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Fatigue design of offshore wind turbines and support structures

Author: Company: Address: Tel. No. : Fax No.: E-mail:

Mr. Jan Behrendt Ibs, General Manager, M.Sc., Ph.D. Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Denmark A/S Tuborg Parkvej 8, DK-2900 Hellerup, Denmark + 45 39 45 48 38 + 45 39 45 48 01 jan.ibsoe@dnv.com

Contents: 0. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Introduction Deterministic Fatigue Analyses Calculation of Stress Concentration Factors (SCFs) by closed form and FE Local Joint Flexibility Influence from mean stresses on fatigue life, welded and not welded plate structures Validity of the Palmgren-Miner Rule Conclusions

0. Introduction The design of offshore wind turbines and their support structures requires mastering of multiple technical disciplines, e.g. combined wave-wind load calculations, offshore technology and calculation of the structural dynamics of the integrated system consisting of wind turbine, support structure (tower and foundation structure) and soil. In order for offshore wind turbines and their support structures to be economically feasible, optimisation of the design needs to be carried out. Fatigue is often governing for the structural design of offshore wind turbines and their support structures due to their flexible structural performance and exposure to highly dynamic loads from wind and waves combined with the corrosive environment at sea. Design of offshore wind turbine support structures hence requires application of state-of-the-art fatigue rules and calculation methods. 1. Deterministic Fatigue Analyses The procedures used today for offshore fatigue inspection planning are closely related to the procedure adopted for deterministic fatigue analysis. Hence, the fatigue inspection planning are today based on deterministic fatigue analysis and not spectral analysis. Fatigue calibration studies performed for the platforms in the Danish part of the North Sea have shown that it is possible to predict the fatigue loading with a very low scatter using the deterministic approach.

Wave Load The analysis is to be based on discrete wave statistics as given for the particular area in question. Normally, the waves are given in one-meter wave height intervals from 8 compass directions. For waves between 0 and 1 m, intervals of 0.2 m should be applied to the sensitivity to the fatigue loading in this interval. The wave theory to be applied for the calculation of wave kinematics very much dependent on the water depth at the actual location. In shallow waters, i.e. for water depths less than approximately 15 m, higher order stream function theory is to be applied. For deeper water, i.e. for water depths larger than approximately 30 m, Stokes 5th order wave theory is to be applied.

For tubular members the following hydrodynamic coefficients apply for water depths larger than approximately 20 meters: Nominal diameter less than or equal to 2.2 m: CD = 0.8 and CM = 1.6 Nominal diameter larger that 2.2 m: CD = 0.7 and CM = 2.0 If a standoff type of anodes protects the support structure equally distributed over the structure, the hydrodynamic coefficients are to be increased by 7 % between MSL and seabed.

Each of the fatigue waves is stepped through the structure over one wave period. The corresponding stress range in the structure is to be calculated based on at least 8 equidistant points over each wave period. Marine growth is to be taken into account by increasing the outer diameter in the wave load calculations. The following marine growth profile generally applies in the North Sea, see Figure 1.1: Distance below MSL
0-10m 10-20m 20-25m 25-35m 35m to bottom

Design profile
50 mm 45 mm 65 mm 90 mm 80 mm

Figure 1.1

Marine growth profile.

Dynamic amplification shall be taken into account.

If the natural period is less than or equal to 2.5 seconds, a dynamic amplification factor (DAF) may be included on the wave load using a single degree of freedom DAF as:


2 2

Damping ratio (relative to critical damping) = Relevant natural period/fatigue wave period

If the natural period of the integrated design of wind turbine, support structure and foundation is above 2.5 seconds, a direct time domain shall be carried out to determine the relevant dynamic amplification factors. The structural damping ratio for tripod type support structures can generally be chosen as 1 % relative to the critical damping. The vibration modes relevant for determination of DAFs are typically the global sway modes, which can be excited by wave loading. Corrosion Allowance Steel structure components in the splash zone shall be protected by corrosion protection systems, which are suitable for resisting the aggressive environment in this zone. Recognised design practice involves the application of corrosion allowance as main system for corrosion protection in the splash zone, i.e. the wall thickness is increased due to corrosion. The particular corrosion allowance for a given location shall be assessed in each particular case. However, as guidance for calculation of corrosion allowance it can generally be assumed that the rate of corrosion in the splash zone is in the range of 0.3 0.5 mm/per year, ref. /1/. It should be noted that, in general, the rate of corrosion will increase proportional with the age of the structure. It is recommended to combine the protection system based on corrosion allowance with surface treatment, e.g. with glass fibre reinforced epoxy paint. It is a normal practice not to take into consideration that the surface treatment reduces the rate of corrosion, however the beneficial effect on the fatigue life (i.e. in selection of the relevant SN-curve) is to be taken into account. Corrosion allowance is to be taken into account by decreasing the nominal wall thickness in the fatigue calculations. A corrosion allowance of 6 mm should be applied on all primary steel in the splash zone for fatigue analyses. For secondary structures, a corrosion allowance of 2 mm in the splash zone can be applied. In a zone around the seabed it is recommended to combine the cathodic protection with a corrosion allowance of 3 mm on e.g. piles, and to calculate with a fatigue life endurance reduced by a factor of 2, which takes into account that a optimal cathodic protection is not obtainable in this area due to the an-aerobic environment in this zone.

2. Calculation of Stress Concentration Factors (SCFs) by closed form and FE SCFs using Parametric Equations SCF for Tubular Joints Calculations of stress concentration factors (SCF) for simple planar tubular joints can be carried out applying the equations given in the below Figure 2.1:
Joint Type T&Y DT & X K & KT Equation Efthymiou Efthymiou Lloyd's
4-40 4-40 4 0.2-1.0 0.2-1.0 0.13-1.0

Validity Range*3
8-32 8-32 10-35 0.2-1.0 0.2-1.0 0.25-1.0 30 -90 30 -90 30 -90 NA NA 0-1

Reference /8/ /8/ /9/

Figure 2.1 Parametric equations for SCF in tubular joints.

A minimum SCF equal to 1.5 should be adopted if no other documentation is available. For fatigue life calculations, the equations given in above Table are consistent together with the T SN curve in Ref. /2/: log N log a m log t tref


In Air: log a = 12.164, m = 3 for N = 107 log a = 15.606, m = 5 for N > 107


In Water with adequate Cathodic protection: log a = 11.764, m = 3 for N = 106 log a = 15.606, m = 5 for N > 106

where N m log a tref t k = = = = = = Fatigue life in numbers of load/stress cycles Stress trange in MPa negative inverse slope of the S N curve intercept of log N axis For tubular joints the reference thickness is 32 mm. thickness through which a crack will most likely grow. t = tref is used for thickness less than tref 0.25 for tubular joints

Regarding fatigue life improvement by e.g. weld toe grinding for tubular joints and weld profile grinding for tubular girth welds and the influence on the SN-curve, reference is made to /1/ and /2/. For classification of simple tubular joints reference is made to /2/, Annex C, Appendix 2. If multi-planar effects are not negligible, the following solutions are possible: Detailed FE Analyses of the multi-planar joint A complex multi-planar joint may be assessed based taking the largest possible SCF for each brace considering the connection to be a Y, X or K joint. If conical stubs are used, the stress concentration may be determined using the cone cross section at the point where the cone centre line crosses the outer surface of the chord. For gapped joints with conical stubs, the true gaps shall be applied. SCF for Tubular to Tubular Girth Welds In tubular to tubular girth welds, geometrical stress increases are caused by local bending moments in the tube wall. The bending moments are created by centreline misalignment (due to tapering and fabrication tolerances) and differences in hoop stiffness of tubules of different thickness. The geometrical stress increase is not included in the SN curves applicable for girth welds and should thus be included in the stress range. The numerical largest geometrical SCF (hotspot stress) may be estimated using one of the equations in the below Figure 2.2.

Equation ID


T: Member thickness T1 T2 e: Wall midline offset between tube 1 and tube 2

Degree of Conservatism


3e T1


6e T1

1 1 T2 T1


Figure 2.2

SCF equations for girth welds.

Fabrication tolerances on the local wall centreline misalignment (high/low) are to be included in the determination of the SCF. If the location and size of the fabrication tolerances are unknown (not measured), the tolerances are to be applied in the direction giving the highest SCF. Generally, the max fabrication tolerances as given in the below Figure 2.3 can be applied.

Single Sided Full Penetration Welds

Double Sided Full Penetration Welds



e fab

min of

3mm 0.2T1

e fab

min of

6mm 0.2T1



Figure 2.3

Fabrication tolerances for tubular to tubular girth welds. T1 is the smallest wall thickness of the adjoining tubes

SCFs using Finite Element Analysis The finite element method is ideally suited for estimation of stress concentrations in complex geometry. General-purpose FE programs are available which allow large and complex analyses to be performed. However, care should be taken that reliable analyses are performed. Stress Extrapolation SN curves for welded details are developed from fatigue tests of representative steel specimen. At the weld root/toe positions a stress singularity is present. i.e. stresses approach infinity. At the same time it is impossible during testing to measure the strain directly at the weld root/toe location, as strain gauges can not fitted directly at the root/toe location due to the presence of the weld. Hence, the notch stress at the singularity has no meaning as stress reference, as it can not be measured and as it approaches infinity (see below Figure 2.4 for typical stress distribution in welded details).

Stress distribution along surface normal to weld

Notch stress Geometric stress Nominal stress

Stress Distributions through the thickness of the plate/tube wall

Notch Stress Zone Geometric stress zone Nominal Stress Zone

Section A-A

Section B-B

Section C-C

Figure 2.4 Definition of stresses in welded structures. The three lower drawings show the distributions of stress through the thickness of the tube/plate wall in the different stress regions

To overcome this problem and have a unique detail dependent stress reference for welded details, which is compatible with standard stress sampling, i.e. strain gauges, the so-called hotspot stress is used as reference for the SN-curves covering welded details. The hot spot stress is an imaginary reference stress. It is established by extrapolation of stresses form outside the notch zone and into the singularity at the weld root/toe. During testing (e.g. for establishing the SN-curve) strain gauges are located in the same extrapolation points and the hot spot stress is established by processing the measures. For tubular joints the hot spot stress is found by linear extrapolation as defined in the below Figure 2.5.

Stress extrapolation in brace parallel to brace axis

Brace: RB = brace radius TB = brace thickness

Stress Extrapolation Points in Brace

0.65 RB TB 0 .2 R B T B
SCF Stress

Geometric stress zones: Brace side Chord side

Stress Extrapolation Points in Chord




Chord: RC = chord radius TC = chord thickness

Stress extrapolation in chord perpendicular to weld

Figure 2.5

Definition of the geometric stress zone in tubular joints. The hotspot stress is calculated by a linear extrapolation of the stress in the geometric stress zone to the weld toe

The SN curves for single sided and double-sided full penetration welds in plates and tubules are also based on the hotspot stress methodology. As no curvature is present in plate structures, the tubular joint definition of the hot spot stress, see above Figure, cannot be applied for plate structures. For plate structures the definition given in Ref. /2/ or /4/ can be applied, see below Figure 2.6.


0 .2 R B T B

Normal to Weld Stress

1.0T (1.5T)

0.4T (0.5T)

Stress singularity at weld root


Stress singularity at weld toe


0.4T (1.5T)

Normal to Weld Stress

1.0T (1.5T)

. Figure 2.6 Stress extrapolation locations for plate structures and girth welds. Distances are measured from the notch (typically weld toe or weld root). 0.4T/1.0T are recommended in Ref. /4/ and 0.5T/1.5T are recommended by Ref. /2/. Stress extrapolation always from the plate with the smallest thickness

The definition of the geometric stress zone given in the above Figure 2.6 is applicable for plates as well as for girth welds in tubular sections. When using the FE method for determination of the hot spot stress, the stress extrapolation philosophy as outlined above is generally to be followed, i.e. the notch stress shall be excluded by use of extrapolation and SCF directly based on the extrapolated geometric stress. Welded details Location of Weld Singularity For a complete 3D FE model completely representing the 3D shape of the actual detail inclusive weld profiles etc, hotspot stresses can be obtained directly using the relevant stress extrapolation points given in the above Figures. For simplified models, such as e.g. shell models of thin plate structures without weld modelling, some modifications to stress extrapolation need to be

introduced. The definition of the hotspot (weld toe or root singularity) location in relation to stress extrapolation for different modelling detail/approach is given in the below Figure 2.7.

Solid elements with weld profile modelled

Solid elements without weld profile

Shell elements (no weld profile included)

Extrapolation to: Weld toe

Extrapolation to: Intersection of surfaces

Extrapolation to: Midline intersection







Solid element model with weld profile

Solid element model without weld profile

Shell element model (no weld modelled)

Figure 2.7 Location of weld singularity for hot spot stress extrapolation dependent upon element types used in tubular joint FE models. The green arrows give the primary positions. The yellow arrow pointing at the imaginary surface intersection in shell models defines an alternative location, which may be adopted for shell models if it can be justified. The location of the red arrows may not be used for extrapolation. Based on the definition of weld singularity location, see the above Figure, and the extent of the geometric stress zone, the relevant locations/elements in the model for extrapolation can be selected. It should be noted, that for FE models which do not include a detailed model of the weld, the extrapolation point distances is measured from the Hotspot Stress Location as given by the green arrows in the above Figure, i.e. not from the location of the imaginary weld toe (red arrows in the above Figure). The extrapolation shall be based on the surface stress, i.e. not the midline stress for shell models. The most correct stress is the normal to weld stress. The surface stress is to be based on averaged nodal stresses.

3. Local Joint Flexibility The main reason why the stiffness of the joints is interesting is that normally the design of offshore structures is based in an analysis assuming rigid beam connections at the joints, which is not in accordance with the actual design. Joint flexibility will change the static and dynamic behaviour of the structure, and thus also the fatigue life.

Traditionally, a node to node beam modelling is adopted for analysis of space frame jacket structures. The beam elements are rigidly connected in the centre line intersections. The sectional forces used to derive the stress range are collected at the intersection points (nodes). This procedure generally yields conservative results for fatigue analyses as the sectional moments in the brace ends are predicted too high. Inclusion of the local joint flex modelling at the nodes, see Figure 3.1 reduces the moments in the member ends. Furthermore, a local flex model allows that sectional forces are retrieved at the correct location (at the surface footprint of the brace to chord connection). Implementation of local joint flexibility in the model will give a more correct force flow in the structure. Inclusion of LJF in the global frame model will change the force flow in the structure (lower bending moments in joints, higher member normal forces). Therefore, it is generally not acceptable to include LJF springs in joint only. Springs shall also be included in joints influencing the force distribution to the joint being analysed; i.e. isolated or separate parts of the structure may include LJF.

Beam element

Stiff offset element

Rotational and/or axial LJF spring

Figure. 3.1 Traditional node to node modelling in jacket space frame structures (left) and refined node modelling with local joint flexibility (right) Note that the LJF spring nodes are to be coincident. The nodes are only separated in the figure for illustrative purposes. Parametric equations for LJF The Buitrago parametric equations given in ref. /3/ can generally be applied. Preferable joint classification should be dependent upon force flow (for joints with more than one brace in each plane). This will generally need an iterative procedure to be applied. However, a simple joint classification may be acceptable, i.e. all joints are considered as T/Y joints when determining LJF.

LJF in Multi-Planar Joints The parametric equations are primarily based on planar joints and do in principle not cover

multi-planar joints. However, from FE studies carried through it is concluded that out-of-plane braces have a negligible influence on the local joint flexibility for the bending moment loading, and generally some effect for axial loading. As it is the rotational flexibility, which influences the fatigue life, it is thus concluded that the planar joint LJFs may be applied for multi-planar joints as well. This conclusion is based on non-stiffened and non-overlapping joints within a traditionally braced jacket structure.

Implementation of LJF in Global Finite Element Model Based on the above, the following should be implemented in the global support structure finite element model regarding Local Joint Flexibility: 1. Automatic implementation of Local Joint Flexibility in all joints according to Buitrago parametric formula 2. Automatic calculation of sectional forces at the surface footprint of the brace to chord connection 3. Classification of joints (T/Y/X/XT joints) dependent on load path (i.e. not from geometry) 4. Influence from mean stresses on fatigue life, welded and not welded plate structures For structural details where the magnitude of the welding residual stresses and stress concentration are relatively small, such as plate stiffener details in a wind turbine tower, some reduction in the fatigue damage can credited when parts of stress range are in compression. It should be emphasised that the below formulas do not apply to tubular joints due the presence of high concentration factors and high, long range welding residual stresses (which are not easily relaxed due to loading) in tubular joints.

Non-welded structures details For fatigue analysis of regions in base material not significantly affected by residual stresses due to welding, the stress range may be reduced dependent whether mean cycling stress is tension or compression. This is due to the fact that fatigue cracks will close at least partly and at the crack tip under compression and also under tension loading, if the mean stress (including possible residual stresses) is relatively low. This reduction may e.g. be carried out for cut-outs in the base material. Mean stress means the static notch stress including stress concentration factors. The calculated stress range obtained may be multiplied by the reduction factor fm as obtained from the below Figure 4.1 before entering the SN-curve.

Figure 4.1 Stress range reduction factor that may be used with SN-curves for base material..

Welded structural details Residual stresses due to welding and construction are reduced over time as the structure is subjected to loading. If a hot spot region is subjected to a tension force implying local yielding at the considered region, the effective stress range for fatigue analysis can be reduced due to the mean stress effect also for regions affected by residual stresses from welding. Mean stress means the static notch stress including stress concentration factors. The following reduction factor on the derived stress range may be applied, see below figure 4.2.

fm = reduction factor due to mean stress effects = 1.0 for tension over the whole stress cycle = 0.85 for mean stress equal to zero = 0.7 for compression over the whole stress cycle

Figure 4.2 Stress range reduction factor that may be used with SN-curves for welded structural details (plate structures)..

5. Validity of the Palmgren-Miner Rule The development of fatigue damage under variable amplitude loading or random loading is in general termed cumulative damage. Several theories for calculating cumulative damage from SN-data may be found in the literature. The far most popular method to assess cumulative damage is to use the so-called Palmgren-Miner or Miners rule, Refs. [5] and [6]. The Palmgren-Miner Rule and the equivalent constant amplitude stress range approach can be shown to conform with fracture mechanics analysis using the Paris-Erdogan crack growth equation and neglecting the stress interaction or load sequence effects. In spite of the fact, that the Palmgren-Miner summation does not take account of stress interaction or load sequence effects, it is often being used for calculating damage in design. Comparisons with test results have shown that the Palmgren-Miner rule is no worse than other damage accumulation rules, and it is very simple to use. As the Palmgren Miner rule do not account for stress interaction effects (e.g. crack growth retardation following tensile loads and crack growth acceleration following compressive underload) , however it may in many application be biased, see e.g. Ref. [7], leading to large uncertainties in the fatigue strength calculations. Analytical results [7] also clearly show that conclusions about the damaging effect of a given load spectrum may change as conditions of geometry, loading (type and level), welding residual stresses (distribution and level) and material properties change. The conclusion is that the

Palmgren-Miner or Miners Rule can be applied for variable amplitude loading as for offshore wind turbines and their support structures and that when using this rule is within acceptable accuracy. 6. Conclusions The present paper focuses on presenting state-of-art methods, recommendations, standards and rules for design of wind turbine support structures with respect to fatigue based on recent theoretical and experimental research and development results. During the past approximately 10 years significant theoretical and experimental research and development has been carried through in order to establish a more rational basis for calculation of fatigue behaviour under variable (spectrum) loading and in corrosive environments. Significant results form this research and development program are now available which allows for more precise calculation of fatigue problems, e.g. in order to take into account the influence from mean stresses (influence from crack closure). These results have also been applied as basis for testing the validity of the widely used Palmgren-Miner or Miners damage accumulation rule. The present papers summaries the above and makes references to state-of-the art standards and rules for the design of offshore wind turbine structures.

Ref. /1/: DNV Rules for Classification of Fixed Offshore Installations, 2000 Ref. /2/: NORSOK Standard N-004 Design of Steel Structures, Rev. 1, Dec. 1998 Ref. /3/: "Local Joint Flexibility of Tubular Joints", OMAE Article 1993 by J. Buitrago, B. Healy and T. Chang Ref. /4/: IIW94 Recommendations on Fatigue of Welded Components, International Institute of Welding, IIW document XIII-1539-94/XV-845-94 by A. Hobbacher Ref. /5/: Palmgren, A., Die Lebensdauer von Kugellagern, Zeitschrift des Vereines Deutscher Ingenieure, Vol. 68, No. 14, 1924. Ref. /6/: Miner, M.A:, Cumulative Damage in Fatigue, Journal of Applied Mechanics Trans., ASME, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 154-164, 1945. Ref. /7/: J.B. Ibs, An Analytical Model for Fatigue Life Prediction Based on Fracture Mechanics and Crack Closure, Journal of Constructional Steel Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 229-261.

Ref. /8/:

M. Efthymiou, Development of SCF Formulae and Generalised Influence Functions for Use in Fatigue Analysis, Proceedings of Offshore Tubular Joint Conference, Surrey, UK October 1988. Ref. /9/: P. Smedley and P. Fischer, Stress Contration Factors for Simple Tubular Joints, ISOPE 1991