Numerical study of geotechnical penetration problems for offshore applications

Hongjie Zhou

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    [Truncated abstract] The research carried out in this thesis has concentrated on the application of numerical solutions to geotechnical penetration problems in offshore engineering. Several important issues closely relevant to deep-water oil and gas developments were investigated, covering installation of suction caisson foundations, interpretation of fullflow penetrometers and shallow penetration of a cylindrical object (submarine pipeline or T-bar), all in clayey sediments such as are often encountered in deep-water sites. These problems are commonly characterised by large vertical movements of structural elements relative to the seabed. A large deformation finite element method was adopted and further developed to simulate these challenging problems, referred to as Remeshing and Interpolation Technique with Small Strain. In this approach, a sequence of small strain Lagrangian increments, remeshing and interpolation of stresses and material properties are repeated until the required displacement has been reached. This technique is able to model relative motion between the penetrating objects and the soil, which is critical for evaluating soil heave inside the caissons, the effect of penetration-induced remoulding on the resistance of full-flow penetrometers, and influence of soil surface heave on the embedment of pipelines. '...' Simple expressions were presented allowing the resistance factors for the T-bar and ball penetrometers to be expressed as a function of the rate and strain-softening parameters. By considering average strength conditions during penetration and extraction of these full-flow penetrometers, an approximate expression was derived that allowed estimation of the hypothetical resistance factor with no strain-softening, and hence an initial estimate of the stain-rate dependency of the soil. Further simulations of cyclic penetration tests showed that a cyclic range of three diameters of the penetrometers was sufficient to avoid overlap of the failure mechanism at the extremes and mid-point of the cyclic range. The ball had higher resistance factors compared with the T-bar, but with similar cyclic resistance degradation curves, which could be fitted accurately by simple expressions consistent with the strain-softening soil model adopted. Based on the curve fitting, more accurate equations were proposed to deduce the resistance factor with no strain-softening, compared with that suggested previously based on the resistances measured in the first cycle of penetration and extraction. The strain-rate dependency was similar in intact or post-cyclic soil for a given rate parameter. The resistance factor for the post-cyclic condition was higher than that for the initial conditions, to some degree depending upon soil sensitivity and brittleness parameter. For the shallow penetration of a cylindrical object, the penetration resistance profile observed from centrifuge model tests was very well captured by the numerical simulation. The mechanism of shear band shedding was reproduced by the numerical technique, although the frequency of the shear band generation and the exact shape of the heave profile were not correctly captured, which were limited by the simple strainsoftening soil model adopted.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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