StimFORCE prowls the Gulf

Nina Rach

June 12, 2014

MV Connor Bordelon is the host vessel for Baker Hughes new StimFORCE stimulation system in the Gulf of Mexico. Nina Rach went to Houma, Louisiana, to see the modular installation.

Baker Hughes recently constructed a new stimulation vessel dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico market, the StimFORCE GoM. It’s the newest addition to the company’s fleet of vessels, facilitating well stimulation, production enhancement, acidizing, and sand control operations.


The Baker Hughes StimFORCE modular stimulation system includes a flexible

pumping package, with skid-based equipment, customizable to any convenient vessel of opportunity. The system can be shipped and assembled on a platform supply vessel (PSV), barge, or offshore rig, mounted on a grid framework and secured to the vessel.

The StimFORCE system is DNV 2.7-1 certified and CE marked. The equipment design meets ISO dimensional standards.


It’s equipped with five 15,000psi (103.4MPa) triplex pumps, and two flexible steel umbilical lines that can provide pumping rates up to 70 bbl/min (0.22 cu m/s). There is 100% redundancy on critical systems.

There is ample storage for large volumes of acid or chemical solvents, and the additional capacity lowers costs and reduces non-productive time.

“The StimFORCE vessel’s pumping capacity of 8800 HHP, combined with the large, flexible deck configuration allows for multiple well acid or chemical treatments in a single trip, without the need to return to the dock and resupply,” said Kevin Wetherington, BHI vice president, Gulf of Mexico Geomarket.

“The vessel’s fluid system, quality control laboratory and remote data acquisition services ensure critical pumping information is available.”

Baker Hughes JobMaster software package is integrated into the system, and simplifies all operation phases. The software acquires, processes, records, and displays pumping data in real-time, allows remote control and monitoring, with secure global wireless data transmission.

Host vessel

Baker Hughes’ new stimulation service modules were installed on the newbuild MV Connor Bordelon, operated by Lockport, Louisiana-based Bordelon Marine LLC.

The Connor Bordelon is the first of three Stingray class 260 offshore support vessels (OSVs) with DP2 dynamic positioning, built at Bordelon Marine Shipbuilders yard in Houma. It was completed in September 2013 and named ‘Ship of the Year’ by the American Ship

Review 2014. The vessel has a soaring superstructure that spans the full width of the deck. The extra-wide span allows for an ample bridge, spacious accommodations for 50 people, as well as increased deck space for equipment. The bow is noticeably sleek and thinner than other OSVs, and has a soft, curved chine (underwater profile). Owner Wes Bordelon describes it as a “chine wave sweep” that functions to more efficiently lift the ship with the waves.

Most importantly, the vessel sports a 185ft x 44ft cargo deck, protected by 5ft- high bulwarks (cargo rail); ample space for all the StimFORCE modules. The reduced vessel draft (15ft) supports shallow-water operations. The StimFORCE modular stimulation system was loaded and installed on the Connor Bordelon in just over a week, and the vessel started sea trials out of Houma in November 2013.

Bordelon Marine’s second Stingray vessel, MV Sheila Bordelon is nearing completion and it will be delivered toward the end of this year. The third Stingray vessel, MV Brandon Bordelon is in shipyard with an expected delivery date in Spring 2015.

Deck view of control cabin (white), storage, pmps, and equipment. Photo from Baker Hughes.

Stimulating the Gulf of Mexico

Kevin Wetherington, Baker Hughes’ Vice President for the Gulf of Mexico Geomarket, talked with Nina Rach about the Gulf of Mexico and the company’s new StimFORCE well stimulation vessel.

OE: Tell us about your work in the region.

Wetherington: It’s a very exciting market, one of the fastest growing in the industry. There’s been increased activity and investment in deepwater, especially the ultra-deepwater frontier market, with wells in water 4000ft or deeper, and 30,000ft TD. In 2013, Baker Hughes was involved with a high-pressure well in the Green Canyon area that set a new depth record for the Gulf of Mexico: 36,552ft TD. Baker Hughes MWD/LWD equipment was used at pressures exceeding 30,000 psi.

More generally, it’s been a long-term move into the frontier market. The desired completion systems for these wells don’t exist yet. In 2012, the Baker Hughes Lower Tertiary Integrated Project Team (IPT) was formed to develop new integrated completion and production systems.

The IPT includes 100 of the brightest engineers and industry experts, assembled to develop innovative, high-performance, cost-effective, commercially feasible solutions for ultra-deepwater.

OE: It sounds very collaborative. Where is the IPT work being done? Wetherington: The Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) in north- west Houston, which has test cells rated to 40,000 psi and 700°F. The capability is beyond the parameters that customers

are asking for, which range up to 30,000 psi and 400°F.

At these depths, the high temperatures and high pressures take a toll on seals, hydraulics, electrical components. We’re trying to enhance technology across the whole front.

Reliability is important; we have some requests for 10-year life and intervention- capable systems. Baker Hughes builds and tests ESPs [electric submersible pumps] in Claremore, Oklahoma for subsea and deepwater well boosting.

Product reliability and system

reliability become more important with the high cost of well intervention in the deepwater market.

OE: How do you improve on operational execution and reliability? Wetherington: For the Baker Hughes staff, we use competency assurance programs, with training and certified assessors to test competency and proficiency. It gives our employees the training and tools necessary to be able to meet and exceed current and upcoming operating requirements and government regulations.

Based on our Competence Management Program, Baker Hughes proactively sought, and was the first service company to receive, IADC Competence Assurance Accreditation to meet BSEE regulations. That was in January 2012, and now our program is global, after starting in the Gulf of Mexico, and now moving into our land markets.

The Baker Hughes operating system, BHOS, includes operational documentation, and was created to streamline our systems from the 7-9 systems we used to have, down to one. The Baker Hughes Quality organization oversees BHOS, and is rewsponsible for auditing and testing to standards.

We continuously update standards in the Gulf of Mexico, as part of our continuous process improvement program.

OE: What about your new facilities on the Gulf coast?

Wetherington: Baker Hughes has invested heavily in infrastructure. We opened a new Gulf of Mexico laboratory in Broussard, Louisiana, in April 2013, where we test cementing products, fluids, and chemicals: the Baker Hughes Center for Offshore Cementing, Fluids, and Chemicals. The lab is open 24 hr/d and is close to our operating centers. We also perform pre-job testing, as needed.

Our deepwater chemical testing is done at the new Chemicals Lab, in our Center for Technology Innovation facility in Houston. We have also made invest- ments in various operational bases and in our facilities at Port Fourchon, to enhance our capacity and capabilities.

OE: Speaking of stimulation , what about the new Baker Hughes vessel?

Wetherington: The StimFORCE is now the newest stimulation vessel in the Gulf, with pumping capacity of 8800 HHP. It carries a modular, plug & play package with a large, flexible deck configuration.

The StimFORCE finished final testing in Fourchon last fall, and now Baker Hughes has three well stimulation vessels in the GoM market, including the Blue Dolphin and the Blue Tarpon.

Before Macondo, there were nine stimulation vessels in the GoM. Afterward, when work slowed considerably, there were only five vessels, and with the arrival of the StimFORCE in 2013, there are now six.

OE: What are the stimulation needs in the Gulf?

Wetherington: The stimulation needs continue to advance, as made evident by the largest single hydraulic fracturing job on a deepwater well in the GoM, where 2.7 million lb of proppant was pumped into a single well.

OE: Can the Gulf of Mexico market support the new vessel?

Wetherington: The number of deepwater rigs entering the GoM has increased significantly since 3Q 20E:10, when there were fewer than ten. There were more than 40 deepwater rigs in 2013, and by the end of 2014, there may be 50 deepwater rigs in the Gulf.

OE: What’s happening now in the GoM?

Wetheringon: The regulatory environment continues to evolve in this market, which increases the cost of operating, so we believe fewer service companies will have the appetite to participate, especially on the deepwater projects. Integrated systems are also becoming more important. The risk for deepwater and ultra-deepwater wells is so high that we’re having more discussions with customers on integrated drilling systems, which include drill bits, drilling fluids, formation evaluation, and directional drilling. This integrated approach is also becoming more prevalent with completions and production systems.

OE: What about safety initiatives?

Wetherington: Safety is priority one for Baker Hughes, so we ensure that our offshore workers have all the essential training, including Safe Gulf training and water survival training, and carry transportation worker identification credentials (TWIC cards).

Baker Hughes is also part of the Center for Offshore Safety (COS), a group of operators and service companies that came together after the 2010 oil spill to improve safety in the Gulf of Mexico. We focus on both personal safety and process safety, particularly when it comes to maintaining well control. BHI is commit- ted to this effort and I personally represent Baker Hughes on the COS Governing Board. We work closely with Chevron, Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, and Anadarko, among others.

Kevin Wetherington is the Baker Hughes Vice President for the Gulf of Mexico Geomarket, where he leads the Operations, Engineering, and Sales teams responsible for supporting the oil and gas operators in the offshore deepwater, shelf, inland, and land business segments.

He began his career 22 years ago, as an offshore wireline field engineer in the Gulf of Mexico, and has since held numerous managerial roles in both operations and sales, both within single product lines as well as across multiple product lines.