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OTC 7730

Bend Stiffeners for Flexible Risers

M. Lane and J.F. McNamara, MCS International, R. Gibson and A. Tyrer, CRP Marine.

Copyright 1995, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was presented at the 27th Annual OTC in Houston, Texas, U. S.A., 1-4 May i 995

Thla paper was selected for presentation by the OTC Program Committee following review of Information contained In an ebstract submitted by the author(a). Contents of the paper,
as presented, have not been reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s), The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect
any position of the Offshore Technology Conference or its offbms. Permission to copy Is restricted to an ebstract of not more than 300 words. Illustrations may not be copied. The abstract
should contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper is presented,


As the offshore hydrocarbon industry advances into deeper General Arrangement

waters and more hostile environments, the use of bend
stiffeners with flexible riser systems becomes increasingly A typical bend stiffener arrangement is shown in Fig. 2. The
essential. This paper reviews the state of the art in bend stiffener is assembled from the following components,
stiffener materials and manufacture. Customised software for
the iterative design of bend stiffeners based on an equivalent Stiffener Body
beam bending model is described and illustrated. Detailed
finite element models in two- and three-dimensions are used The stiffener body is a flexible structure configured as an
to validate the operation of this software. Excellent extended cone surmounted by a shorter cylindrical section.
correlation is reported between these detailed models and the The body has a cylindrical axial opening to accommodate the
equivalent beam design approach. flexible pipe. There is normally a nominal radial gap between
stiffener and pipe - it is not common practice for the stiffener
to be bonded to the pipe.
The stiffener body deflects when the pipe rotates relative to
The end connections of a flexible dynamic riser can be subject the end fitting. This sets up restoring forces which support
to large cyclic loadings. In order to prevent damage to the the pipe structure and limit its curvature. The body effectively
pipe structure from overbending the termination is fitted with accepts loading from the pipe and provides an alternative path
a device known as a bend stiffener. Typical applications are for transmission to the end fitting.
shown in Fig. 1.
This alternative route includes a number of ancillary
The stiffener is a conically shaped compliant component components as follows.
whose purpose is to ensure that the pipe bending radius does
not fall below a certain limiting value. Sk&YE

The sleeve is a cylindrical structure of variable diameter. Its

external surface is bonded directly to the stiffener body. The
internal surface is free to slide along the pipe end fitting with
the minimum of radial clearance.

The sleeve provides a bearing surface between the end fitting linear in this region and this must be accounted for in the
and the stiffener body to assist with the transmission of shear component analysis.
. .
l?klW2 The sleeve, flange and internal structure are either directly
bonded to or encapsulated within the stiffener body. This
The flange forms the base of the stiffener and provides a rigid group of components, known collectively as the integral
surface which bears directly against the reaction collar. structure, is normally fabricated from conventional carbon
steel. The use of high strength grades is not normally
Internal Structure required, as conventional mild steels have a significant
strength when compared to the strength of the polyurethane
To assist with the transfer of forces to the end fitting the body.
stiffener body may be fitted with an internal structure. This
will differ in geometry from case to case but it is normally The reaction collar is normally also fabricated from structural
located within the cylindrical portion of the body. carbon steel.

External connection to the internal structure is made by a set Corrosion Protecticm

of axial rods which pass through the end flange. The rods are
rigidly connected to the flange and are threaded at their The metallic components within the stiffener need to be
extremity. The presence of the threads allows direct protected against corrosion to ensure adequate performance.
connection to adjacent structures. Since the clearance between the stiffener sleeve and the end
fitting body needs to be kept as small as possible, the
Reaction Collar corrosion protection system must bc applied uniformly and
accurately. The traditional solution is the use of zinc
The reaction collar is a ring which fits closely over the end electroplating.
fitting body. It is prevented from moving axially by either
bearing on a circumferential projection or by fitting into a As the fit-up requirements for the reaction collar are less
recess in the end fitting. In the latter case the ring is split so onerous this component is coated with a multi layer epoxy
as to allow for final assembly during stiffener mounting. based paint.

The axial rods connected to the internal structure pass through However, when submerged these barrier systems must bc
the reaction collar. The fitting of nuts to these rods supplemented by a directly connected cathodic protection
effectively locks the complete assembly in place. system.

Materials Alternative Materials

Body Recent research into alternative materials has concentrated on

the metallic components because of their susceptibility to
The stiffener body must sustain cyclic deflections and loadings corrosion. Options currently under study include:
over an extended period, in some cases up to 30 years.
(a) The replacement of carbon steel with highly
The body is manufactured from a resilient material such as corrosion resistant metals.
polyurethane elastomer. Particular high performance grades
are necessary which display the following properties: (b) The use of composite materials.

(i) a low level of water absorption Research in relation to the polyurethane stiffener body has
concentrated on the performance of these materials at high
(ii) resistance to hydrolysis temperatures. This is particularly important when the riser is
carrying hot production fluids.
(iii) limited degradation due to ageing
(iv) good high temperature performance
Manufacture of dynamic bend stiffeners is a complex and
(v) ability to sustain cyclic loadings demanding task, particularly in the case of large units.
Essentially the operation involves the construction of a mould
A typical stress strain curve for such a material is illustrated tool. A central tubular is fitted within an external shell thus
in Fig. 3. The stiffener design attempts to ensure that even forming a cavity in the required component shape. The
under the application of extreme loadings the strain values are integral structure is loaded into the base of the unit sealing the
relatively low (less than 20%) . The material is highly non- lower part of the tool, as shown in Fig. 4.


Metallic surfaces which are to be bonded to the polymer body Step 3: Repeat some or all of the analyses of Step 1, with
are coated with an appropriate primer. All other surfaces the designed bend stiffener included and the end
within the tool are treated with a release agent before connection realistically modelled, to ensure the
assembly. efficacy of the stiffener design.

Before filling, the tool is heated to an appropriate temperature. The dynamic flexible pipe analyses of Steps 1 and 3 are
Polyurethane is then introduced through a fill port normally complex tasks requiring customised computer software such
located at the lowest point in the tool. The liquid rises, as is described in [1,2]. In performing the analyses of Step 3,
displacing air from the cavity through a vent port, which is the bend stiffener is usually modelled as a stepwise increase in
usually located at the highest point in the assembly. bending stiffness for those elements protected by the stiffener.
In effect the pipe and stiffener assembly is replaced by an
When the filling operation has been completed the initial cure equivalent section of increasing bending stiffness. This
of the material takes place as the polyurethane system reacts simplification ignores the intermittent contact between pipe
and solidifies. and stiffener, inclusion of which in routine analysis is not
feasible. The validity of this simplification is examined in
The fully cured component is finally demoulded and subjected the finite element analyses reported later.
to detailed inspection before despatch.
In the past the bend stiffener design of Step 2 has been based
Installation on hand calculations and engineering rules of thumb.
Increasingly customised software is used also for this task.
One of the main objectives when manufacturing a bend Software developed for this purpose named STIFFENER,
stiffener assembly is to produce a homogeneous conical body which is now installed and in regular use at a manufacturing
with no internal discontinuities. This ensures the long term utility, is now described.
performance of the unit. However this does mean that the
stiffener is usually constructed as a single piece and, since the Software Overview
body fits closely around the pipe, it must be fitted onto the
riser before end fitting mounting. STIFFENER is a bend stiffener design program implemented
on a PC running Windows [3]. The program designs a bend
The disadvantage of this is that stiffener assembly now lies on stiffener for user-specified material, loading and criteria in an
the critical path of riser manufacture. Difficulty may also be efficient iteration loop without user interference. The
encountered during handling and packing of the stiffener if it software combines a Graphical User Interface for data input
is a relatively large component. and output with a series of specialist analytical modules,
whose purpose and operation is described below.
It would be more convenient if the stiffener could be
manufactured in two halves and then simply fitted to the pipe The analytical core of the program is a finite element module
immediately prior to offshore installation of the riser. for the repeated analysis of the evolving stiffener design. This
However, the problem with this is how to successfully secure module is based on the philosophy described above, namely
the two halves together. Ultimately the presence of contact that the flexible and bend stiffener can be approximated as an
faces and a securing arrangement result in the generation of equivalent beam model. The program analyses a model
internal discontinuities which limit the. useful life of the comprising the conical section of the bend stiffener and a
system. length of flexible riser equal to three times the length of this
section of the stiffener. The model is initially vertical with
In conclusion, in order to guarantee the integrity of the the stiffener positioned over the top portion as illustrated in
stiffener in a dynamic environment the use of the single piece Fig. 5. The model is built in at the top, while a static point
moulding arrangement is currently the prudent option. load at a user-specified angle to the vertical is applied at the
riser free end as shown. This loading represents an extreme
condition obtained from the analyses of Step 1 above.
The inclusion of the flexible riser in the finite element model
The design of a stiffener for a given flexible riser and is necessary because the axial force in the riser is an important
environment typically follows these three steps: contributor to the bending stiffness of the combined
Step 1: Perform a range of dynamic analyses of the riser
without bend stiffener, to provide the extreme Design Procedure
loading cases for which the stiffener is to be
designed. The actual bend stiffener design procedure is carried out by
Step 2: Design a bend stiffener for these cases. The design four separate modules linked by a controller. These modules
parameters are the stiffener material, the stiffener are:
length, and the maximum stiffener diameter. ● preliminary sizing module


● finite element mesh generation module include the modelling of the contact between the pipe and
stiffener, the nonline~ characteristics of the polyurethane, the
● finite element analysis module multi-dimensional stress distribution in the stiffener, and the
effect of the end-fitting configuration. It was decided to
● re-sizing module analyse two- and three-dimensional finite element models of
the assembly using the ABAQUS [5] program to evaluate the
The preliminary sizing module uses formulae derived by Beef importance of these phenomena.
and Out [4] from slender beam theory to calculate initial
estimates for the maximum outer diameter and the length of These models include the bend stiffener and a length of
the bend stiffener. flexible equal to three times that of the stiffener cone. The
overall dimensions are illustrated in Fig. 6.
The mesh generator is next invoked to prepare a finite element
model of the structure using Bernoulli-Euler beam elements. The initial radial clearance between the bend stiffener and the
pipe is 5.5mm, and this is assumed constant over the total
The finite element analysis module then carries out a length of the stiffener tapered section.
nonlinear static analysis of the bend stiffener for the user-
specified loading. The finite element results are passed to the The polyurethane material is modelled as a hypoelastic
re-sizing module. material, which is readily specified in ABAQUS [5].

The re-sizing module compares the calculated minimum bend The dimensions and properties of the flexible pipe areas listed
radius (MBR) with the user-specified allowable bend radius in Table 1.
(ABR) for the flexible, and decides if a suitable design has
been achieved. If the design is adequate, control returns to the Three-Dimensional Model
GUI for results output. Otherwise the re-sizing module
refines the design and returns control to the mesh generator, in The nature of the loading on the pipe and the stiffener
preparation for an analysis of the updated design. In this way assembly requires a three-dimensional model. The model used
the design proceeds iteratively without user interference until a here comprises the stiffener body and the major components of
satisfactory design is achieved. the end assembly shown in Fig. 2. Specifically the model
includes the sleeve, flange and internal structure up to the
Example Application flange. The riser end fitting and the reaction collar are
assumed to be rigid and are not included in the model.
The operation of STIFFENER is now illustrated by means of
an example application. The input data for a bend stiffener A modelling simplification is made to the effect that the
design is presented in Table 1. In addition to stiffener and internal structure is replaced by a continuous ring of
riser properties, this lists four design load cases. These equivalent linear elastic material. This is a reasonable
include a maximum angle case (Load Case 1), a maximum assumption for modelling a mostly local effect with little
tension case (Load Case 4), and two intermediate cases. influence on the overall global response. A major advantage
is that the geometry becomes axisymmetric, and only half the
Table 2 lists the stiffener dimensions chosen by the design assembly needs to be considered since the geometry, boundary
package for each load case. In each case the design was conditions and loading are now symmetric about a diameter.
achieved in 4 iterations, and the entire procedure including data
specification took approximately 20 minutes. The stiffener is modelled using 8-noded brick elements with 3
translational degrees of freedom (DOFS) per node. A total of
The maximum stiffener length is 2.2m for Load Case 1. The 2166 elements is used; the complete stiffener mesh is shown
largest base diameter value is 573mm for Load Case 3. On in Fig. 7.
the basis of this data the bend stiffener length is chosen as
2.27m and the maximum diameter as 575mm. The results of The main role of the flexible pipe is to transfer the bending
design check runs performed for each load case with this action to the stiffener; the stress distribution in the pipe itself
stiffener are presented in Table 3 in terms of the MBR for is not an issue. For compatibility with the brick elements
each case. The reported values exceed the ABR in all cases, and to accommodate gap elements for the stiffener to pipe
thus validating the design. interface, 6-noded solid prism elements with 3 translations per
node are used for the pipe; a typical section of pipe mesh is
Further detailed finite element analyses of this stiffener for shown in Fig. 8. The use of these elements means that the
one load case (Load Case 4) are now described. pipe model is solid rather than hollow. The pipe material
properties are accordingly adjusted to ensure the correct
bending stiffness. The axial stiffness is no longer correct but
FINITE ELEMENT SOLUTIONS since the pipe is effectively inextensible, this has no effect on
the stiffener response.
The STIFFENER analysis method is very expedient but a
number of influences on the response are neglected. These


The solid elements on the inner face of the stiffener and on the important pipe bend radii by the respective solutions
outer face of the pipe are positioned such that opposing faces illustrated by Fig. 13. The radii are plotted for the length of
are equal in nodal distribution and 5.5mm apart. Special pipe from the bottom of the internal sleeve for a distance of
interface elements available in [5] are inserted between these approximately 2m. After this point the pipe becomes
faces to monitor the contact along the interface as the load is practically straight.
gradually imposed. The completed finite element mesh for the
total assembly including interfaces comprises 9825 DOFS. It is clear from Fig. 13 that the most critical MBR location is
at the termination of the bend stiffener. The minimum value
Loads and Boundary Conditions here is approximately 2.8m which exceeds the permitted
minimum of 2.6m given in Table 1.
The loading condition used is Load Case 4 from the
STIFFENER example application, corresponding to a tension The STIFFENER solution appears very smooth and well
of 133kN at 29.4°. to the vertical. The boundary conditions behaved in comparison with the two solutions which include
applied at the fixed end of the assembly are illustrated nonlinear contact and material behaviour, and this difference is
schematically in Fig. 9. All motions along the steel sleeve a measure of these nonlinearities. As expected, the best
and the protrusion of the pipe into the end-fitting are fixed as agreement is between STIFFENER and the two-dimensional
shown. solution since both are based on beam bending models.

Two-Dimensional Model The extreme fibre bending stresses on the compression side of
the stiffener conical section are given in Fig. 14 starting from
A two-dimensional beam finite element model is also the bottom of the inner sleeve. The stresses reported by the
presented where the conical section of the stiffener to the STIFFENER solution are again well behaved and appear to
bottom of the sleeve and the flexible pipe to 100mm above average out the more discontinuous three-dimensional
the sleeve are incorporated, as shown in Fig. 10. Both computations; this is to be expected when using linear brick
stiffener and pipe are modelled using two-node beam elements elements to model bending type stresses.
with two translations and one rotation as nodal DOFS [5].
The beam nodes for the stiffener and pipe elements are In order to appreciate the very great differences in
initially coincident and positioned on the centreline of the computational effort required by the three methods, typical
assembly. The stiffener model comprises 20 elements and the CPU execution times are given in Table 4. The very long
pipe model 60, giving a total of 80 beam elements. The simulation time demanded by the 10,000 DOF 3-D model is
material properties of the pipe are readily specified in terms of particularly noteworthy.
the bending and axial stiffnesses given in Table 1. The
conical bend stiffener is modelled by a series of 20 different
sections with geometric properties taken as the average of end CONCLUSION
values for each section. The hypoelastic material description,
derived from the stress-strain curve for polyurethane given in The state of the art in the construction, manufacture and
Fig. 3, is used for the stiffener. Gap elements for modelling installation of bend stiffeners has been presented. An efficient
contact between two concentric deformable tubes of different method for stiffener design based on beam bending theory has
diameters are used for monitoring the intermittent contact [5]. been outlined. The validity and accuracy of the approach
The fixed boundary condition in this case consists of presented has been demonstrated by means of comparison with
restraining all three degrees of freedom at the topmost nodes of detailed 2D and 3D finite element analyses.
both stiffener and pipe.


Sample numerical results are presented for the single load case The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Deirdre
above. Clearly, the problem is highly nonlinear Slattery, MCS, for typing the paper; Adrian Connaire, MCS,
geometrically, in addition to the material nonlinearity of the for performing the ABAQUS computations and preparing the
stiffener polyurethane, and constitutes a reasonable test for the figures; Hibbitt, Karlsson and Sorensen, Inc., for the use of
various solution techniques. the ABAQUS computer program; and MCS International for
the use of the STIFFENER program.
An appreciation of the deformations involved is given by the
comparison of the undeformed and deformed three-dimensional
finite element configurations of the assembly in Fig. 11. REFERENCES

The associated displaced shapes of the assembly centreline as 1. O’Brien, P.J. and McNamara, J. F., “Analysis of
predicted by the 3D and 2D finite element solutions, and by Flexible Riser Systems Subject to Three-
STIFFENER, are compared in Fig. 12. The plots are Dimensional Seastate Loading”, Proceeding of
indistinguishable to within plotting accuracy. Excellent the International Conference on Behaviour
agreement is also apparent for the computation of the

OTC 7730
of Offshore Structure, (BOSS ‘88), Trondheim, Table 4 Analysis CPU Times
Norway, June 1988, Vol. 3, pp.1373-1388.

2. O’Brien, P.J. and McNamara, J. F., “Significant

Characteristics of Three-Dimensional Flexible Riser
Analysis”, Engineering Structures, Vol. 11,
October 1989, pp.223-233.

3. MCS International, STIFFENER Program
Manual, 1994.

4. Beef, W.J.C. and Out, J.M.M., “Analysis of a

Flexible Riser Top Connection with Bend 4
Restrictor”, Proceedings of Offshore SENDING
Technology Conference, (OTC 1990), Houston,
Texas, May 1990.

5. Hibbitt, Karlsson and Sorensen. Inc.. ABAOUS

Program Manuals, 1990. ‘ ‘ -

Table 1 Stiffener Design Data

Stiffener prooe~ I
Young’s modulus 30 N/mm2
Internal diameter

Bending stiffness
Axial stiffness
248.5 mm

Mean external diameter 237.54 mm
Allowable bend radius (ABR) 2.6 m sTErPWAbz
lXEiL!n AXl@2 Figure 1. Flexible Dynamic Riser System
Load Case 1 39 kN 49.4”
Load Case 2 53 kN 37.3’
Load Case 3 105 kN 35.2”
Load Case 4 I 133 kN 29.&

TabIe 2 Stiffener Design Output

I 4 I 1.31 I 544.2 II

Table 3 Stiffener Design Check

Load Case I MBR, m

1 2.90
2 3.57
3 2.73
4 2.82

Figure 2. Bend
Stiffener General Arrangement






Flexible Riser

lrn ail .mo #o

Figure 3. Typical Polyurethane

Figure 5. Schematic of STIFFENER Model




...... ......}.
,, .,:
1’ ::.:


Figure 4. Bend Stiffener Figure 6. Bend Stiffener Dimensions

. .-

~ Fixed,%ufaee

Internal Ring

Figure 7. Bend Stiffener Model Figure 9. Schematic of Analysis Boundary

0.1 m

1.925 m

Bend Stiffener
5.775 m

A 9

Figure 8. Modelling of Flexible Pipe Figure 10. Two-Dimensional Beam Model






0 5 10 15 20 25
Length along Riser(m)

Figure 11. Deformed 3D Model Figure 13. Comparison of Pipe Bend Radii from
3 Models

0 3.2 I 1 I

2.8 1 run 3D
2 2D Bezm




-6 0.4

0.0 I I I 1 I
-4 -3 -2 -1” 0 1 2 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Length Along Bend Stiffener (m)
Horizontal Distance (m)

Figure 12. Comparison of Displaced Shapes Figure 14. Comparison of Maximum Stiffener
from 3 Models Bending Stress from 3 Models