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Modelling the embedment process during offshore pipe-laying on fine-grained soils

Published: Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 2013, 50(1): 15-27, 10.1139/cgj-2012-0185

22 Oct 2012
Z.J. Westgate, D.J. White and M.F. Randolph

Subsea pipelines are becoming an increasingly significant element of offshore hydrocarbon developments as exploration moves into deep-water environments further from shore. During the lay process, pipelines are subject to small amplitude vertical and horizontal oscillations, driven by the sea state and lay vessel motions. Centrifuge model tests have been used to simulate these small-amplitude lay effects, with varying degrees of idealization relative to the real lay process. In the soft soils found in deep water, pipe embedment can exceed a diameter or more, thus significantly affecting the lateral pipe-soil interaction, axial resistance, and thermal insulation. In this paper, results from centrifuge model tests are used to calibrate a model for calculating the dynamic embedment of a subsea pipeline. The model uses elements of plasticity theory to capture the effects of combined vertical and horizontal loading, and incorporates the softening of the surrounding soil as it is remoulded due to the pipeline motions. Influences from the lay rate, lay geometry, and sea state are included in the calculation process. The model is compared with observed as-laid pipeline embedment data from field surveys at three different offshore sites. Using site-specific soil parameters obtained from in situ testing and idealized pipe loads and motions to represent the load and displacement patterns during offshore pipe-laying, respectively, the model is shown to capture well the final as-laid embedment measured in the field surveys. 


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