A newly developed Tri-Helically Grooved drilling riser buoyancy module design was tested in the towing tank of SINTEF Ocean in June 2017. This new design aims to reduce riser drag loading and suppress vortex-induced vibrations (VIV). Objectives of the test program were two-fold: to assess the hydrodynamic performance of the design allowing for validation of previous computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies through empirical measurements, and, to develop a hydrodynamic force coefficient database to be used in numerical simulations to evaluate drilling riser deformation due to drag loading and fatigue lives when subjected to VIV.

This paper provides the parameters of the testing program and a discussion of the results from the various testing configurations assessed.

Tests were performed using large scale, rigid cylinder test models at Reynolds numbers in the super-critical flow regime, defined as starting at a Reynolds number of Re = 3.5 × 105 – 5.0 × 105 (depending on various literatures) and continuing until Re = 3 × 106. Towing tests, with fixed and freely oscillating test models, were completed with both a bare test cylinder and a test cylinder with the Tri-Helical Groove design. Additional forced motion tests were performed on the helically grooved model to calculate lift and added mass coefficients at various amplitudes and frequencies of oscillation for the generation of a hydrodynamic force coefficient database for VIV prediction software.

Significant differences were observed in the hydrodynamic performance of the bare and helically grooved test models considering both in-line (IL) drag and cross-flow (CF) cylinder excitation and oscillation amplitude. For the helically grooved model, measured static drag shows a strong independence from Reynolds number and elimination of the drag crisis region with an average drag coefficient of 0.63.

Effective elimination of VIV and subsequent drag amplification was observed at relatively higher reduced velocities, where the bare test model shows a significant dynamic response. A small level of expected response for the helically grooved model was seen across the lower range of reduced velocities. However, disruption of vortex correlation still occurs in this range and non-sinusoidal and highly amplitude-modulated responses were observed.

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