Stimulating work

Katie Jernigan
Monday, August 1, 2011

Baker Hughes' latest fracturing and stimulation vessel, the Blue Tarpon, is designed for operations in the Lower Tertiary play of the Gulf of Mexico. Katie Jernigan takes a look at the newest addition to the Baker Hughes fleet.

Chouest owns the Blue Tarpon hull and has full responsibility in the day-to-day operation of the vessel. Baker Hughes leases the vessel and is responsible for the daily operation of the pumping equipment.

Like sister vessel the Blue Dolphin, Baker Hughes' fracturing and stimulation ultra-deepwater vessel Blue Tarpon was created to carry out multi-zone operations without needing to return to shore for supplies. The Blue Dolphin, launched in December 2009 (OE February 2010) helped kill the BP-operated Macondo well at Mississippi Canyon block 252. ‘[Blue Tarpon] was supposed to be launched in 2010,' Rick Jeffrey, Baker Hughes' product line manager of sand control systems, says. The delay was to allow time for design changes so the Blue Dolphin and Blue Tarpon had the same capabilities and control systems.

Richard Williams, president of Baker Hughes' Gulf of Mexico operations, says the recent ExxonMobil discoveries in 7000ft water depth are an example of why Baker Hughes invested millions in building the vessel. ‘This market is continuing to move into the deepwater and ultra-deepwater,' he says.

Captains can maneuver the DP2 Blue Tarpon with a 1675hp bow thruster, 1200hp Rolls Royce bow drop down and a 1675hp stern thruster. It operates on two 3600hp Caterpillar diesel engines for a maximum of 14.5 knots and a cruise speed of 10 knots.

It is equipped with four Gorilla quintuplex pumps, six Wolverine triplex pumps, and three Cyclone fracturing blenders. Baker Hughes says this kit gives the vessel the flexibility of being able to carry out fracturing, gravel packing and acid mixing operations in pressures to 15,000psi. ‘[The Cyclone fracturing blenders] are basically the blood and guts of the boat,' Jeffrey says. Each is capable of producing 60bbl/min at 9ppa (pounds of proppant added). The completely automated blenders are considered to be more ‘reliable for offshore work', according to Scott Lambert, Blue Dolphin senior project engineer.

The vessel has 10 separate highpressure pump units that can deliver up to 24,000 hydraulic horsepower and pump up to 32,000 pounds of proppant per minute. The 300.5ft Blue Tarpon can hold 750,000 pounds mass (lbm) of proppant above deck, and 2 million lbm below deck. Also below deck, it has capacity for 10,200bbl of fluid. The vessel has acid and well stimulation capacity with 3600gal of raw acid and 20,100gal of solvent. At 60ft wide and with a 24ft draft, it has a minimum water depth of 40ft and no maximum.

With two 4in, 400ft 15,000psi Coflexip hoses, the vessel can pump fluids at rates to 80bbl/min. Filtering at 80bbl/min ‘may be over the top now', Jeffrey says, ‘but we do not want a vessel that is obsolete in five years.'

The vessel can accommodate 44 crew members in four-person cabins, with an expected 13 Edison Chouest employees and 11 Baker Hughes employees onboard at any given time. The additional quarters allow for 24-hour operations with two separate crews onboard when required.

On 9 June, Baker Hughes proudly showed off the well stimulation-class certified Blue Tarpon to the industry in the Houston Ship Channel before heading off for field trials. It is expected to carry out its first Gulf of Mexico job in 3Q 2011. Baker Hughes expects the vessel to work a couple jobs a week.

As offshore activities resume in the Gulf of Mexico's deep waters following the government-imposed drilling moratorium that was lifted earlier this year, Baker Hughes believes the new vessel will help the region's production levels return to its former rates. ‘The Blue Tarpon shows our commitment to the return of activity in deepwater,' Williams says. OE

Categories: Vessels Drilling North America Completions

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