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Indian Geotechnical Conference 2017 GeoNEst

14-16 December 2017, IIT Guwahati, India

Back Analysis of Pile Driving Data of Two Offshore Platforms from West Coast
of India
Rupam Mahanta, R. K. Ghanekar and Sriharsha Gamidi
Geotechnical Engineering Section, Institute of Engineering and Ocean Technology, ONGC, Panvel, Maharashtra 410221.

ABSTRACT: Jacket platforms installed in the western offshore of India for the purpose of exploration and production
of hydrocarbon are founded on open-ended tubular piles of steel. The piles are installed by driving them up to their
design depths below the seafloor using pile driving hammers. Pile driveability study is an essential part of design before
installation of piles. The analysis requires the assessment of soil’s static resistance to driving (SRD) for selection of
suitable hammers, selection of pile materials and for planning pile add-ons for installation of long offshore piles. SRD is
generally not the same as the long term static axial capacity of pile. For driveability analysis, degradation and gain with
respect to the long term static resistance are to be applied since soil resistance, especially in clays, decreases in
continuous driving and set up occurs with time after the driving is stopped. The paper presents back analysis of
installation of piles in two jacket platforms located in western offshore of India. The study gives valuable insights into
aspects of soil uncertainties especially related to loss and gain of soil strength during pile driving operation and can help
in refining driveability analysis for smooth installation of piles. Observed blow counts in Field are matched with
different gain/loss and set up factors while applying the actual hammer energy as used in Field.
Keywords: offshore; pile; SRD; driveability.
1. Introduction the piles, appropriate hammers and optimised pile
Selection of proper hammer and pile combinations are specifications (material, length of segments, wall
vital for successful driving of piles. Optimised selection thickness etc.) are chosen on the basis of results of
of pile and hammer and successful installation of driven driveability analysis carried out before installation. All
piles again depend on correct assessment of soil such analyses are carried out on the basis of one
resistance to driving. There are areas in Indian offshore dimensional wave equation approach where the motions
where difficulty in pile driving have been sometimes and forces resulting from impact of a hammer on a pile
experienced leading to what is termed as “pile refusal” that results in a compressional wave is simulated. The
where the blow count per unit depth of pile penetration analysis relates the applied energy from hammer through
with a designated hammer exceeds the given limit when a driving system with the soil resistance along with stress
driving has to be stopped. Offshore operations being very and displacement in pile. When hammer details, applied
costly, analytical aspects of pile driveability need careful energy, pile details and actual blow counts are known,
examination for smooth installation of offshore soil resistance to driving can be back calculated.
platforms. Given the uncertainties in the process, back
3. Analysis Methodology
analysis of actual Field data helps in validating and fine
Analyses were carried out by using the wave equation
tuning the approach for calculating soil’s Static
approach. Analysis of two sites from western Indian
Resistance to Driving (SRD). Data generated from
offshore has been presented. Four main piles were
installation of piles in the offshore bring an opportunity
installed in each of the two platforms. Software
to examine the suitability of SRD calculation approaches
GRLWEAP® (2010) was used for the purpose. The
for advance prediction of blow count, selection of pile
analysis requires that the hammer, pile and soil are
and hammer. The study was carried out to examine the
modelled with required details. The data of hammers
suitability of currently applied SRD criteria and
actually used for the driving of piles were input with
uncertainties related to end bearing resistance of sand
specific efficiencies at various depths of pile penetration
layers. Data from six platform sites were analysed, two of
matching with those applied in the Field for driving the
which are presented. However, the conclusion in the
piles. As installed pile data was input in the program. Soil
paper is based on analyses of all the sites.
data were used from the soil investigation reports used
2. Pile Driving for Offshore Piles for the design. Different piles in a platform which had
Piles for offshore platforms in India are typically driven same specification and where nearly same levels of
up to a depth of about 70-120 m below the seafloor. The energy were applied, were analysed by considering
total length of a pile often exceeds 200 m for main piles average depth-wise energy. It may be mentioned that the
(driven through legs of jacket structure) due to the depth long term soil resistance for static axial capacity is used
of water and air gap above sea water surface. Long piles as the basic inputs for soil strength. The practice followed
are generally driven in segments due to limitations of for calculation of long term axial capacity of piles in clay
handling and installation facilities. Diameter of piles are, for ONGC offshore platforms in Indian offshore is in line
generally, between 1.52 m to 2.18 m. For installation of with API RP2GEO (2014) with modifications that shaft
Indian Geotechnical Conference 2017 - GeoNEst
14-16 December 2017, IIT Guwahati, India

friction is 0.7 times the design undrained shear strength back analysis of pile driving data.
(su) for normally consolidated clays. For over
Table-2 Driveability analysis related soil parameters
consolidated clays, shaft friction depends on the su. It is
equal to su where su is less than 24 kPa, 0.5 times the su Soil Type Quake Damping Factor
where su is more than 72 kPa and for su between 24 kPa (mm) (sec/m)
to 72 kPa, friction factor is linearly interpolated from 1.0
to 0.5. In case of sands, API RP 2GEO (2014) Side Toe Side Toe
recommendations with suitable modification for Clay 2.54 2.54 0.656 0.033
calcareous nature of sands are used for limiting values are
Sand 2.54 2.54 0.164 0.492
of shaft friction and end bearing resistance. It may be
mentioned that clayey soils lose strength during Therefore, results of back analysis should be read in
continuous driving of pile due to remoulding and pore relation to these parameters. The study in the paper is
pressure changes. Strength is generally gained when the focussed on the changes in resistance of soil to be
pile driving has pauses between continuous phases of considered with respect to driveability analysis (with
driving. Such pauses are required to add new segments given parameters of quake and damping) so that
over the driven segments of a pile and to follow driving installation of piles and completion of offshore platforms
sequence of piles in a platform. are successful without occurrence of pile refusal.

The long term shaft resistance for clay (as used for 3.1 Plugged and unplugged analysis
assessment of axial capacity of pile) is reduced when Since the offshore piles are open ended, penetration of
studying driveability of piles for continuous driving. the piles below the seafloor causes soil coring inside the
When there is a waiting period during pile driving, the piles unless the soil resistance along the inner surface of
shaft resistance for clay layers increases with the time of the pile is large enough that prevents pile (inner) surface
wait. Such gain and loss of shaft resistance is modelled in to slip against the cored soil. Thus “plugged” and
the analytical software GRLWEAP through input values “unplugged” conditions may arise when such open ended
of “gain/loss” and “set-up” factors. The applied shaft pile is pushed in soil. In “plugged” condition, the end
friction for continuous driving in the presented analyses bearing resistance is considered to act over the full area
was as per the Table 1. For example, when the gain/loss of the pile bottom while the shaft friction is considered
factor of (g =) 0.5 is used, the corresponding set up factor over the outer surface of the pile. In “unplugged”
for clay is applied as 2.0. Similarly, for gain/loss factor of condition, shaft friction is considered over the outer as
0.33, set up factor is 3.0 for the clay layers. In case of well as the inner surface of the pile while the end bearing
sand, set up factor of 1.0 was used. In case of unplugged below the pile on pile wall only is considered. Figure 1
analysis, inner shaft friction for both sand and clay were describes the resistances to be considered for “plugged”
considered as 50% of outer shaft friction for continuous and “unplugged” pile conditions. Calculation of static
driving described in 3.1. long term axial capacity indicate that generally, all piles
used in Indian offshore platforms are governed by
Table-1 Applied shaft resistances and factors “plugged” condition as the piles are sufficiently long with
Soil Gain/loss Shaft friction (%) Set-up Pl/unpl
factor Outer inner factor
Clay g 100g NA 1/g Plugged
Clay g 100g 50g 1/g Unplugged
Sand g 100 NA 1.0 Plugged
Sand g 100 50 1.0 Unplugged
Note: Shaft friction is % of long term static shaft friction.
Gain/loss factors are greater than 0.

During continuous driving, the shaft resistance becomes 1

/ (set-up factor) for clays. For sand layers no such
reduction of input value is considered where the set up
factor is input as 1.0. In case of end bearing resistance, 9
times of su is applied for clays and for sand layers, design
end bearing value is applied. These end bearing are
applied either on the full cross-sectional area of pile or on
the pile wall area only at the bottom of piles for plugged
and unplugged analyses respectively. The quake and
damping parameters currently followed for ONGC
platforms were used as per the Table 2. There may be
significant influence of quake and damping parameters in Fig. 1 Plugged and unplugged conditions

Indian Geotechnical Conference 2017 - GeoNEst
14-16 December 2017, IIT Guwahati, India

respect to their diameters. But in dynamic condition of Unit shaft friction in

Unit end bearing (kPa)
pile driving, pile are mostly driven in “unplugged” compression (kPa)
0 50 100 150 200 0 2000 4000 6000
condition. 0 0

20 20
4. Pile and Soil Data

Depth below seafloor (metre)

The soil resistance encountered during the driving
40 40
process depends on the pile diameter, depths of
penetration and characteristics of soil layers encountered
60 60
during penetration of piles.
80 80
4.1 Pile data
Relevant data of piles used for the analysis are presented
100 100
in Table 3. The vertical penetrations of piles in site-1 and
site-2 were 80 m and 72 m respectively. The water depth 120
at the sites was about 43 to 48m.

Table-3 Pile data for site-1 and site-2 140 140

Site Outer diameter Wall thickness Fig. 3 Soil resistance for long term pile capacity (site-2)
(m) (mm)
min. max. Average energy are then input for analysis and average
Site-1 1.829 38 63 blow counts are compared with the analytical results.
Waiting period during pile add-ons and corresponding
Site-2 1.676 38 63
depth of penetration was input as per Field records.
4.2 Soil data Blow count (blow/0.25 m), Energy (kJ)
The soil condition within the depth of pile penetration in 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
site-1 and site-2 are predominantly clayey up to a Energy
significant depth below the seafloor. At greater depths, 20
Energy at Field, B2
both sand and clay layers exist intermittently. The soil 25 Energy in analysis
Pile penetration below seafloor (m)

Energy at Field, A1
types, design shaft friction and end bearing for 30
calculation of long term static pile axial capacity are 35
shown graphically in Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 which were used 40
as inputs. 45
Unit shaft friction in 50 Blow counts Energy
Unit end bearing (kPa)
compression (kPa) 55
0 50 100 150 0 2000 4000 6000
0 0 60 Blow Count
65 Average blows at Filed
20 20 Blow A1
Depth below seafloor (metre)

Blow B2
40 40 75
60 60 85
80 80
Fig. 4 Comparison of Blow count and energy data (site-1)
100 100

CLAY Figures 4 and 5 show the blow count match for site-1. It
120 120 may be observed that the blow counts match well when
SAND the gain/loss factor is 0.5 for shaft friction and the
140 140 corresponding set up factor is 2.0. Average blow count is
Fig. 2 Soil resistance for long term pile capacity (site-1) quite high at the final depth of penetration. Incidentally,
the layer of soil occurring below 77.3 m is moderately
As already described the paper, shaft friction end bearing cemented sand. The hard driving at the final few metres
resistance are derived from the basic soil design of penetration matches with plugged driving condition
parameters for the sites. Soil types occurring at the sites with end bearing resistance of 8 to 9 MPa against design
have been shown in Fig. 2 and 3 up to the relevant depths end bearing of 5 MPa for that layer. Thus, there are cases
only. of carbonate/cemented sand such as in site-1, where there
are uncertainties regarding the value of end bearing
resistance to be applied for correct prediction of
5. Analysis and Results
driveability due to non-uniformity of soil cementation
In case of site-1, data of blow count and energy as per
within a layer, absence of a continuous CPT data and
Filed records are plotted for two piles of the platform in
Indian Geotechnical Conference 2017 - GeoNEst
14-16 December 2017, IIT Guwahati, India

difficulty of coring sample throughout the sand layer. Blow count (blow/0.25 m)
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
In case of site-2, the average energy applied in the Field Blowcount comparison
Blowcount Pile A1
was derived from the available data and the same was 20 Blowcount Pile A2
used for back analysis. Data of two piles have been

Pile penetration below seafloor (metre)

25 unplugged, set up factor = 2
considered in case of site-2. Average energy is shown in plugged, set up factor = 2
Fig. 6. The matching of blow counts have been presented 30
plugged, set up factor = 3
in Fig. 7. The pile was tipped in a well cemented layer 35
Blow count (blow/0.25 m) 45
50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
15 50
Blowcount comparison
20 55
Average Blow count at Field
25 Unplugged, set up factor = 2 60
Plugged, set up factor = 2,
Pile penetration below seafloor (m)

30 65
End bearing = 5 MPa below 77.3m
35 Plugged, set up factor = 2, 70
End bearing = 8 MPa below 77.3 m.
Plugged, set up factor = 2, 75
45 End bearing = 9 MPa below 77.3 m. 80
50 Fig. 7 Blow count data and matching (site-2)
60 6. Conclusions
The results of back analysis of pile driving data should be
viewed with respect to values of quake and damping
parameters along with soil resistance applied in the
analysis. From the study, following points are observed:
• It is validated that current practice of driveability
analysis carried out both for plugged and unplugged
conditions with a set up factor of 2.0 (for clays) and
shaft gain/loss factor of 0.5 generally ensure proper
Fig. 5 Blow count data and matching (site-1) selection of hammer and successful driving of piles for
the soil in the offshore area. In some cases, set up factor
Energy (kJ) higher than 2.0 may be matching; in other words,
50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
10 gain/loss factor may be lesser than 0.5. However, lower
Energy comparison values of gain/loss factor may be analysed only for a
lower bound blow counts.
Depth of penetration below seafloor (metre)

Energy in Field for Pile A1

20 Energy Applied in analysis
Energy in Field for Pile A2
25 • Higher values of end bearing resistance may be applied
for driveability analysis than that used for long term
static capacity of piles in case of sand layers, especially
35 at higher depths for successful installation of piles.
Currently, this aspect is addressed by prescribing two
values of end bearing resistance for critical sand layers.
45 A lower value is prescribed for long term static axial
50 capacity of pile and a higher value, generally up to
maximum 8 MPa, for driveability analysis.

60 7. Acknowledgment and disclaimer

Authors are grateful to the management of ONGC for
65 permission to publish the paper. Views expressed in the
70 paper are authors’ own and not necessarily those of
Fig. 6 Comparison of energy applied (site-2) References

occurring below 68.5 m in this site where the design end American Petroleum Institute (2014) Geotechnical and
bearing was 6 MPa. It can be observed that reasonable Foundation design Considerations, API RP 2GEO. 1st
matching in this case is achieved with the application of edition, API, Washington, DC.
shaft gain/loss factor in the range of 0.33 to 0.5 during Pile Dynamics Inc. (2010) GRLWEAP (Computer
continuous driving with corresponding set up factors of Program for) Wave Equation Analysis of Pile Driving,
3.0 and 2.0 respectively. Pile Dynamics Inc., Cleveland, USA.