A fracture mechanics framework for optimising design and inspection of offshore wind turbine support structures against fatigue failure

Amirafshari, Peyman; Brennan, Feargal; Kolios, Athanasios

Offshore wind turbine (OWT) support structures need to be designed against fatigue failure under cyclic aerodynamic and wave loading. The fatigue failure can be accelerated in a corrosive sea environment. Traditionally, a stress–life approach called the S–N (stress–number of cycles) curve method has been used for the design of structures against fatigue failure. There are a number of limitations in the S–N approach related to welded structures which can be addressed by the fracture mechanics approach. In this paper the limitations of the S–N approach related to OWT support structure are addressed and a fatigue design framework based on fracture mechanics is developed. The application of the framework to a monopile OWT support structure is demonstrated and optimisation of in-service inspection of the structure is studied. It was found that both the design of the weld joint and non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques can be optimised to reduce in-service inspection frequency. Furthermore, probabilistic fracture mechanics as a form of risk-based design is outlined and its application to the monopile support structure is studied. The probabilistic model showed a better capability to account for NDT reliability over a range of possible crack sizes as well as to provide a risk associated with the chosen inspection time which can be used in inspection cost–benefit analysis. There are a number of areas for future research, including a better estimate of fatigue stress with a time-history analysis, the application of the framework to other types of support structures such as jackets and tripods, and integration of risk-based optimisation with a cost–benefit analysis.

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Amirafshari, Peyman / Brennan, Feargal / Kolios, Athanasios: A fracture mechanics framework for optimising design and inspection of offshore wind turbine support structures against fatigue failure. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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