This paper derives an equation for the potential-flow wave loading on a lattice-type offshore structure moving partially immersed in waves. It is for the limiting case of small lattice-member diameter, and deals entirely in member-centreline fluid properties, so that it can be applied computationally by a simple ‘stick model’ computer program. This field is currently served by a simple two-term semiempirical formula ‘Morison's equation’: the new equation is effectively a replacement for the Morison inertial term, allowing the Morison drag term (or some refinement of it) to describe exclusively the effects of vorticity, which can in principle be calculated to greater accuracy when isolated in this way.
The new equation calculates the potential-flow wave load accurate to second order in wave height, which is a great improvement on ‘Morison's equation’: such results can currently only be sought by very much more complicated and computationally intensive methods, of currently uncertain repeatability. Moreover the third-order error is localized at the free-surface intersection, so the equation remains attractive for fully nonlinear problems involving intermittent immersion of lattice members, which are currently beyond even the most sophisticated of these computationally intensive methods. It is shown that the primary reason for this large contrast in computational efficiency is that the loads are derived from energy considerations rather than direct integration of surface pressures, which requires a lower level of flow detail for a given level of load-calculation accuracy.
These improvements must of course be seen against the current levels of uncertainty over the calculation of vorticity-induced loads, which in many applications completely dwarf inaccuracies in potential-flow load calculation. The conditions are accordingly established under which the improvements are comparable to the total wave load predicted by the Morison drag and inertia terms in combination. They are that the lattice member diameter is greater than its length/10, or the relative fluid motion/5, or the structure's motion radius/20, or the wavelength/30: if any one of these conditions is satisfied, the new equation is worthwhile even when used in combination with simple vorticity-induced load calculations from a Morison drag term.