Steel catenary risers (SCRs) are subjected to fatigue in the touchdown zone (TDZ) where the pipe interacts with the seabed. In this zone the seabed is subjected to intermittent episodes of cyclic loading and reconsolidation during long-term operation. Cyclic loading, reconsolidation and maintained load can cause variations in the soil strength and stiffness, which has a significant influence on the fatigue life of the riser in the TDZ.

The weakening effect of cyclic loading on soil strength is well recognized throughout design practice, and methodologies for determining the cyclic ‘fatigue’ of clay during undrained cyclic loading are well established (e.g. Andersen et al. 1988; Andersen 2015). However, traditional undrained assessments neglect the effects of drainage and consolidation that inevitably occur in pipe-seabed interaction during long-term operational stages, and can lead to changes in stiffness by a factor of up to 5 or 10. This overlooked effect of consolidation on soil resistance and stiffness can be very important for SCR fatigue analysis.

In this paper, a new analytical framework considering these effects has been used to analyze vertical pipe-seabed interaction. This framework is developed using a critical-state concept with effective stresses, and by discretizing the soil domain as a one-dimensional column of soil elements. The model can accurately capture the changing soil resistance and stiffness to account for the effects of remoulding, reconsolidation and maintained load. The framework is used to back-analysis the pipe-soil interaction response during small and large amplitude vertical cycles. The simulation prediction compares well with the measured results from the laboratory (Aubeny et al., 2008), and can accurately capture the observed changes in stiffness of up to a factor of 5.

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