

L

(4)

with w the weight of the pipe, coatings and contents, F

B

the

buoyancy forces acting on the pipe, and z an appropriate safety

factor [15]. At the same time, the horizontal friction force has to

remain greater than the combined drag and inertia forces:

(w -F

B

-F

L

) z(F

+F

I

) (5)

where is the coefficient of friction between the pipe and the

seabed. Self-weight of the pipe (and its contents) is generally

not sufficient to satisfy these criteria. In order to achieve

stability, subsea pipelines are coated on the outside with high

density concrete. The required thickness of the concrete coating

is determined by an iterative procedure [16] such that the above

criteria (4)-(5) are satisfied for the most severe load

combinations. It should be noted that the absolute lateral

stability approach, proposed in equation (5), results in a heavy

pipe, and so is used only for special cases [15].

When the pipeline is sitting on the seabed, the hydrodynamic

coefficients are frequently fixed [17] to C

L

= u.9, C

= u.7 and

C

I

= S.29. Obviously, these values depend on the roughness of

the pipe, and various guidelines and codes may recommend

different values. In addition, the hydrodynamic coefficients

depend on both the Reynolds number and the Keulegan-

Carpenter number [18]

K =

I I

o

with I the wave period. In addition, the value for C

, C

L

and C

I

is dependent on the position of the pipe as well. If the pipeline

is sitting on the seabed which is always intended by design-

the hydrodynamic coefficients will be significantly different

from those for pipeline spans with a gap between the pipe and

the seabed, or for partially buried pipes [19].

Sarpkaya has performed experimental research [19] to

study the hydrodynamic forces on cylinders placed at various

distances from the bottom of a U-shaped water tunnel. The

main conclusions from these investigations read

The hydrodynamic coefficients are functions of the

Reynolds number Rc, the Keulegan-Carpenter number

K, the gap c between the pipe and the seabed and the

depth of penetration o of the viscous wave or the

boundary layer thickness:

{C

, C

L

, C

I

] =

_Rc , K ,

c

o

,

o

o

] (6)

The effect of the boundary layer or the penetration

depth of the viscous wave is small, provided that the

boundary layer remains laminar. Boundary layer

effects are ignored for c

o

> u.1 . For turbulent

oscillatory boundary layers, the characteristics of the

wall jet and separation over the cylinder may be

significantly affected.

The drag and inertia coefficients for the in-line force

acting on the cylinder are increased by the presence of

the wall. This increase is most evident in the range of

c

o

< u.S .

The proximity of the wall helps to decouple the

frequency of oscillations in the top and bottom shear

layers. This decoupling effect prevents the occurrence

of regular vortex shedding for small values of c

o

.

The transverse force towards the wall is relatively

small and fairly independent of c

o

. The transverse

force away from the wall is quite large and dependent

on c

o

, particularly in the range u < c

o

< u.S .

The use of the Morisons equations to decompose the

in-line force into two components is a sound approach.

The lumping of the entire in-line force into a single

coefficient is not justified, and obscures flow

mechanics.

As already indicated in [20], computational fluid dynamics

proves to be a powerful tool to study the stability of offshore

pipelines.

4 Copyright 2012 by ASME

Numerical simulations can shed a brighter light on the

effects of boundary proximity, and enable a more profound

understanding of the experimental insights developed by

Sarpkaya. To study the influence of boundary proximity on the

evolution of the hydrodynamic coefficients, a CFD model was

constructed with a fixed pipeline with diameter

o

. The

pipeline exhibits a gap c with the seabed and was subjected to

a fluid flow velocity I. By changing the velocity (and hence the

Reynolds number) and the gap c, the experimentally observed

relations (6) can be calculated.

The simulations were performed at Reynolds numbers in

the range of 1 1u

4

< Rc < 1 1u

6

, which requires turbulence

modeling to accurately capture the fluid flow patterns. For the

simulations, presented in this paper, the Spalart-Allmaras one-

equation turbulence model has been applied. This RANS

model, originally developed for aerodynamic flow [21], solves

for the undamped viscosity u, whereas the turbulent eddy

viscosity can be computed from p

t

= p

w

u

1

. A detailed

review of the Spalart-Allmaras turbulence model and its

(mostly aeronautical) applications can be found in [22]. The

values for the constants, used in this paper, are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Values for the Spalart-Allmaras model constants

c

b1

= u.1SSSS c

b2

= u.622 c

2

= 7.1

c

w2

= u.S c

w3

= 2 c

2

= 7.1

= u.41

On Figure 2, the CFD model was used to predict the

variation of the drag coefficient C

as a function of seabed

proximity c

o

. As can be seen, the drag coefficient for a

specific Reynolds number will change froma relatively high

value when the pipe is close to the seabed (c

o

1 ) to the

free stream value when c

o

= 1 .

Figure 2: Drag coefficient as function of seabed proximity

In Figure 3, streamlines of the flow and contour plots of

the pressure are plotted for Rc = 2 1u

5

. In these plots, it is

clear that the wake behind the pipe changes from primarily a

blunt body on the seabed (c

o

= u.1 ) to a free stream

cylinder with increasing distance c from the seabed. The shape

and the wake behind the pipe changes accordingly, which in

turn strongly influences the drag (and drag coefficient) of the

pipe. The distinct advantage of computational fluid dynamics

over experimental testing is that a vast amount of flow data is

available to analyze the physical phenomena that are taking

place. In addition, it is straightforward to assess the effects of

modifications, and hence quickly optimize the solution.

c

o

= u.1

c

o

= u.2

c

o

= u.S

c

o

= 1

Figure 3: Flow patterns as function of seabed proximity

5 Copyright 2012 by ASME

More details on the use of computational fluid dynamics to

study on-bottom stability of offshore pipelines in close

proximity to the seabed can be found in [20]. In the next

section, the merits of CFD in predicting vortex induced

vibrations in multiple marine risers exhibiting wake

interference are briefly highlighted.

PREDICTION OF VORTEX INDUCED VIBRATIONS

During the design of floating production platforms in

deepwater, it has been recognized [23] that there is a risk of

interference between adjacent production or export risers, or

possibly between other combinations of tendons, drilling risers

and production risers. The consequences of most concern are

the possible increase in fatigue damage due to vortex induced

vibrations (VIV), and the likelihood of contact between

adjacent risers.

A large body of work has been published addressing

measurement, modeling and analysis of marine risers in tandem

arrangement [24]. A careful review of flow interference

between two circular cylinders in various arrangements has

been presented by Zdravkovich [25-26], including an extensive

list of references on this subject. He has also introduced a

classification of flow regimes around two circular cylinders,

depending on their relative position.

Different studies for the tandem arrangement of two

adjacent risers [23,27-29] have shown that the changes in drag,

lift and vortex shedding are not continuous. Instead, an abrupt

change for all flow characteristics is observed at a critical

spacing between the risers. An exhaustive description on

proximity effects and wake interference can be found in [30],

and a comprehensive summary of VIV in tandem risers is

provided in [31]. Recent research results have been published

in a.o. [31-33].

In this paper, the published data on riser interference tests

for flexible tubulars [23] will be used as experimental

validation. To simulate these experiments, a 2D CFD model is

constructed, assuming fixed rigid cylinders with an outer

diameter of 114.3 mm. The simulation setup, with a grid of

Su by 1S, is shown on Figure 4.

Figure 4: Simulation setup to study wake interference

For the simulations of fluid flow around marine risers in

tandem arrangement, the computational grid comprises some

250 000 cells. Depending on the end spacing, the dimensionless

wall distance is in the range of

2u < y

+

=

w

u

1

y

< Su (7)

with y the distance to the nearest wall, and u

:

the friction

velocity defined by

u

1

= _

w

(8)

where

w

is the average wall shear stress. As long as (7) is

satisfied, the problem is well conditioned. However, for

simulations requiring a high amount of vorticity and flow

separation, the Spalart-Allmaras turbulence model used in the

previous section did not yield reliable results. Indeed, the

calculations failed when negative pressure gradients occurred.

Hence, this turbulence model is not appropriate to predict

vortex induced vibrations in marine risers.

To mitigate the problems associated with the Spalart-

Allmaras model, the k -e turbulence model was selected to

simulate wake interference in adjacent marine risers. This

model is frequently used to model turbulent flow, and was

identified by [11] as the most appropriate RANS model to

predict vortex induced vibrations in marine risers for Reynolds

numbers up to Rc = 1u

6

.

The k -e turbulence model [35, 36] is a two equation

model, providing a transport equation for the kinetic energy k

and an additional expression for the viscous dissipation rate e.

Table 2: Values for the k- model constants

C

1

= 1.SS C

2

= 1.8u

o

k

= 1.u o

s

= 1.S

The values for the model constants are listed in Table 2. This

standard k - e model is widely used in computational fluid

dynamics, and was adopted by [11,37] to predict vortex

shedding around circular cylinders at high Reynolds numbers

(Rc = 1u

6

). The model performs quite well for boundary layer

flows, but is less accurate for risers in which a high mean shear

rate is present or massive separation occurs (which could be

expected for risers in tandem arrangement). In these cases, the

eddy viscosity is over-predicted by the standard formulation.

Moreover, the dissipation rate equation does not always give

the appropriate length scale for turbulence.

6 Copyright 2012 by ASME

To improve the ability of the standard k - e model to

predict complex turbulent flows, an enhanced k -e eddy

viscosity model is proposed in [38]. This model consists of a

new formulation for the viscous dissipation rate based on the

dynamic equation of the mean square vorticity fluctuation at

large turbulent Reynolds numbers. In addition, a new eddy

viscosity formulation is introduced based on the positivity of

the normal Reynolds stresses and the Schwarz inequality for

turbulent shear stresses [38]. The model constants, calibrated in

[38], are listed in Table 3.

Table 3: Values for the enhanced k- model constants

C

1

= max _u.4S,

Sk e

S +Sk e

_ C

2

= 1.9u

o

k

= 1.u o

s

= 1.2

On Figure 5, the turbulent eddy viscosity is shown for very

high (Rc = 2.S 1u

6

) Reynolds numbers, clearly indicating

that this enhanced k -e eddy viscosity model is capable of

simulating a turbulent wake with significant separation.

Figure 5: Distribution of turbulent eddy viscosity

Figure 6: Tandem risers with different end spacing

7 Copyright 2012 by ASME

The parametric approach, suggested in Figure 4, enables

the investigation of risers in staggered arrangements as well, for

c = u. In this paper, we focus on risers in tandem arrangement

(c = u) with different end spacings 2 < I < 6. It has been

shown experimentally [26-28] that there is strong interference

between two cylinders in tandem arrangement for spacing

ratios with I < S.S. At a spacing I = S.S, a sudden

change of the flow pattern in the gap between the adjacent

risers is observed.

On Figure 6, the influence of the end spacing on the fluid

flow pattern in the wake of the tandem risers is shown for a

Reynolds number Rc = 1u

5

, i.e. the two-bubble regime of the

transition in the boundary layers. These simulation results

indeed endorse the experimental observations of Allen [23],

Zdravkovich [26] and King [27]:

For small end spacing (I < S), vortex shedding

only occurs in the wake of the downstream riser: the

free shear layers which separate from the upstream

riser are permanently re-attached to the downstream

riser. In [39], Zdravkovich refers to this type of wake

interference as quasi-steady re-attachment.

When increasing the gap (I > S) between both

risers, a turbulent vortex street appears in the wake of

both the upstream and the downstream riser. The

vortices shed by the upstream riser coalesce with the

vortex street of the downstream riser, and binary eddy

streets are observed. It can be clearly seen that there is

no re-attachment of the free shear layers separated

from the upstreamriser to the downstreamone.

Drag coefficient data [26, 28] shows that the upstream riser

takes the brunt of the burden, and that the downstream riser has

little or no effect on the upstream one. For different values of

spacing I , the drag coefficient is shown on Figure 7.

Figure 7: Drag coefficients at Re = 10

5

Apparently, the drag coefficient on the upstream riser is not

significantly influenced by the downstream one, but a

significant change in drag is observed on the downstream

cylinder for I > S.

In [23], drag coefficients are measured on risers in tandem

arrangement with increasing end spacing for Reynolds numbers

from Rc = 1 1u

5

up to Rc = 2.S 1u

5

. On Figure 8, for

instance, the measured drag coefficients for both upstream and

downstream riser are shown for a spacing I = S. The drag

coefficients, predicted by the CFD simulations at Rc = 1 1u

5

,

are indicated as well.

Figure 8: Drag coefficients for L = 3D [23]

Figure 8 shows that for the upstreamcylinder, the drag

crisis occurs somewhat earlier (i.e. at a lower Reynolds

number) than traditional measurements of this phenomenon

[27, 28], which could be attributed to the combined effects of

free-stream turbulence and cylinder displacement. The

combination of an early drag crisis on the upstreamriser and

large displacements of the downstream riser produces a larger

total drag force on the downstream riser for Rc > 1.7 1u

5

.

More details on the effect of end spacing on drag coefficients

and transverse displacements of tandem risers can be found in

[23]. The results, presented here, indicate that computational

fluid dynamics can indeed contribute to deepwater risers

design.

CONCLUSIONS

In this paper, the added value of computational fluid

dynamics (CFD) was demonstrated by means of two case

studies. First, the stability of offshore pipelines in close

proximity to the seabed was studied. The main conclusion from

that investigation is that for a given Reynolds number, the drag

coefficient changes from a relatively high value (close to the

seabed) to the free stream value ( c

o

> 1 ). The flow in the

wake of the pipe changes from primarily a blunt body on the

seabed to a free stream cylinder with increasing distance to the

seabed.

In the second application, turbulence modelling is applied

to predict vortex induced vibrations (VIV) in multiple marine

risers. The most striking observations and conclusions from that

study read

8 Copyright 2012 by ASME

Given the high Reynolds numbers involved in deep water

riser design (1u

5

< Rc < 1u

6

), turbulence modeling is

required to capture vortex shedding. The enhanced k -e

model, proposed in [38], proved to be the most appropriate

RANS model to predict VIV.

For two risers in tandem arrangement, there is a sudden

change in flow characteristics for a critical end spacing

I = S.S. The upstream riser takes most of the burden,

while the drag coefficient on the downstream riser is lower

at Rc < 1.7 1u

5

.

For low Reynolds numbers, there is little effect of end

spacing on the drag coefficients and displacements,

whereas the effect of end spacing is obvious and distinct

for Rc > 1.7 1u

5

.

Both case studies prove that computational fluid dynamics

provides a powerful means of evaluating flow mechanics and

optimize the design. Hence, CFD can indeed provide added

value in ensuring offshore pipeline stability and supporting the

design of marine risers in deep water.

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