The first phase of the Chain FEARS (Finite Element Analysis of Residual Strength) Joint Industry Project (JIP) aimed to develop guidance for the determination of a rational discard criteria for mooring chains subject to severe pitting corrosion which, based on current code requirements, would otherwise require immediate removal and replacement. Critical to the ability to evaluate the residual fatigue life of a degraded chain, is to have an accurate estimate of the chain in its as-new condition, thereby providing a benchmark for any loss in fatigue life associated with severe corrosion or wear.

A large collection of fatigue test data was collated for comparison and to establish underlying trends in as-new mooring chain fatigue response. A non-linear multi-axial Finite Element Analysis (FEA) fatigue assessment method was developed to correlate against available as-new chain link fatigue test data and underlying failure trends as part of the JIP achieving this critical requirement.

It was established that the linear FEA fatigue method currently employed in the industry is too simplistic and does not correlate with the fatigue test data, whereas an alternative method of assessing fatigue based on FEA, developed with respect to the DNV B1 material curve, correlates well with the available physical fatigue test data.

The FEA method uses a non-linear chain link FEA and multi-axial stress fatigue calculation method to determine an equivalent Stress Magnification Factor (SMF). This method achieves good correlation of predicted utilisations and associated cycles-to-failure with fatigue test data and in respect of critical locations with evidenced failure locations. The method of equivalent SMF calculation accounted for the significant effects on fatigue performance including proof load induced residual stress, mean stress levels and the increase in material fatigue endurance associated with increased steel UTS (i.e. increased offshore mooring chain grade). The analytical method developed in this study achieved a high degree of correlation with as-new chain fatigue test data, and should enable the accurate prediction of fatigue stresses around a link and in particular for irregular geometry associated with corrosion degraded chain links.

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