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# Offshore Technology White Paper

## The Effects of Spudcan Insertion on Adjacent Piles

In offshore shallow water operations, utilizing jack-up rigs, the spudcan insertion in the subsea floor creates large deformations in the soils. This can induce unacceptably large deformations and stresses in existing nearby piles or subsea completions. Traditionally, solutions to spudcan insertion problems have been computationally challenging and cost prohibitive. Using the NEi Nastran Explicit finite element computer program, engineers can arrive at a solution within 30 minutes on a single processor. This white paper discusses the methods used to quickly and economically arrive at that solution.
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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Introduction
In shallow water operations, a jack-up rig is often used to drill for oil and, in many cases, used to work over an existing site, either to service the existing well or to drill additional wells. The subsea soils generally consist of many layers of different soil strata where the uppermost soil layers are extremely weak. The jack-up rig typically deploys large spread footings called spudcans which, for large jack-up rigs, can have diameters of up to 90 ft. During the jack-up, the spudcans create extremely large deformations and flow in the soil. Of great interest are the stresses and deformations that are induced in any adjacent piles or risers when the spudcans are inserted or extracted from the subsea floor. Figure 1 illustrates a schematic of the geometry of the jack-up rig as it is positioned over the seabed adjacent to an existing pile and after the spudcan has been inserted into the seabed. This paper discusses the creation of a computational model for the analysis of the spudcan insertion and demonstrates the economical solution of the problem using the NEi Nastran Explicit finite element computer program. The solutions presented here are obtained in less than half an hour on a single processor of a Windows PC.

## (a) Jack-up rig positioned over seabed adjacent to existing pile.

b) Jack-up rig after spudcan insertion showing large deformation of the sea bed due to spudcan insertion. Figure 1. Schematic of spudcan insertion near existing pile.

## Computational Features and Challenges of this Analysis

Solutions to the spudcan insertion problem are computationally challenging. The threedimensional nature of the problem naturally introduces extremely large finite element models. The combination of large model size, large deformations, and the contact-dominated nature of the solution makes it is extremely difficult to obtain solutions from a traditional implicit Lagrangian finite element solver. In particular, the tendency of elements to become distorted to the point they have a negative Jacobian (negative volume) stops most implicit solutions in their tracks. Solutions have been obtained to the spudcan insertion problem using Eulerian finite element codes where the mesh is fixed (does not deform) and the material convects through the mesh. However, the computational cost of the Eulerian solutions can be prohibitive.

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

We have used the NEi Nastran Explicit finite element program to model the spudcan insertion because the explicit dynamics method is extremely robust when computing large deformations due to its unique uniform gradient element formulations. This is a challenging problem and it requires some clever approaches to setting up the contact definitions to obtain the solution. We hope that we show that, with some fairly straightforward techniques, a problem such as this can be solved easily. We will describe the techniques we employed in building the model to address the following issues: Extremely large deformations of the soil near the spudcan. A large number of soil layers with very weak layers at the top. Contact between the spudcan and the weak soil layers. Contact between soil and pile. Imposition of a complex set of boundary conditions on a rigid body (the spudcan). Efficient modeling of the spudcan as a rigid body and the pile with shell elements. Far-field boundary conditions modeled as a nonreflecting boundary.

Model Description
Figure 2 shows a generic quarter symmetry model for the insertion of a 90 ft diameter spudcan adjacent to an existing 30 inch pile (steel pipe). The pile is offset 80 ft from the edge of the spudcan. The pipe is modeled using shell elements and has steel material properties and with a 1 inch wall thickness. There are 17 soil layers represented in the model. Layer 1 is at the top and layer 17 is at the bottom of the model.

Figure 2. The finite element model was built using FEMAP and consists of the 17 layers of soil, the spudcan, and the pipe. www.NENastran.com/Explicit

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Table 1 contains the layer thicknesses and nominal material properties assigned to each soil layer. Note that the first few layers are extremely weak with the first (top-most) layer having a yield stress of only 35 psi. The soil properties used for this example are an attempt to reasonably approximate real-life soil conditions but are simply made-up for this example. The finite element model was built using Number Element Material FEMAP and consists of the 17 layers of soil, Type Model the spudcan, and the pipe. There are a total of Soil 84476 CHEXA Mises 86620 elements in the model and 94910 grid points. Figure 3 shows the mesh refinement Spudcan 1360 CHEXA Rigid that we used in the model. Note that we have Pipe 784 CQUAD4 Elastic created a spudcan model that has gently rounded corners. This is a concession to finding an economical solution to the problem. If we were to introduce sharp outside corners on the spudcan, the contact tracking problem becomes more difficult. We could overcome these difficulties through mesh refinement and judicious time step control, but these approaches would make the analysis more computationally expensive and defeat our effort to achieve a simple, economical solution to the problem. Remember we really are not interested in the details of the state of stress immediately around the corners of the spudcan. We are interested in the gross motions of the soil mass and its effect on the adjacent pile. Layer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Thickness (ft) 3.00 3.58 13.83 12.17 18.00 2.75 9.25 2.42 10.50 13.50 30.00 111.00 12.00 9.00 25.00 3.17 41.83 Density Youngs Modulus lb s2/ in4 (psi) 3.8E-4 350 7.6E-4 1000 7.6E-4 1000 7.6E-4 1000 7.6E-4 1200 8.0E-4 1500 8.0E-4 2000 8.0E-4 2000 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 5.0E-4 2500 8.0E-4 2500 Yield Stress (psi) 35 100 170 205 240 325 410 450 999 488 500 620 995 999 500 1000 999

## Table 1. Thickness and material properties for the 17 soil layers.

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Figure 3. Close-up of the finite element model mesh. Appropriate symmetry boundary conditions are applied to the two symmetry planes shown in Figure 2. The spudcan insertion is performed for a total downward motion of the spudcan of 30 ft and the stresses and deformations in the pipe that are induced by the soil motion are computed. We are using a dynamics code to simulate what is essentially a quasi-static problem. Hence, we must specify an appropriate time scale such that the inertia effects in the problem are negligible. A typical jack-up operation would take hours to complete. Obviously we cannot simulate an event that takes hours because it would mean taking millions of explicit time steps. We experimented with the time duration and finally settled on a 10 sec duration for modeling the insertion. This choice gives us a kinetic energy that is an order of magnitude smaller than the internal energy an essentially quasi-static solution.

## Defining Displacement Boundary Conditions on a Rigid Body

When we make a part rigid in NEi Nastran Explicit using the MATR1 option, we automatically create an internal rigid body reference node at the center of gravity of the part. This internal node holds the 6 degrees of freedom that define the rigid body motion of the part (3 displacements and 3 rotations).

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Once a part is made rigid, any boundary conditions that may have been specified on the individual nodes of the part are no longer applied. In the model used, nodes on the spudcan that are on the symmetry planes had boundary conditions specified. NEi Nastran Explicit issues warning messages saying these boundary conditions have been ignored. We must specify boundary conditions on the rigid body reference node that was created by the MATR1 specification. This is easily accomplished using the SPCR and SPCRD options provided by NEi Nastran Explicit. Why cant we simply use the usual SPC and SPCD options found in NEi Nastran? We do not know a grid ID for these rigid body reference nodes; these reference nodes are created internally. The SPCR and SPCRD commands behave exactly the same as the SPC and SPCD options, respectively, except that we use the part ID instead of the grid ID to identify the degrees of freedom we are constraining. In our spudcan insertion model we used the SPCR command to define zero displacement boundary conditions on the spudcan (part ID 18) in the X and Y displacement directions and zero rotation boundary conditions on all 3 rotational degrees of freedom. We have used the SPCRD command to define a time varying displacement boundary condition in the Z coordinate direction to insert the spudcan into the soil layers.

## Defining Contact Conditions between the Soil and Pipe

A BSSEG surface (ID = 3) was defined on the surface of the soil surrounding the pipe and a BSSEG surface (ID = 2) was defined on the surface of the pipe. These surfaces were defined as a contact pair using the BSCONP command. Unfortunately for us, FEMAP defined the surface on the pipe so that it was oriented to the inside of the pipe instead of being oriented outwards towards the surrounding soil. Therefore we had to reorient the surface using the BSORIENT command. Also, when we generated the model in FEMAP, we did not offset the pipe from the soil by the half thickness of the pipe. Therefore we used the BSTHICK command to specify that the pipe thickness should not be included in the contact tracking. The complete set of commands to define this contact condition is: BSORIENT,2,TRUE BSTHICK,2,NONE BSCONP,102,3,2, , , , 1,1. The value of TRUE specified on the BSORIENT command says reverse the orientation. The value of NONE on the BSTHICK command says there is no thickness for the surface. The BSCONP command places the surfaces with IDs 3 and 2 in a contact surface pair with an ID of 102. The integer value of 1 in the 8th field says that it is pure master/slave contact with surface ID 3 as the slave. The final value of 1.0 in the 9th field on the BSCONP command sets the maximum activation distance (MAXAD) to a value of 1.0 instead of the default of 0.5. This value is used to determine if a penetrating slave node is too far into the master surface to really be a contact node. Since our soils are so very soft, it is possible that the penetration that occurs under the penalty contact algorithm might be larger than the default allows so we increased this value slightly. The only real effect this will have is to introduce a larger set of candidate slave nodes that must be examined for each master face and perhaps increase the computational expense of the contact algorithm slightly. www.NENastran.com/Explicit

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Defining Contact Conditions between the Soil and Spudcan
The most challenging aspect of the spudcan insertion is modeling the contact conditions between the rigid spudcan and the highly deformable soil layers. This is particularly difficult because of the extremely weak top layers of the soil. Some clever choices must be made to overcome this obstacle. A BSSEG surface (ID = 1) was defined on the outside surface of the rigid spudcan which is used as the master surface in the contact surface pair. NEi Nastran Explicit contains very sophisticated eroding surface contact algorithms and a first approach might be to define material and element deletion criteria on the soil such that we simply remove elements and let the contact surfaces rebuild during the deformation process. However, this approach simply does not work. If you set the deletion criteria too weak, you loose the first few layers of soil which are essential to propagating pressure into the soil medium. If you set the deletion criteria to relatively high values, the elements simply cut across the corner of the spudcan and you get very poor resolution of the deformations in the soil (more about this below). We choose to use the node set contact option (BSNSET) in NEi Nastran Explicit to manipulate the model in a way that allows us to achieve a reasonable solution the spudcan insertion. Figure 4 shows a node set that we defined on the cloud of nodes in the soil strata going down to 7 layers of the soil and extending out approximately 1.5 times the radius of the spudcan. We

Figure 4. Node set used to define the contact between the spudcan and the soil.

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

simply guessed that the spudcan would at most come into contact with these nodes. If fact we only really needed to go down 3 layers deep with this node set but we simply erred on the conservative side when generating the model in FEMAP. The complete set of contact options used to define the contact conditions between the soil and spudcan are: BSNSET,101,GRID BSCONP,101,101,1,.,.,,1,1. The BSNSET command says find the node set with set ID 101 and make it a cloud of slave contact nodes. The GRID specification says that you are using a node set. Other options on the BSNSET command allow you to define the cloud of nodes from an element set (ELEM) or from an entire part in the model (PART). The BSCONP command defines the contact surface pair with ID 101 and places the BSNSET ID 101 in contact with the master BSSEG surface ID 1. The value of 1 in the 8th field specifies pure master/slave contact. The final value of 1.0 in the 9th field on the BSCONP command sets the maximum activation distance (MAXAD) to a value of 1.0 instead of the default of 0.5. This value is used to determine if a penetrating slave node is too far into the master surface to really be a contact node. Since our soils are so very soft, it is possible that the penetration that occurs under the penalty contact algorithm might be larger than the default allows so we increased this value slightly. The only real effect this will have is to introduce a larger set of candidate slave nodes that must be examined for each master face and perhaps increase the computational expense of the contact algorithm slightly. In Figure 5 we can see the effect that our choice of using node set contact has on our solution.

Figure 5. Close-up images of contact conditions between the soil and the spudcan as deformation progresses. www.NENastran.com/Explicit

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

After a downward displacement of 9 ft, we see in the upper left image that the first layer of soil is in contact with the spudcan. Close examination shows that there is one element of layer 1 that is stretched across the rounded corner of the spudcan and that the second layer of grid points which are embedded in the layer are actually in contact with the spudcan as well. Note that none of the slave nodes in the node set are actually penetrating the master surface the contact condition we specified is properly enforced. Examination of the images for displacements of 15 ft, 24 ft and 30 ft show that we continue to rigorously enforce the contact condition specified by the node set contact. Yes, some small volume of the soil is actually encroaching on the volume of the rigid spudcan but this error is negligible, and remember we are not interested in the detailed state of stress in the soil immediately in the vicinity of the spudcan. Figure 6 shows the same set of images as Figure 5 with the spudcan drawn translucent so that you can see the shape of the soil layers. Note how distorted layers 1, 2, and 3 become as they almost pinch-out under the deformations at the corner of the spudcan. We originally thought we could just place a single contact pair between the top of the soil and the rigid spudcan and let element deletion rebuild the surfaces. However, we found that there was no element deletion, and we would simply stretch out the element on the surface of the soil until it spanned completely across the corner of the spudcan. In this case all the other layers below it would pass through the spudcan but no contact forces would be generated by those penetrations. By using the node set contact, we pick up all these intermediate slave nodes inside the soil as they attempt to penetrate the spudcan and generate a better approximation of the spudcan insertion.

Figure 6. Close-up images of contact conditions between the soil and the spudcan as deformation progresses (spudcan shown translucent for detail). www.NENastran.com/Explicit

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

Element and Material Deletion Criteria
We expected extremely large deformations in the spudcan insertion and anticipated that elements in the first two layers would become so distorted that they would have a negative Jacobian (volume). We decided to define element and material deletion criteria on these two layers so that the solution could proceed if elements became too distorted. We defined the following deletion criteria on the parts with IDs 1 and 2: DELETION,1,NEGVOLUME, ,50 DELETION,1,EQPS,1.75,50 DELETION,1,PRINSTRAIN, 1.75,50 DELETION,2,NEGVOLUME, ,50 DELETION,2,EQPS,1.75,50 DELETION,2,PRINSTRAIN, 1.75,50 The NEGVOLUME specification says delete the element if it becomes inverted and has a negative Jacobian (volume). There is no value specified in the 3rd field for this choice. The 50 in the 4th field says ramp the element forces and stresses down to zero of 50 time steps once it is deleted. The default value is 20 time steps, but since we are trying to model an essentially quasi-static process, we chose to increase this value slightly. The EQPS specification says delete the element if the equivalent plastic strain value exceeds the 1.75 value specified in the 3rd field. Likewise the PRINSTRAIN specification says delete the element if the maximum principal strain value exceeds the 1.75 value specified in the 3rd field. All DELETION options must specify the same value for the number of time steps to ramp down the forces. Hence, all of them have a value of 50. In hindsight we find that none of the deletion criteria was ever exceeded and no elements were deleted during the analysis.

## Specifying a Non-Reflecting Boundary Condition

Because we are using an explicit code for this problem, the outer boundary of the soil would normally reflect any waves impinging upon the outer boundary. These reflected waves would produce incorrect results around the pile and spudcan for our problem. For our problem, the outer boundary should be a non-reflecting surface. NEi Nastran Explicit provides an option for specifying that a surface is non-reflecting using the NREFLECT command. This command uses exactly the same syntax as the BSSEG command to define a surface for contact. Hence, in FEMAP, you can simply generate a BSSEG surface and then edit the resulting .nas file and replace BSSEG with NREFLECT in the first line of the data. When a surface is identified as non-reflecting any stress waves that impinge on the surface are simply absorbed and do not reflect back into the mesh. Therefore a compression wave that impinges on the surface does not reflect back as a tensile wave. The wave simply passes through the surface as if the infinite medium was modeled.

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## Offshore Technology White Paper

In our model of the spudcan insertion we have defined a single non-reflecting surface that spans the entire cylindrical outer surface of our quarter symmetry model as well as the entire bottom flat surface of the last soil layer.

Discussion of Results
The total solution time for this analysis is less than 30 minutes on a single processor of a Windows PC. Figure 7 shows contours of Mises stress in the soil after the 30 ft spudcan insertion. Figure 8 shows contours of pressure in the soil at the same point in time. You can clearly see the effect of the different layers on the solution. Figure 9 shows the deformed shape and maximum principle stress contours induced into the pipe after the 30 ft spudcan insertion. Note the displacements are magnified by a factor of 10. The maximum stress value in the pipe is 38600 psi. This simple scoping calculation shows the straightforward nature of solving these types of spudcan insertion problems. Clearly, a much more detailed and fine mesh would provide more accurate solutions. The computational effort required of a finer mesh would certainly be higher. If you were to refine the mesh in all dimensions by a factor of 2, you would have 8 times more elements and the run-time would increase by a factor of 16 resulting in a solution time on a single processor of approximately 8 hours.

## Figure 7. Contours of Mises Stress in soil after 30 ft spudcan insertion. www.NENastran.com/Explicit

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## Figure 8. Contours of Pressure in soil after 30 ft spudcan insertion.

Figure 9. Deformations and principal stress contours on deformed pipe after 30 ft spudcan insertion (deformations magnified by 10).

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