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Numerical Prediction of Wave Loads on Subsea Structures in the Splash Zone

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Tim Bunnik Bas Buchner


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Proceedings of The Fourteenth (2004) International Offshore and Polar Engineering Conference
Toulon, France, May 23−28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 by The International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers
ISBN 1-880653-62-1 (Set); ISSN 1098-6189 (Set)

Numerical Prediction of Wave Loads on Subsea Structures in the Splash Zone

Tim Bunnik and Bas Buchner


Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN)
Wageningen, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT passage through the splash zone, or the added mass and damping when
the subsea structure is submerged or close to the seabed. In order to
Existing simulation methods are not able to determine in detail the determine these loads, model tests are necessary. Otherwise only
wave loads on a complex sub-sea structure when it is passing through simplified formulations or empirical relations for added mass and
the splash zone. To determine these loads, model tests are necessary. damping can be used.
Otherwise only simplified formulations or empirical relations for added
mass and damping can be used. The improved Volume Of Fluid
(iVOF) method presented in this paper is a potential candidate for the
better numerical prediction of the behaviour of a sub-sea structure in
the splash zone. The simulated flow around and through the structure
looks very realistic and shows a strong resemblance with observations
from model tests. The quantitative comparison of the vertical load on
the sub-sea structure shows that the total load levels are well predicted.
This good initial comparison shows the potential of the iVOF method
for the simulation of the behaviour of sub-sea structures in the splash
zone. However, significant further development and validation is
needed before a fully coupled simulation of a sub-sea structure and its
lifting vessel in waves can be carried out. This possibility is also
affected by the long simulation times required at the moment. As an
intermediate step the method might be used to determine the wave
loads and added mass in an uncoupled simulation.

INTRODUCTION

For the development of deep and ultra deep fields, the safe and Fig. 1: Examples of different complex subsea structures in the splash
economical installation of subsea equipment is of vital importance. The zone
practically continuous swells West of Africa result in significant
motions of the installation vessels, in other areas the possible wind seas The present paper presents a new methodology, which was initially
can induce significant wave loads on the subsea structure when it is developed for the simulation of sloshing in tanks and green water
lowered through the splash zone. loading on the deck of ships (Buchner, 2002). This improved Volume
Of Fluid (iVOF) method is able to simulate the non-linear wave loads
These subsea structures have a large variety of shapes and their shape is on structures in the wave zone, including the flow in and out of the
typically very complex (see Figure 1). Consequently, the prediction of structure. The present paper is part of a research project that has the
the motions and loads during the installation is not an easy task. The objective to come to a fully coupled lift simulation: the time domain
state-of-the-art approach for the evaluation of such operations is based simulation of the moving lifting vessel with its lifting gear on one side
on time domain simulations of the combined installation vessel and and the subsea structure in the splash zone on the other side. To achieve
subsea structure. However, with the existing simulation methods it is this objective, first the loads of the waves on the subsea structure have
impossible to determine in detail the wave loads either during the to be studied in detail.

284
The present paper focuses on this aspect. The results of model tests will condition on the free boundary. In the VOF method a VOF function F
be used for validation. In the next phase of the project the resulting (with values between 0 and 1) is used, indicating which part of the cell
motions of the subsea structure and the coupling with the behaviour of is filled with fluid. The VOF method reconstructs the free surface in
the lifting vessel will be studied. each computational cell. This makes it suitable for the prediction of all
The paper first summarises the iVOF method included in the phases of the local free surface problem.
ComFLOW program. Then results of simulations with a typical subsea First the mathematical and numerical model will be summarised. This
structure in the splash zone are presented. A comparison is made with will be limited to the main aspects, because the detailed numerical
results of dedicated model tests with the same structure. The aspects are outside the scope of the present paper. Excellent overviews
comparison gives good insight in the special capabilities of the method. of the numerical details of the method can be found in the references.
To distinguish between the original VOF method of Hirt and Nichols,
THE IVOF METHOD 1981 and the present extended method, the name improved-VOF
(iVOF) method will be used in the rest of this paper.
ComFLOW is a Navier-Stokes solver, based on a (improved) Volume
Of Fluid (VOF) method. The program has been developed initially by Mathematical model
the University of Groningen/RuG (Prof.dr. Arthur Veldman) to study
the sloshing of liquid fuel in satellites. This micro-gravity environment The incompressible Navier-Stokes equations describe the motions of a
requires a very accurate and robust description of the free surface. fluid in general terms. They are based on conservation of mass
Coupled dynamics between the sloshing fluid and the satellite were (Expression 1) and momentum (Expressions 2 through 4).
investigated as well (Gerrits, Loots, Fekken and Veldman., 1999 and
Gerrits, 2001). In close co-operation with MARIN, this methodology
was later extended to the calculation of green water loading on a fixed ∂u ∂v ∂w
bow deck (Fekken, Veldman and Buchner 1999, and see Figure 2). + + =0 (1)
∂x ∂y ∂z
Also anti-roll tanks, including the coupling with ship motions (Daalen,
Kleefsman, Gerrits and Luth and Veldman 2000), were investigated.
Furthermore, the entry of a wedge in a fluid was studied as part of the ∂u ∂u ∂u ∂u 1 ∂p  ∂ 2u ∂ 2u ∂ 2u 
RuG-MARIN co-operation (Buchner, Bunnik, Fekken and Veldman +u +v +w =− + ν + +  + Fx (2)
∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ρ ∂x  2 ∂y 2 ∂z 2 
2001), as well as the wave impact loads on fixed structures (see Figure  ∂x 
3).
∂v ∂v ∂v ∂v 1 ∂p  ∂2v ∂2v ∂2v 
+u +v + w = − + ν + +  + Fy (3)
∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ρ ∂y  ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ∂z 2 
 

∂w ∂w ∂w ∂w 1 ∂p  ∂2 w ∂2 w ∂2 w 
+u +v +w =− + ν + +  + Fz
∂t ∂x ∂y ∂z ρ ∂z  ∂x 2 ∂y 2 ∂z 2 
 
(4)
ur
F =(Fx, Fy, Fz) is an external body force, such as gravity.

with:
Figure 2: Example of earlier application of the method: green water on p = pressure
the deck of an FPSO t = time
u = velocity in x-direction
v = velocity in y-direction
w = velocity in z-direction
x = x-position
y = y-position
z = z-position
v = kinematic viscosity
ρ = fluid density

The Navier-Stokes equations can also be written in a shorter notation


as:
r
∇⋅u = 0 (5)

Figure 3: Example of earlier application of the method: wave in deck r r


∂u 1
loading on a fixed platform + ∇p = R (6)
∂t ρ
The VOF algorithm as developed by Hirt and Nichols (see Hirt and ur
Nichols, 1981) is used as a basis for the fluid advection. The method R now contains all convective, diffusive and body forces.
solves the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations with a free-surface

285
Numerical model: geometry and free surface description F(low)-cells : All cells with Fb ≥ 0
B(oundary)-cells : All cells adjacent to a F-cell
For the discretisation of a computational domain in numerical
(e)X(ternal)-cells : All remaining cells
simulations a large number of different methods are available.
Basically, they can be divided into:
The free-surface cell labelling is a subdivision of the F-cells. The
• Structured and unstructured grids.
subdivision consists of 3 subclasses:
• Boundary fitted and non-boundary fitted grids.
E(mpty) cells : All cells with Fs = 0
In the iVOF method a structured (Cartesian) non-boundary fitted grid S(urface) cells : All cells adjacent to an E-cell
(not necessarily equidistant) is chosen. This has the following F'(luid)-cells : All remaining F-cells
advantages related to the use of the method for the prediction of wave
loading: Figure 5 shows an example of geometry cell labelling and free-surface
• Easy generation of the grid around complex structures. cell labelling for a wedge entering a fluid.
• A lot of research on surface tracking on orthogonal grids has been
carried out.
• Moving objects in the fluid can be dealt with in a similar way as
fixed boundaries, without re-gridding.

The main disadvantage of this discretisation method is the fact that the
boundary and free surface are generally not aligned with the gridlines.
This requires special attention in the solution method, as will be shown
below.

An indicator function is used in the form of volume and edge apertures


to track the amount of flow in a cell and through a cell face:
• Volume aperture: the geometry aperture Fb indicates which
fraction of a cell is allowed to contain fluid ( 0 ≤ Fb ≤ 1 ). For Figure 5: Geometry cell labelling (left) and free-surface cell labelling
bodies moving through the fluid, the geometry aperture may vary (right) for a wedge entering a fluid
in time. The time-dependent fluid aperture Fs indicates which
fraction of a cell is actually occupied by fluid and satisfies the The discretisation of the Navier-Stokes equations is done on a
relation 0 ≤ Fs ≤ Fb . staggered grid, which means that the pressure will be set in the cell
centres and the velocity components in the middle of the cell faces
• Edge aperture: the edge apertures Ax, Ay, and Az define the
between two cells. This is shown in 2D in Figure 6.
fraction of a cell surface through which fluid may flow in the x, y
and z direction respectively. Obviously, these apertures are
between zero and one.

Figure 4 shows a two-dimensional example with Fb = 0.8 and Fs = 0.3. p


Ax =
y 0.2 v
Fb -F s= 0.5
p u p u p
Fs = 0.3
v

Ay= 0.5 x p
Figure 4: Two-dimensional example of a grid cell using apertures

After the apertures have been assigned to the grid cells and the cell
edges, every cell is given a label to distinguish between boundary, air
and fluid. Two classes of labelling exist: Geometry cell labels and fluid Figure 6: Location of the pressure and velocity components in the
cell labels. The geometry labelling at each time step divides the cells staggered grid
into three classes:

286
The Navier-Stokes equations are discretised in time according to the In the detailed work of Gerrits, 2001 other aspects of the numerical
explicit first order Forward Euler method as follows: method are described in detail, such as:
• Discretisation of Rcn
∇.u n + 1 = 0
r • Discretisation near the free-surface
(7)
• In- and outflow discretisation
• Pressure Poisson equation
un + 1 − un
r r ur n • Free surface reconstruction and displacement
+ ∇p n + 1 = R (8) • Use of the Courant-Friedrichs-Levy (CFL) number
∆t
• Calculation of forces
∆t is the time step and n+1 and n denote the new and old time level.
Summarising, the following functionalities are presently available in
The conservation of mass in Expression (7) and the pressure in
ComFLOW (see references):
Expression (8) are treated on the new time level n+1 to assure that the
r - Calculation of the fluid motion by solving the incompressible
new u is divergence-free (no loss of fluid). Navier-Stokes equations.
- One type of fluid flow is considered, with a void where no fluid is
The spatial discretisation will now be explained using the present.
computational cell shown in Figure 7. - Possibility to model an arbitrary number of fixed objects in the
fluid. The objects are defined piecewise linearly.
- Options to use no-slip or free-slip boundary conditions at the solid
boundaries. At the free surface continuity of tangential and normal
stresses (including capillary effects) is prescribed. Inflow and
N outflow boundary conditions for fluid velocities and/or pressures
can be defined.
- The fluid simulations are carried out on a Cartesian grid with user-
NW NE defined stretching. The Cartesian grid is fixed in the domain.
When the domain is moving a virtual body force is added to the
forcing term in the Navier-Stokes equations. The fluid motions are
hy thus solved in a domain-fixed co-ordinate system.
W w C e E - To distinguish between the different characters of grid cells, the
cells are labelled. The Navier-Stokes equations are discretised and
solved in cells that contain fluid. The free-surface displacement is
SW SE described by the Volume Of Fluid method with a local height
function. This local height function is the main difference between
the original VOF method and the iVOF method and reduces
S flotsam and jetsam (small droplets disconnecting from the free
surface)
hx - The generation of waves, which has been accomplished by
specifying fluid velocities at the inflow boundary of the fluid
Figure 7: Spatial discretisation cell, using compass indication for cell domain. The fluid velocities are obtained from potential flow.
phases Linear waves (Airy waves) and fifth-order waves (Stokes waves)
have been implemented. The linear waves have been stretched
Expression (7) is applied in the centres of the cells and a central towards the actual position of the free surface using Wheeler
discretisation is used. In the cell with centre w the discretised equation stretching.
becomes: - Several absorbing boundary conditions at the outflow boundaries.
- The possibility to use the velocity field from a (de-coupled) linear
diffraction theory. Linear diffraction theory is used to compute
body motions and fluid velocities which are then used in
uCn +1 − uW
n +1
v n +1 − vSW
n +1
+ NW =0 (9) ComFLOW to prescribe the body motions and fluid velocities on
hx hy the inflow and outflow boundaries.
- An off-line coupling with a structural-analysis code has been
established to compute the response of a structure to high peak
The momentum Expression (8) is applied in the centres of the cell loads.
faces, thus the discretisation in point C becomes:
SIMULATION AND MODEL TEST RESULTS

The iVOF method has now been applied to the problem of a subsea
uCn +1 − uCn pen +1 − pwn +1 structure in the splash zone.
+ = RCn (10)
∆t hx
Specific model tests were carried out to validate the simulations. Figure
8 shows the model of the subsea structure in the model basin. It was
build at scale 1:40 and its main dimensions are given in Figure 9 and
Table 1. Two series of tests were carried out:

287
A. Tests with the subsea structure captive in a force and moment
frame to determine the wave exciting loads in 6 degrees of
freedom.
B. Tests with the subsea structure free-hanging in slings.

For the present paper only the results for Series A with the captive
model are used. Series B will be used in a later phase to check the fully
coupled motion of the subsea structure in waves.

Table 1: Main dimensions and weight distribution of the subsea


structure (1:40 scale)

M 266 t
KG 4.96 m
Kxx 2.68 m
Kyy 4.96 m
Kzz 4.80 m

Figure 10: Subsea structure in captive force measurement set-up

Figure 8: Model of a subsea structure in the model basin

Figure 11: Subsea structure in captive force measurement set-up at the


two extreme positions tested: just above the free surface and just fully
submerged

Figure 12 shows several examples of the complex flow in and around


the subsea structure in waves observed during the tests. This flow is
characterised by aspects such as:
• Added mass and damping effects of the water under, above and in
the subsea structure
• Buoyancy effects in the waves
• Impact loads against horizontal plates in the subsea structure
• Flow through openings in the top and bottom of the subsea
structure
Figure 9: Main dimensions of the subsea structure model (dimensions • Complex flow through the equipment of the subsea structure
in m full-scale, scale model 1:40) • Water captured temporarily in certain parts of the subsea structure

Figure 10 shows the captive force measurement set-up in the basin and In the free-hanging situation during the lift, this can result in unwanted
Figure 11 presents the two extreme positions tested: the subsea oscillations, slack lines and larger vertical loads in the slings than
structure just above the free surface and just fully submerged. In expected.
addition to these positions, also an intermediate draft was tested.

288
Figure 13: Numerical model of subsea structure

Figure 14: The subsea structure in different phases during the


simulation in waves

Figure 15 shows the simulated horizontal force on the subsea structure


for the 3 different submergence levels. In the simulations only one
Figure 12: several examples of complex flow in and around the subsea wave oscillation was calculated. This was done because the calculation
structure in waves is extremely time consuming: 65 hours on a 2.4 MHz PC for a
simulation of 1 wave period!
The numerical model of the subsea structure above the approaching
wave is shown in Figure 13. This model was built with basic shapes A quantitative comparison of the vertical load on the subsea structure is
such as beams, boxes and cylinders. The dominant components in the given in Figure 16. The simulated load is given in blue and measured
subsea structure were all modelled. The computational domain load is given in red.
contained a total number of 170 * 100 * 100 (= 1700000) cells.
The comparison between the simulation and model test is reasonably
Figure 14 shows a number of snapshots of the flow around the subsea good. The total load levels are reasonably predicted. However, the
structure in different phases during a simulation in waves. The flow simulation shows load peaks that are not present in the model tests and
around and through the structure looks very realistic and shows a strong lacks some of the oscillations that are observed in the tests. These
resemblance with the observation from the model tests. differences need further investigation.

289
CONCLUSIONS

The iVOF method presented in the present paper is a potential


candidate for the better numerical prediction of the behaviour of a
subsea structure in the splash zone. Based on the initial comparison
between dedicated model tests and simulations the following
conclusions seem justified:
- The simulated flow around and through the structure looks very
realistic and shows a strong resemblance with observations from
model tests.
- The quantitative comparison of the vertical load on the subsea
structure shows that the total load levels are well predicted.
- However, the simulation shows load peaks that are not present in
the model tests and misses some of the oscillations that are
observed in the tests. These differences need further investigation.

This good initial comparison shows the potential of the iVOF method
for the simulation of the behaviour of sub-sea structures in the splash
zone. However, significant further development and validation is
needed before a fully coupled simulation of the sub-sea structure and its
lifting vessel in waves can be carried out. This possibility is also
affected by the long simulation times required at the moment. As an
Figure 15: Simulated horizontal force on the subsea structure for the 3 intermediate step the method might be used to determine the wave
different submergence levels loads and added mass in an uncoupled simulation.

REFERENCES

Buchner, B., Bunnik, T.H.J., Fekken, G. and Veldman, A.E.P.; “A


Numerical Study on Wave Run Up on an FPSO Bow”,
OMAE2001, Rio de Janeiro, 2001.
Buchner, B.; “Green Water on Ship-type Offshore Structures”, PhD
thesis Delft University of Technology, 2002.
Daalen, E.F.G. van, Kleefsman, K.M.T., Gerrits, J., Luth, H.R. and
Veldman, A.E.P.; “Anti Roll Tank Simulations with a Volume Of
Fluid (VOF) based Navier-Stokes Solver”, 23rd Symposium on
Naval Hydrodynamics, Val de Reuil, September 2000.
Fekken, G., Veldman, A.E.P. and Buchner, B.; “Simulation of Green
Water Flow Using the Navier-Stokes Equations”, Seventh
International Conference on Numerical Ship Hydromechanics,
Nantes, 1999.
Gerrits, J., Loots, G.E., Fekken, G. and Veldman, A.E.P.; “Liquid
Sloshing on Earth and in Space”, In: Moving Boundaries V (Sarler,
B., Brebbia, C.A. and Power, H. Eds.) WIT Press, Southampton, pp
111-120, 1999.
Gerrits, J.; “Dynamics of Liquid-Filled Spacecraft”, Numerical
Simulation of Coupled Solid-Liquid Dynamics, PhD thesis, RuG,
Figure 16: Simulated (blue) and measured (red) vertical force on the 2001.
subsea structure Hirt, C.W. and Nichols, B.D.; “Volume Of Fluid (VOF) Method for the
Dynamics of Free Boundaries”, Journal of Computational Physics,
39, pp 201-225, 1981.
Kleefsman, K.M.T., Fekken, G., Veldman, A.E.P., Bunnik, T.,
Buchner, B. and Iwanowski, B.; “Prediction of green water and
wave impact loading using a Navier-Stokes Based Simulation
Tool”, OMAE conference, Oslo, 2002.

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