Experimental Modeling and Laboratory Measurements of Drag Embedment Anchors Subjected to In-Plane and Out-Of-Plane Loading



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Extreme hurricane events of the past decade are responsible for several drag embedment anchor (DEA) mooring failures of mobile offshore drilling platforms stationed within the Gulf of Mexico. A proposed failure mechanism is caused by out-of-plane loading. The current status of DEA holding capacity is based on empirical design charts and does not include the effects of out-of-plane loading. Experimental modeling using a 1:10 scale generic DEA was performed at the Haynes Coastal Engineering Laboratory at Texas A & M University to examine the effects of out-of-plane load conditions. Instrumentation and specialized devices were constructed to measure the anchor's trajectory through a representative sample of Gulf of Mexico clay with average un-drained shear strength of 0.764 kPa (16 psf). The sediment basin allowed for drag distances of 4.87 m (16 ft) and an embedment depth of 1.37 m (4.5 ft).

The measurements included pitch and roll of the anchor and line tension measured at the shank pad-eye. The variables modeled were fluke angle settings of 22?, 36? and 50?. The initial towline angle was varied from a minimum of 5? to upwards of 20?. Surface out-of-plane angles of 45? and 90? and embedment loading of 15?, 30? and 45? were examined. Curves of the ultimate holding capacity with respect to the out-of-plane towline angle and ultimate embedment depth were developed as functions of out-of-plane loading angles. Analysis of the rate effect indicates that a 46 percent increase in towing velocity causes an average 3 percent increase of holding capacity. The 50? fluke angle embeds an average of 0.7 fluke lengths deeper and has a holding capacity of 0.73 units greater than the 36? setting. The surface out-of-plane tests have a 5.1 percent reduction in holding capacity as the out-of-plane load angle increases from 45? to 90?. For all one fluke length initial towing distance tests, the ultimate holding capacity increases and the ultimate embedment depth decreases as the out-of-plane towing angle increases from 15? to 45?. The three fluke length initial towing distance tests indicate a contrasting trend, in that as the out-of-plane tow angle increases, both the ultimate holding capacity and ultimate embedment depth decrease.