As the worldwide oil and gas market continues to grow and environmental concerns with respect to in-port offloading of gas have increased, there has been a boom of interest in new liquefied natural gas LNG terminals in the past years. Loading - offloading operations at LNG and bulk terminals are generally protected by a breakwater to ensure high operability. For these terminals, caisson breakwaters are generally a preferred solution in water depth larger than 15 m due to its advantages compared to rubble mound breakwaters. The caisson installation is generally planned to be carried out in the period where sea conditions are relatively calm. However, many of these terminal locations are exposed to swell conditions, making the installation particularly challenging and subject to large downtime. There is no clear guidance on the caisson installation process rather than contractors’ experiences from different projects/sites. Therefore, studies are required in order to provide general guidance on the range of acceptable wave conditions for the installation operations and to have a better understanding of the influence of the caisson geometry.

This paper presents a numerical study to determine the limiting wave conditions for caisson installing operations at larger water depth of 30–35 m for a confidential project along the African coast. Three caisson sizes/geometries are considered in order to assess and compare the wave-structure hydrodynamic interaction. The linear frequency-domain hydrodynamic analysis is performed for various seastates to determine the limiting wave conditions. Viscous effects due to flow separation at the sharp edges of the caisson are considered by using a stochastic linearization approach, where empirical drag coefficients are used as inputs. Parametric studies on caisson size and mooring stiffness are also presented, which can be used as a basis for future optimization. The uncertainty in the applied empirical viscous drag coefficients taken from the literature is examined by using a range of different drag coefficients. Further, the use of clearance-independent hydrodynamic coefficients (e.g. added mass and damping) may be questionable when the caisson is very close to the seabed, due to a possible strong interaction between caisson bottom and seabed. This effect is also checked quantitatively by a simplified approach.

The findings of the study are presented in the form of curves and generalized to be used by designers and contractors for general guidance in future projects.

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