Buckling of suction caissons during installation

Rodney Pinna

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Suction caissons are a foundation system for offshore structures which offer a number of advantages over traditional piled foundations. In particular, due to the method of installation used, they are well suited for deep-water applications. The suction caisson consists of an open ended cylindrical shell, which is installed below the seabed in a sequence which consists of two loading phases. The caisson is first installed part way under self weight, with the installation being completed by lowering the pressure within the cylinder and thus allowing the ambient water pressure to force the caisson into the ground. This thesis examines a number of structural issues which result from the form of the caisson — essentially a thin walled cylinder — and the interaction of the caisson with the surrounding soil during installation. To do this, variational analysis and nonlinear finite element analysis are employed to examine the buckling and collapse behaviour of these cylinders. In particular, two issues are considered; the influence of the open end, and the interaction between the cylinder and soil on the buckling and collapse loads. First, the behaviour of open ended cylinders is considered, where the boundary condition at the open end is allowed to vary continuously from completely free to pinned, by the use of a variable lateral spring. This lateral spring restraint may be considered to represent the intermediate restraint provided by a ring stiffener which is not fully effective. The effect of various combinations of boundary conditions is accounted for by the use of a multiplier on the lower bound to the buckling load of a cylinder with classical supports. The variable spring at the open end may also be considered to be an initial, simple representation of the effect of soil restraint on the buckling load. More complex representations of the soil restraint are also considered. A nondimensional factor is proposed to account for the influence of this spring on the buckling load. One combination of boundary conditions, where the upper end of the caisson is pinned, and the lower end free (referred to as a PF boundary condition), is found to have buckling and collapse behaviour which is unusual for cylindrical shells. Buckling loads for such shells are much lower than would be found for cylinders with more typical boundary conditions, and of similar dimensions. More unusually however, PF cylinders are shown to have positive postbuckling strength. The behaviour is found to be a result of the large flexibility which results from the low restraint provided by the PF boundary conditions. This is shown by continuously decreasing the flexibility of the cylinder, by increasing the axial restraint at the pinned end. It is shown that this results in a large increase in buckling load, and a return to more usual levels of imperfection sensitivity. In particular, with an intermediate level of axial restraint, buckling loads and imperfection sensitivity are intermediate between those of PF shells with no, and with full, axial restraint. Overall however, collapse loads for PF cylinders with no additional restraint are well below those of cylinders with stiffer boundary conditions, for equal geometries. Eigenvalue buckling of cylinders fully and partially embedded in an elastic material are examined, and two analytical solutions are proposed. One of these is an extension of a method previously proposed by Seide (1962), for core filled cylinders, to pin ended cylinders which have support from both a core and a surrounding material. The second method represents the elastic support as a two parameter foundation. While more approximate than the first method, this method allows for the examination of a wider range of boundary conditions, and of partial embedment. It is found that the buckling load of the shell/soil system decreases as the embedment ratio decreases. Collapse of fully and partially embedded cylinders is also examined, using
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2003


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