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Reinforced Design of an Unbonded Flexible Flowline for Shallow Water

Conference Paper · January 2010

DOI: 10.1115/OMAE2010-20179


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Dalian University of Technology


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Proceedings of the ASME 2010 29th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering
June 6-11, 2010, Shanghai, China
Proceedings of the 29th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering
June6-11, 2010, Shanghai, China


Lu Qing-zhen Yue Qian-jin

State Key Laboratory of Structural Analysis of Industrial State Key Laboratory of Structural Analysis of Industrial
Equipment, Dalian University of Tech Equipment, Dalian University of Tech
Dalian, Liaoning, China Dalian, Liaoning, China

Tang Ming-gang Zheng Jie-xin Yan Jun

State Key Laboratory of Structural State Key Laboratory of Structural State Key Laboratory of Structural
Analysis of Industrial Equipment, Analysis of Industrial Equipment, Analysis of Industrial Equipment,
Dalian University of Tech Dalian University of Tech Dalian University of Tech
Dalian, Liaoning, China Dalian, Liaoning, China Dalian, Liaoning, China

ABSTRACT bend radius as well as hydrostatic collapse(resistance of

Flexible pipeline has been widely used in offshore the external pressure) with low cost.
engineering. Comparing to steel pipe, flexible subsea
pipeline has some merits such as anti-corrosive, easy INTRODUCTION
laying and recycling. So it is suitable to be used as Flexible pipeline has been widely used in offshore
flowline in shallow water. Especially there are lots of engineering [1]. It should be firstly considered to be used
marginal oil fields in shallow water of China. Different for dynamic risers and jumpers, which need to take large
from deepwater dynamic riser, flexible pipe for shallow bending moment. For example, the risers [2] in the sea
water applications has a low requirement of resisting around Norseland, Angola and Brazil, the jumpers [3] in
external pressure. On the other hand, Flexible pipe need the Bohai sea of China are flexible pipes. And for the
to satisfy the requirement of tensile property during submarine pipelines, the steel pipes are usually cheaper
installation. Therefore, a kind of simple and economical than the flexible ones, and then usually the steel ones are
flexible pipe can be developed to meet the requirement of used. However, the flexible pipes have a lot of
shallow water application. advantages e.g. the efficient installation, recovery and the
This paper presents an economical unbonded good corrosion resistance [4]; they are playing more and
flexible pipeline, which is helically wound by steel wires. more important roles in the oil development of sea. For
In order to guarantee the safety of the economical flexible example, the flexible pipes have been used to transport
pipeline under the laying, installation and working loads, a oil in the marginal field located on the south 10-3-8B and
reinforced design of tensile property is necessary. A 10-3-C of Chinese South Sea, which saved a lot of
helically wounded flat-steel layer is introduced to money [5].
constrain the steel wire radial deformation and strengthen The flexible pipes used in the ocean engineering include
the axial tensile stiffness of the pipeline. A theoretical two parts, one is the polymer layer for sealing and the
model is established to analyze the tension behavior of other is the metal layer for reinforcement. They need to
the flexible pipes and some suggestions are proposed to meet not only the functional loadings like internal
strengthen the flexible pipe design. Additionally, tensile pressure but also the environmental loadings in the
experiments are carried out for the original and reinforced installation and operational condition. And especially the
flexible pipes, which verify the theoretical model and the tension and the external pressure are the most important
effectiveness of the reinforced design. The results show loadings. So we need to change the parameters of the
that the reinforced pipeline not only meets the tensile metal layers for design of reinforcement, which makes the
requirement during installation for shallow-water flexible pipes have not only the flexible character but also
applications, but also meets requirements of the minimum the required stiffness and strength in axial and radial

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directions. higher pressure applications. Tension armor layers
The flexible risers in the deep water need to be designed typically use flat, round, or shaped metallic wires at angle
to have a higher tensile property (to resist their own 20-60 degrees. They mainly support axial loads.
weight) and a higher external pressure resistance (for the The flexible pipes used in the shallow water actually
water around) [6]. But in the shallow water, the flexible take a small external pressure; so the governing load is
pipes only need to meet the requirement of tension during the tension. So the economic flexible pipes can be
installation. So the specific design of economic flexible designed according to the tension loads. The basic
pipes is important for saving cost. design procedure for the economic flexible pipe is
This paper presents the design of tensile described as follows. The tension reinforcing design is
reinforcement for a kind of unbonded flexible pipes used carried out according to the loading during installation
in the shallow-water marginal oil field. The tensile firstly. And then we should check the MBR and external
stiffness can be remarkably increased by increasing the pressure resisting ability of the pipes during operation.
radial stiffness through adding a helical flat steel layer.
The design and analysis results also are proved by the
tension experiments for the flexible pipes before and after
reinforcing design. Additionally, MBR and external
pressure tests are carried out to verify the flexible pipes
with reinforced design.


The flexible pipe can be divided into the bonded
pipes and the unbonded pipes: all layers of bonded Fig.1 Foreign typical flexible pipe
flexible pipes are bonder together [7]; on the contrary, the
layers of unbonded ones can slip between each other. MECHANICAL MODEL FOR THE TENSION
And the unbonded flexible pipes have larger design REINFORCING DESIGN OF UNBONDED FLEXIBLE
potential of reinforcement, which makes it more suitable PIPES
to be used as the ocean pipes, especially as the riser in In terms of functions, the unbonded flexible pipes
deep water. consist of two parts [9]: one part is the inner tube; the other
In the design of ocean pipes, the pipes should meet part is helical element, which is armored including a
the internal pressure firstly according to the pressure
series of steel wires winding with the angle α i , illustrated
requirement of the transportation the mediums, which is
as same as the design of onshore pipes. And moreover, as Figure 2.
the ocean pipes also need to meet all kinds of loadings
during installation and operation in the sea environment
which is significantly different from the onshore pipe
design. Because of the weight of the pipes, which makes
the pipes undergo large tension during the installation,
the tension load must be considered carefully; and
meanwhile the collapse damage under the external
pressure should also be considered, which is very Fig.2 Basic composition of unbonded flexible pipe
important for the deep-water pipes. In addition, the Many researchers have done a lot of researches on
bending and torsional stiffness of the flexible pipes also the tensile reinforcing design of the flexible pipes,
need to be considered carefully. Because the flexible especially most of the theory analysis and research are
pipes have complex structures and techniques, the devoted in to the pipes design under tension. In order to
design and production technology are charged by a few make the model have the ability to express the tensile
foreign companies, for example Wellstream, Technip, and behavior more clearly, the assumptions follow can be
NKT. Figure 1 shows the typical flexible pipes for deep used [10]:
water [8]. Every layer undertakes different loadings. (a) The same layer has the same tensile and torsion
Carcass with “S” profile is an interlocked metallic layer deformations, that is, the plane-section
which provides the collapse resistance. Pressure armor is assumption.
an interlocked metallic layer which supports the internal (b) There are no gaps between layers initially.
pressure loads in the radial direction. Some example (c) All materials are homogeneous, isotropic and
profiles for pressure armor layer are shown in figure 1 as linear elastic.
“Z”, “T” or “C” shapes et. al. A back-up pressure armor (d) All deformations are small.
layer (generally not interlocked) also may be used for (e) Ignore the friction between the layers of the pipe.

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(f) The steel wires for armors are distributed
uniformly, and ignore the bending and torsional
(g) Full-slip between layers.
When the flexible pipe is loaded by pure tension, the
inner tube and the helical elements will undertake the
tension concurrently. The tension on the inner pipe can
expressed as: Fig.4 Deformation of steel wire under tension, when radial
Δl deformation in inner tube
Ftube = EC AC (1) Knapp[12], Roterto[10], Witz[13] all give the theoretical
l expressions under tension with radial deformation. The
Here, EC , AC presents the Modulus of elasticity and final expression shown in Eq. (3) for tensile resistance on
area of inner tube separately. the basis of the above work is utilized in this paper.
And the tension taken by helical elements has Δl ΔR
relations with the ability of controlling radial deformation Fwire = ni Ei Ai cos3 α i [ − tg 2α i i ] (3)
l Ri
of inner tube:
Here, ΔR is the radial deformation of the inner pipe.
(1) The inner tube wound by helical wires has no radial
When the inner tube wound by helical wires has no
radial deformation, just like the normal flexible pipe for FLEXIBLE PIPE TENSION REINFORCED DESIGN
deep water wounded by the carcass/pressure armor to 1. Shallow-water unbonded flexible pipe structure
provide the high radial stiffness. During tension, the radial In a project of Bohai shallow water marginal oil field, a
kind of steel wire rope helical wound unbonded flexible
deformation ΔR is nearly zero, and the steel wires
pipe is to be used as a static flowline. It is composed of
themselves are elongated under the tension, shown as
the inner tube layer, wire rope layer and outer protective
Figure 3.
layer shown as Figure 5. The steel wire rope has a well
flexibility, convenience of manufacturing and lower cost.
This original pipe is used on land successfully to meet the
different requirements of internal pressure, and need to
be proved greatly.

Fig.3 Deformation of steel wire under tension when no radial

deformation in inner tube
Feret and Bournazel[11] ignored the tension on the
inner tube and focused on the research of the linear
relationship between axial force and stress, stress and
deformation. Meantime they obtain the equilibrium
equations of the structure. The relationships between the
tensile resistance property of steel wires and degree and
materials property of tension armors are shown in Eq. (2):
Fig.5 Diagrammatic sketch of a flexible pipe for shallow water
Fwire ≈ nEi Ai cos α i
(2) It is a principal problem to meet the need of tension
l during laying process in the static applications for shallow
Here, n is the number of helical steel wires; water. Therefore, it is necessary to meet the requirements
Ei , Ai , α i presents the Modulus of elasticity, area and of tensile load with proper design of this pipe, and satisfy
the requirements of internal pressure simultaneously.
the helical degree of the ith armor layer separately. However, the theoretical analysis and experimental
(2) The inner tube wound by helical wires has radial verification for the flexible pipe at the beginning stage
deformation show the tension capability is low. Then the reinforced
When the inner tube wound by helical wires has design of the tensile properties is needed to be improved
radial deformation, Figure 4 shows the relationships urgently.
among the tension, axial elongation and degree changing 2 Tensile property of Shallow-water unbonded
of the helical steel wire. flexible pipe
The basic parameter of this type flexible pipe:

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Table1 Basic parameter of the steel wire rope wound flexible pipe force is about 3.5t, and the largest deformation of the
Layer name function Structure parameter pipe reach 7.5%.
1 Inner Provide Polymer
tube internal ID=94mm t=10mm
2 Helical Balance Steel
Steel Radial E=93.2Mpa d=4mm
wire load and
rope axial load Laying angle=55 n1=51,n2=54
3 Outer Provide Polymer,
layer external t=4mm

We can find that the inner tube with the steel wire
ropes wound has a low radial stiffness (direct helical
Fig.7 Tension-strain under small deformation
wound on the polymer material tube). Radial deformation
ΔRi can not be ignored. Assumed that the radial
contraction according to the Poisson's ratio of polymer
materials ( υ = ΔRi / Ri = 0.48 ). Then based on (3) pipe
Δl / l
tensile stiffness of this pipe can be expressed as:
F F + Fwire
k pipe = = tube =
ε (Δl / l )
1 2
Atube E tube + nE i Ai cos 3 α(
i 1− tg α i)
≈ 0 . 98 e 6 + 0 = 0.98 e 6 N
We can see from the above expression that the
helical Steel wire ropes almost have no contribution of Fig.8 Tension-strain under big deformation
tension stiffness since it will slip with the contraction of Theoretical (with Eq. 3) and experimental tensile
the inner tube. The tensile capacity of the pipe is mainly stiffness values are close in small deformation, which
composed of the polymer inner tube layer. verifies the theoretical model for the tensile properties of
And a full-scale tension test of a 1.3m length of the the flexible pipe. At the same time according to the trend
pipe was done in the laboratory [14] .The test and measure of experiment curve of the pipe tensile properties is
settings are shown in Figure 6. similar with polymer materials in tension. So the helical
steel wires almost haven’t the resistance ability to the
tension. The tension stiffness of the pipe is very low, and
a large plastic deformation occurred. It cannot meet the
requirement during laying procedure. The pipe tensile
capability needs to be enhanced.
3Tensile reinforced design method of Shallow-water
unbonded flexible pipe
Under tensile loads, the wire generated a contact
pressure p along with its perimeter, as shown in Figure
9.Thereby it cause the radial contraction of the inner pipe.
Fig.6 Tension test setting
The small deformation of the pipe is measured by
strain gauge, and the force is measured by the force
sensor. The tensile stiffness of the lexible pipe is 1e6N in
the initial linear section as shown in Figure7. At the same
time, the use of displacement meter can measure the
larger deformation of the pipe. Figure8 gives the
relationship of tension and the deformation of the flexible
Fig.9 Contact pressure of inner tube under tension
pipe in the whole testing procedure. The largest tension

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Witz [13] et al focused on the nonlinear structural internal pressure easily, but it has lower tensile
behavior of the pipe under tensile load, especially the properties. Therefore the tensile capability can be
contact force calculation of layers, and the changes of the reinforced through the introduction of the flat steel layer.
gap between layers. But they did not give the results of By adding a high angle helical wound flat steel as the
linear theory. This paper considers the linear relationship neighboring outer layer of the inner polymer tube, the
of the contact pressure, the wire axial elongation and radial deformation of the helical wound wires could be
radial contraction [10] [11], as shown in Eq. (4). Equation (5) controlled and the radial stiffness is increased, Figure 11
gives the relationship of contact pressure and the radial shows the added flat steel and the new enhanced pipe
stiffness of inner tube. structure.
Ei Ai sin α 2 i cos 2 α i Δl Ei Ai sin 4 α i
P= − ΔR (4)
d i Ri l d i Ri2
ΔR = ' (5)

From Eq. (3) (4) (5), the tensile force of the tension
armor has a close relationship with the inner tube’s radial
stiffness, as shown in Eq. (6).

1 Δl (6)
Fwire = nEi Ai cos3 α i (1 − )
di Ri
1+ ( )k ' l Fig.11 Flat steel and the new reinforced pipe structure
Ei Ai sin 4 α i The tensile test shown as that in figure 6 is carried
k ' is the stiffness of inner tube. out for the new reinforced flexible pipe, and the tensile
stiffness is found to be increased four times than the
With the pipe parameters, Figure 10 shows the
original pipe. Experiment results of tensile capability of
relationship between tensile stiffness and radial stiffness:
the original pipe and reinforced pipe are shown in Figure
12. Thus the effect of reinforced design of the new pipe
can be tested and verified.

Tension stiffness


1.5E+09 3.0E+11 6.0E+11 9.0E+11 1.2E+12
径向刚度 stiffness

Fig.10 Tension stiffness-radial stiffness

It can be seen from Figure 10 that the tensile
stiffness of the helical wound wire increases with the
increase of the radial stiffness of the inner tube. When the
inner tube is composed of polymer material, the pipe
stiffness has the lowest value. The tensile stiffness Fig.12 Tension capability of original pipe and reinforced pipe
approaches its highest value when the inner tube is 4 Experimental verification of other performance
composed of rigid material. For the shallow water,
external pressure is not significant. So if we can increase We generally use the reel lay method to install the
the radial stiffness of the pipe appropriately, the axial flexible pipe. So the bend radius needs to meet the
stiffness will increase definitely to meet the requirement of requirements of 2m reel radius during the laying as
the tensile property. Therefore, helical wound flat steel shown in Figure 13. Figure 14 shows the bending radius
are introduced to be the neighboring outer layer of the test settings of the new reinforced flexible pipe. During
inner tube. Flat steel with different sections and thickness bending of 2m radius, no defectives are to be found.
can achieve different radial stiffness. Thus the suitable When we removed the moment of the pipe, it slowly
axial stiffness values of the flexible pipe can be reached came back to in-place, after pressurized to 24Mpa, no
economically. leak is observed.
This type of shallow-water flexible pipe used the
helical wound steel wires meets the requirements of

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installation, not the external pressure. When the armor
wire’s parameters were known, the lager radial rigidity
inner pipe had, the larger tensile rigidity the pipe had.
Based on the above analysis, an economic design of
tensile reinforcement for a kind of unbonded flexible pipes
used in the shallow-water marginal oil field is proposed.
We add a helical flat steel layer to increase the radial
Fig.13 Minimal bending radius during laying
stiffness. Tension experiments are also carried out to
verify the accuracy of the theory model and the effects of
the reinforced design. At the same time, the reinforced
flexible pipes is tested, and found that they also meet the
requirements of the MBR and external pressure.
Different angles, different cross-section
characteristics and different layer number of steel wires
wind outside the inner tube can be adjusted to provide a
Fig.14 Bending radius test setting
different in radial stiffness, and thus a different axial
Flexible pipe is also required to meet the
stiffness, to meet the tensile load design requirements in
requirements of the external pressure. So it needs to do
different water depths. Considering the economic
collapse test to check its resistance ability to the outer
requirements of marginal oil field, it will be important to
pressure. Figure15 shows the test settings, including the
design flexible pipes used in the marine oil fields that
reading of pressure gauge and the camera images of
selecting the reasonable method such as adding the flat
collapse. Though the test, we found that when the value
steel layer, which can be manufactured easily, save the
of external pressure is 0.8Mpa, the pipe collapsed. It is
cost and meet the requirement of tension during
much above the 8m water depth (external pressure
installation and operations.
0.08Mpa) requirement.
The financial support for this research was provided
by the 863 Program of 2009AA09Z301-2, Program
(10902018) of NSFC, the Specialized Research Fund for
the Doctoral Program of Higher Education
(200801411052), the Science Research Foundation of
Dalian University of Technology. These supports are
gratefully appreciated.

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