Offshore pipeline design is a multidisciplinary field of engineering that covers route optimization, mechanical wall thickness design, fracture mechanics, flow assurance, stress analysis, geotechnics, … For decades, pipelines have been designed pursuing a stress based approach, based on analytical methods and semi-empirical rules of thumb.
However, the challenging conditions in oil and gas exploration and production (remote locations, seismic risks, ultra deep water developments, arctic conditions…) dictate the use of sophisticated numerical tools to assist the pipeline design engineer. In particular, pipe-soil interaction is a complicated phenomenon that governs the response of the offshore pipeline to operational load patterns. Interaction of the subsea pipeline with the seabed can give rise to buckling, pipeline walking or self-burial and berm formation.
Analytical approximations and simplified numerical models fail to capture those complex interactions, and are hence no longer suitable to predict the offshore pipeline behavior. Solving such challenging problems in pipeline geotechnics requires more advanced finite element analysis tools, which are demonstrated in this paper.