Now that bolted flanges rather than grouted connections are used to join the transition piece to the monopile in offshore wind turbine towers, many large bolts are being used in applications which subject them to fatigue loads. The bolts in these ring flanges are typically M64 or M72 in size (ie 64mm of 72mm nominal diameter). The fatigue design codes, BS 7608, DNVGL-RP-C203 and Eurocode 3 do provide S-N curves for threaded fasteners, but the reference diameter in those documents is 25mm or 30mm. A thickness correction is provided, to account for larger diameter bolts, but this was originally derived by analysis of the performance of welded joints. It is unclear whether the S-N curves and the recommended thickness correction are appropriate for larger diameter threaded fasteners.
The offshore wind industry usually specifies hot dip galvanised bolts, to provide some corrosion protection in the offshore environment. Again, there is uncertainty over whether the S-N curves in fatigue design standards apply to bolts with a galvanised coating. Since the fatigue design codes provide S-N curves for air, free corrosion or seawater with cathodic protection, it is also unclear which of these should be used to predict the fatigue performance of bolts with a galvanised coating.
In order to provide data to address these uncertainties, hot-dip galvanised, grade 10.9, M72 bolts from two manufacturers were tested in both air and a seawater environment. In order to represent the conditions experienced by bolts in internal ring flanges, the artificial seawater was sprayed onto the bolts during testing. Tests were conducted with a mean stress corresponding to 70% of the specified minimum 0.2% proof strength of the bolts. Tests were also performed in air, on uncoated M72 bolts, and uncoated M64 bolts for comparison.
The results suggest that the current thickness correction in DNVGL RP C203 and BS 7608 is appropriate for M72 bolts.
The results in air from the galvanised bolts were below those from uncoated bolts. Although the galvanised results were above the thickness corrected in-air standard design curves (BS7608 Class X -20%, DNVGL Class G and DNVGL ST 0126 FAT 50), they were below the mean curves, suggesting that the performance of galvanised bolts is slightly lower than the existing recommendations.