A subsea pipeline has an important role to produce oil and gas from an offshore petroleum field, connecting a petroleum facility at the open sea and a near shore terminal at the coast. Very often, the pipeline passes over areas with uneven seafloor, and it may present free span portions. The main aim of the present work is improvements on the understanding of undesirable effects of vibrations in a subsea pipeline which presents free span portions along its length. This understanding is fundamental for the safe design and operation of the pipeline with possible reduction of its fatigue life.

Dynamic loads can occur as a consequence of the presence of sea currents acting on portions of the pipeline with free spans. Due to this hydrodynamic current loads, the pipeline structure may oscillate in the same direction of the current (In-line) and, in its transverse direction (Cross-Line). This dynamic response at the free span is mainly caused by the Vortex Induced Vibration (VIV). It is very important for the pipeline design because it can result extreme unacceptable stresses as well as in exceeding limits for the fatigue damage of the pipeline. And, this problem of VIV is still not been completely understood.

In the present paper, different models to estimate VIV forces due to sea current are discussed. For this purpose, different computer programs were used to predict vibrations in the transverse direction of the current incidence direction, caused by the vortex shedding in a free span of the pipeline. Simulations of the dynamic behavior of a free span portion of the pipeline were carried out by two approaches, respectively: an empirical hydrodynamic VIV force model, in frequency domain and, a semi-empirical VIV force model based on the lift coefficient and Strouhal number, in time domain. Simulations results are analyzed through comparisons with experimental data and also limitations of the each model are discussed.

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