Offshore wind turbines are being installed in deeper water and with more powerful generators resulting in more severe loading conditions on its foundations such as jacket structures. Because the main loading is due to wind and currents, the dominant design limit state is fatigue. The fatigue performance of the tubular joints used in jacket structures has been assessed several decades ago based on test results with limited component dimensions (diameter and wall thickness). In addition, improvements of welding methods and evolution of steel grades are not considered in the current design standards.
To provide experimental fatigue-life data on large-scale structures a test program has been carried out on 4 welded tubular X-joints. Each X-joint consists of two horizontal braces with a diameter of 711 mm welded to a central vertical tubular member with 806 mm diameter. The X-joint has a total length of 7.5 m and has two identical welds that are fatigue tested. The fatigue tests are carried out on an innovative resonant bending fatigue test rig that allows to load the specimen in in- and out-of-plane direction at a different amplitude to obtain an even stress distribution over the circumference of the welds. The tests are carried out at a speed close to the resonance frequency of the X-joint. During the test, hotspot strains are measured using strain gauges and a limited amount of water pressure is used to detect through-thickness cracks. The tests are carried out in two phases. During the crack initiation phase, the sample is loaded in both the in- and out-of-plane mode. Once cracks are detected, the test is continued in the crack propagation phase with loading in the plane where cracks had been initiated until through-thickness cracking appeared. During this phase the beach marking technique has been used to mark the shape of the fracture surface at different moments during the fatigue tests.
The testing program is part of the RFCS project JABACO that aims to reduce offshore wind cost by incrementing prefabrication of the jacket substructure.