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Effects and Risks of Underwater Explosion for Gas Carriers

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An underwater shock in the vicinity of a hydrocarbon carrying ship is a serious risk.
This article covers info about underwater detonation, effect of underwater explosion, phenomena associated with underwater explosion and etc.

Underwater Explosion (UNDEX)

Underwater Explosion create shock waves in a similar manner to explosions in air.

Example of underwater explosion
Underwater explosion (UNDEX)

Gas Bubble and Shock Wave from an Underwater Explosion.

Gas bubble
Shock wave

Ship survivability depends on:

  • susceptibility,
  • vulnerability,
  • and recoverability.

Effect of Underwater Explosion (Shock wave, Surface cut-off, Cavitation, Bubble formation and Plume)

Photo of the hole
Damaged ship

Detonation of high explosive charges, irrespective of their type and location, cause high overpressure.

Schemes of explosions
UNDEX Versus Air Explosion
Pressure Rise and Formation & Collapse of Bubbles
Bubble formation and collapse
Photo of underwater explosion
Shallow water underwater explosion

Migration Pathway, Pressure Pulse and Bubble Oscillation

Bubble pulses are generated by the oscillation of the gas bubble created by the UNDEX. The peak pressure of the first bubble pulse is about 10-20 % of the shock wave. The first high pressure in the gas sphere is significantly reduced after the primary part of the shock wave has been transmitted.

Underwater explosion
Gas globe and pressure created by UNDEX

It can be said that about half of the energy of the explosion is transmitted in the shock wave.

Phenomena Associated with Underwater Explosion

UNDEX Phenomena

Pressure record
Pressure record measured 4,5 m from the detonation of 0,5 kg of explosive charge

The Effect of UNDEX on Surface Vessels

Underwater Blast Effects

Cavity (Bubble) of High pressure gas and water vapour:

  • Hydrostatic Pressure Fluctuations.
  • Expansion and Compression.

Energy Losses:

  • 90 % of the bubble’s energy dissipates on 1st expansion.
  • Acoustic and heat radiation.

Multiple Shock Waves:

  • Due to pulsating bubble as it rises.
  • Proximity of boundaries (bottom and surface).

Based on the location of the charge with respect to the sea floor and the free surface, a vessel may experience a combination of different pressure waves, due to different propagation paths.

Scheme of propagation paths
Propagation Paths
Explosive charge
Detonation of an explosive charge
  1. Direct shock.
  2. Free-surface reflection.
  3. Bottom reflection.
  4. Bottom refraction (not shown).

UNDEX Pulse, up to the Collapse of First Bubble

Underwater explosion graph
Underwater explosion signature up to the collapse of first bubble

The resultant pressure-time history is the time-phased super positioning of the direct, surface and bottom reflection.

Surface Cut-off

Scheme of surface reflection of the wave
Direct wave and
surface Reflection
Scheme of resultant pressure
Resultant Pressure- Time Curve
Pressure profile of shock wave
Shock wave Pressure Profile with Cut-off Time

The Bulk and Local Cavitation

Cavitation occurs when a region of negative absolute pressure present in the water. This negative pressure causes the tensile force in the water, since the water cannot sustain this force, cavitation or separation is formed.

Bulk Cavitation
Bulk Cavitation Region in an Underwater
Underwater Explosion Event

Bulk Cavitation

Bulk cavitation zone
Shows a typical bulk cavitation zone

Local Cavitation

When fluid-structure interaction occurs, the total pressure throughout the ship’s hull turns out to be negative. Since the water can not sustain tension, the water pressure decreases the vapour pressure, and then local cavitation occurs.

Photo of explosives
Left: Light emitted as explosive detonates.
Right: Cavitation bubbles can be seen near the
bottom surface of the container

Explosive detonations which occur underwater create shock waves in a similar manner to explosions in air. Most Underwater Shock, Effects and Risks for Hydrocarbon Carrying Shipsunderwater explosion are not seen on the surface due to the elastic properties as well as the depth of water and the size of the net explosive weight.

Photo of the water after explosion
Spray Dome
Stages of plume

Quantifying UNDEX Loads

Interior and Exterior Problem

The structure (tank) surrounds the non structural fields: liquid and gas.

Structure of tank
Interior problem

The structure (submarine hull) is surrounded by the non structural fields, liquid in this case.

Scheme of the ship
Exterior problem

Possible Sources of Damage and Three Typical Scenarios

Possible sources of damage
Possible sources of damage and three typical scenarios

Effect of Proximity of Detonation

The gas bubble created by the explosion can cause violent hull vibrations known as “whipping”.

Effect of whipping after detonation
Whipping effect

The charge detonates in contact with the hull. The explosive effect is directed inwards due to the pressure of the surrounding water.

Charge detonates in contact with the hull
Sinking ship after explosion

Effect of UNDEX on surface ships

Detonation beneath the hull
Explosion beneath the hull
Effect of gas bubble expansion
Gas bubble expand, lifts the hull which weakens the keel
Effect of bubble collapse
Bubble collapses and the ship falls into the void and keel breaks
Effect of bubble colliding
Shows the effect of bubble colliding with the ship

Testing for Proving a Design

Test explosion

Test detonation
Detonation for test a vessel design

Use of Commercial Software for UNDEX

Commercial Software for UNDEX

ABAQUS capabilities for UNDEX (underwater explosion analysis) are integrated within the coupled fluid-solid interaction capability. Transient explosion simulations are generally handled in ABAQUS/Explicit, using specialized infinite boundary conditions and incident wave loading options.

ANSYS Underwater Shock Modules are used for many types of shocks, e. g. non-contact underwater shocks, from mines or other sources.

LS-DYNA is extensively used to simulate impacts on structures from drop tests, underwater shock, explosions or high-velocity impacts.

Underwater explosion
Scheme of explosion

Combined Model of Ship and Fluid

Model of ship
Figure 13 Model of ship and near field fluid

The full history depends on the size and depth of charge and a vessel may not experience a complete sequence.

Underwater explosion loading history
UNDEX loading history up to the collapse of first bubble
Shock wave profile - graph
Shock wave profile from underwater detonation of 300 lb TNT charge
p0=5,24×107W1/3R1,13  N/m2
θ=9,25×105W1/3W1/3R0,22   sec
Graph of overpressure
Experimental data for peak overpressure from near surface explosions

Interior problem. Sloshing of liquid:

Tank structure
Liquid sloshing

Effect of Strong Vibration on Safety Critical equipments

High acceleration levels may cause a component malfunction if resonance frequencies of its constituent elements are excited. These components will not suffer catastrophic failure during vibration; they just will not operate as intended.

Vibration point

Resonant frequency
Effect of Strong Vibration

Concluding remark

  • Underwater explosions have a number of effects on a surface vessel.
  • An intelligent solution does not start with adding more materials.
  • Commercially available software can be used to obtain an optimal solution.
  • Using ABAQUS for UNDEX is outlined in the article.

Surface based fluid-structure interaction, master and slave surface concept is used

Surface based fluid-structure interaction
Fluid as master surface and structure as slave surface

Shape functions: first order, 4 node linear tetrahedron element, g, h, r – local coordinates.

interfaceδp·n·u ..dS[ANn(XN)·u ..N][ΣiHi(p(XN))]

Contribution of a slave node to the coupling term in acoustic equation.


Contribution of a slave node to the coupling term in structural equation.


Deriving discretized finite element equations

Deriving discretized finite element equations
Equations 1 & 2 define variational problem for coupled fields um and p
Interpolation functions in fluid
p = HPpp
P is no. of pressure nodes
P, Q pressure DOF
δp = HPδpP
Interpolation functions in structure
um = NNuN
N is no. of displacement DOF
N, M displacement DOF
δum = NNδuN
Substituting interpolation functions in eq n. 1 & 2
MfPQp  ..Q+CfPQp   .Q+KfPQpQ=[SfsPM]TM        Form. (a)
MNMu   ..M+CNMu   .M+KNMuM=[SfsQN]TpQ       Form. (b)

Result of formulas a and b – coupled fluid-structure equations.

Finite element equations Contd…

  • Eqn’s (a) & (b) couple total pressure in the fluid to the displacements in the structure.
  • Matrix Sfs is defined over all the interacting fluid and solid surfaces.

p = pI+ps, in eqn (a) & (b)



  • pSQ

    – unknown calculated from above eqn.

  • pIQ

    – known from incident Pressure wave equations.

The above 2 eqns are solved together with ps unknown variable.

  • Radiation Boundary Condition.
  • Pressure release boundary condition, p = 0.

The boundary traction term is given by:



  • 1c1=fρfKf,
  • 1a1=f·[βρf+γ2ρfρfKf],
  • ρf – density of fluid,
  • Kf – bulk modulus of fluid.

Pressure distribution on structure

pI(xj, t)=pt(tRjRocopx(xj)
px(xj)=||xsxo||||xsxj||    (for spherical waves)
Ro=||xsxo||Rj=||xsxj|| (for spherical waves)


  • хo = standoff point;
  • хs = source point;
  • хj = spatial point on structure;
  • pI(xj, t) = incident pressure;
  • pх(xj) = pressure due to spatial variation;
  • co = wave speed in fluid.
Scheme of compression
Compression and Rarefaction Waves

A longitudinal wave is a wave in which the particles of the medium are displaced in a direction parallel to the direction of energy transport. A longitudinal wave can be created in a slinky if the slinky is stretched out horizontally and the end coil is vibrated back-and-forth in a horizontal direction. If a snap-shot of such a longitudinal wave could be taken so as to freeze the shape of the slinky in time, then it would look like the above diagram.


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Ноябрь, 08, 2022 352 0
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