Pipe clamping mattresses (PCMs) are a relatively new system for providing anchoring force to pipelines, to mitigate offshore flowline ‘walking’. They represent a cost-effective and highly efficient alternative to anchor piles, rock dump and conventional concrete mattresses. The system comprises a hinged concrete structure that clamps onto a section of laid pipeline, with concrete ballast logs securing the clamping action – with the benefit that 100% of the submerged weight of the PCM contributes to axial friction. PCMs have been applied successfully to one deepwater project, but performance data showing the influence of soil type, and allowing a general design framework to be established, has not yet been available.
This paper addresses this gap by investigating the performance of PCMs through three series of centrifuge tests, supported by three Operators. Each series comprises tests on a different reconstituted deepwater soil as follows: (a) West African clay; (b) Gulf of Mexico clay; and (c) carbonate silty sand. In each test, a scaled pipeline is installed in-flight and cycled axially to represent its prior operating life. Scaled PCM models and ballast units are then installed onto the pipe in-flight, mimicking the use of PCMs to mitigate pipeline walking during operation. After installation of the PCMs, further axial cycles are applied, with the system settlement and changes in axial resistance and excess pore pressure measured.
The paper shows the performance and applicability of PCMs for a range of soil types, highlighting variations in axial resistance and settlement. The suite of results will help to calibrate design tools for industry, removing unnecessary conservatism and enabling an optimised pipeline anchoring solution to be designed.
Key results are equivalent friction factors for the combined pipe-PCM system and PCM settlement, which both show behaviour dependent on soil type. In the clay soils, friction increases significantly over time due to ‘consolidation hardening’. This provides validation of an important effect that has only recently been recognised in pipeline design. In contrast, hardening behavior is not evident in silty sand – although the study suggests there is potential for increasing resistance associated with settlement, which appears to mobilize additional (wedging) stress around the pipeline. Upon PCM installation, the pipelines embed further due to the added weight. Additional settlement occurs during cycling of the system, due to immediate soil deformation and consolidation-related compression. The magnitude of embedment is greater for the clay soils, but in all cases does not cause the clamping action to release.
Overall, the efficiency of the PCM system in providing a high level of anchoring force per unit weight placed on the seabed is confirmed. Long term anchoring forces in the range 50-100% of the submerged weight of the PCM are demonstrated. This is several times more efficient than the commonly used alternative of a rock berm.