Investigation of potential spudcan punch-through failure on sand overlying clay soils

Kok Kuen Lee

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    When a jack-up foundation is installed on seabeds consisting of a sand layer overlying soft clay, potential for 'punch-through' failure exists. This happens due to an abrupt reduction in bearing resistance when the foundation punches a block of sand into the underlying soft clay in an uncontrolled manner. This can lead to a sudden large penetration that can cause temporary decommissioning and even toppling of the unit. This research has addressed this problem with the aim of developing a practical design method for the jack-up industry to assess potential punch-through hazards. This objective has been achieved with the successful development of a new conceptual model for predicting the peak penetration resistance and a consistent method for constructing a complete resistance profile of spudcan foundations penetrating through sand into the underlying clay. The analytical basis of the new conceptual model follows the approach for silo analysis, and takes into account the stress level and dilatant response of sand. It is therefore a significant improvement over the punching shear and load spread models recommended in the current industry guidelines SNAME (2002), which do not consider the strength properties of the sand. To provide relevant experimental data for the new model, an extensive series of 30 continuous penetration tests were performed using the UWA drum centrifuge. These experimental results were retrospectively simulated using finite element (FE) analysis, in order to back-calculate the stress-level dependent friction and dilation angles in the sand during peak penetration resistance. The back-analysis showed that larger values of peak resistance gave lower friction and dilation angles, which is consistent with gradual suppression of dilatancy under high confining stress. When compared to published results from visualisation experiments, the FE analysis showed a similar failure mechanism during peak resistance, where a frustum of sand was forced into the underlying clay, with the outer angle reflecting the dilation in the sand. This has formed the basis of the new conceptual model. The performance of the new model in predicting the experimental peak resistance was compared with other existing analytical methods. Additional experimental results, including those already in the literature, were incorporated in the comparative study. It was found that the new conceptual model generally gave a good prediction of the experimental values, while the prediction from SNAME (2002) was conservative, with the predicted values being about half the experimental results on average. It was also shown that the new model could be modified to predict the post-peak penetration resistance in the sand layer. Finally, an analytical method for predicting the resistance profiles in the underlying clay was devised based on new bearing capacity factors developed through FE analysis. By joining the values of peak resistance, post-peak resistance and the resistance profile in the underlying clay, a complete simplified penetration resistance profile for spudcan foundations in sand overlying clay can be generated. The predicted profiles were shown to match the experimental results well.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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