Variable amplitude corrosion fatigue and fracture mechanics of weldable high strength jack-up steels
The tubular welded joints used in the construction of Offshore structures can experience millions of variable amplitude wave induced stress cycles during their operational life. Fatigue has been identified as the main cause of degradation of structural integrity in these structures. As a result, fatigue is an important consideration in their design. Jack-up legs are made from a range of high strength steels with yield strengths up to 70OMPa. These steels are thought to exhibit fatigue resistance properties which are different when compared with conventional fixed platform steels such as BS 4360 50D and BS 7191 355D. The difference in their behaviour was heightened by the discovery, in the late 80s and early 90s, of extensive cracking around the spud can regions of several Jack-ups operating in the North Sea. It was thought that these steels may be more susceptible to hydrogen cracking and embrittlement. There was the additional requirement to study their behaviour under realistic loading conditions typical of the North Sea environment. This thesis contains results of an investigation undertaken to assess the performance of a typical high strength weldable Jack-up steel under realistic loading and environmental conditions. Details of the methodology employed to develop a typical Jack-up Offshore Standard load History (JOSH) are presented. The factors which influence fatigue resistance of structural steels used in the construction of Jack-up structures are highlighted. The methods used to model the relevant factors for inclusion in JOSH are presented with particular emphasis on loading and structural response interaction. Results and details of experimental variable amplitude corrosion fatigue (VACF) tests conducted using JOSH are reported and discussed with respect to crack growth mechanisms in high strength weldable Jack-up steels. Different fracture mechanics models for VACF crack growth prediction are compared and an improved generalised methodology for fast assessment of Offshore structural welded joints is proposed.