Subsea wellhead mechanical fatigue can potentially result in a gross structural failure of barrier elements in the upper part of the well, potentially resulting in loss of well control. Several major E&P operators have acknowledged the importance of wellhead fatigue and are participating in the JIP “Structural Well Integrity”. It is within the scope of this JIP to develop a recommended practice for wellhead fatigue analysis methodology. The analysis methodology currently being investigated by the JIP is a decoupled approach, with modifications of the lower boundary to account for the stiffness of the conductor, soil and template interface. A detailed local wellhead model is used to generate the lower boundary condition for a decoupled global riser load analysis model. This lower boundary condition definition is intended to capture the overall non-linear stiffness of a site specific well in order to achieve best possible global riser loads estimate.

In this article the effect of varying the lower boundary conditions on a global load estimate is studied. Global load estimates are generated from a typical North Sea case and various lower boundary conditions are introduced as the only change to the global riser model. A fixed lower boundary condition is used as a reference and load estimates generated from riser models with various lower boundary conditions are compared.

The different lower boundary conditions selected for comparison in this study has been derived from the following cases:

1. Fixed at WH

2. As per ISO 13624-2

3. As per JIP “Structural Well Integrity” -Current

4. As per JIP “Structural Well Integrity” -Modified

Comparing the analysis results gives indications that the lower boundary condition modelling approach affect global riser load estimate. The fixed lower end boundary conditions did not yielded the most conservative load history in a fatigue context. Modelling well specific flexibility at the riser lower end increased the total number of wellhead fatigue load cycles. This finding support the current approach suggested by the works of the JIP “Structural Well Integrity”. Ensuring that riser load results are still conservative places a higher importance on precise local modelling of the well system.

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