GULF OF MEXICO: Multi-service deepwater support facility expanding in the US Gulf

Chouest to build Galveston operation

Feb 1st, 2001

The all-weather, high-roof covered loading facility (C-Port) pioneered by Edison Chouest, which can load and unload virtually every type of pipe, fluid, and equipment item needed to support deepwater operations in the US Gulf of Mexico, has become very popular with operators. At present, 80% of deepwater support operations in the Gulf of Mexico takes place out of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The covered port concept, at which the largest offshore supply vessels can back into and be unloaded or loaded, is expanding. Edison Chouest Offshore LLC, plans to begin construction of a facility in Galveston similar to the C-Port LLC and C-Port II LLC facilities in Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

The new facility, to be named C-Port Galveston, will be built on Pelican Island on approximately 100 acres of land. The port will provide incoming and outgoing vessels the same services now offered at the C-Ports. A number of lease sales geared to the western Gulf of Mexico show promise for that area of the Gulf, and Galveston is the perfect location, Roger White, Vice President of Business Development for Edison Chouest, explained.

Chouest has already made the necessary land and environmental studies, and now awaits approval from the US Army Corp of Engineers to begin construction. Eventually, the company will use the Galveston facility to support deepwater vessels in the Western Gulf. Chouest is also exploring possible opportunities in Brazil or West Africa in the distant future.

Further progress on facility development will depend on future exploration and how fields develop internationally.

Multi-service facility

The focal point for such facilities is deepwater and the new generation of vessels that serve that region. The same base can be used for all vessels, regardless of size or depth required, whereas in years past, vessels had to travel to different ports to have services done.

With the first C-Port in Port Fourchon, vessels finally received all necessary services in one port. The idea was so successful that Chouest built another facility called C-Port II. The concept began when a number of customers claimed they wanted to travel to one place in the Gulf, preferably in the Fourchon area, where all necessary vessel services were accessible.

International vessels were simply interested in a one-stop shop concept. With the "import cycle time," concept, customers are in and out of the docks quicker, allowing vessels and equipment to remain at sea for longer periods.

Facility history

Since commencing operations in 1998, the C-Port concept managed to decrease time spent for loading bulk barite and liquid drilling fluids to less than 12 hours, from more than 24 hours.

M-I Drilling was one of the companies offering drilling fluid services at C-Port and the only company offering all drilling services at C-Port II. A completion fluids plant at the facility opened in mid-2000. OSCA also provides completion fluid services at C-Port.

C-Port II is fully operational now and supplies services to vessels in the Gulf of Mexico, such as completion fluids, synthetic drilling fluids, boat cleaning, transfer of waste-cuttings boxes, and Barite plants.

The original C-Port included nine covered slips and was purposely built near deepwater activity in the Gulf. C-Port II was built shortly after, and that facility's main purpose was to make use of newer equipment. Both ports include all-electric, air-actuated valves linked to a central control room and separate scales for each dry-material tank, providing better accuracy. The port also began offering an integral completion fluids plant.

The Smith Services Super Service Center, located at C-Port II, also services shelf and deepwater operators. Certified inspectors are readily available to inspect and clean bottomhole assemblies. Tubular repair and machine shop services and make-up and breakout services can be accessed at the center. Items such as drill collars and crossover subs are available for purchase.

Chouest says that the port facility has been recognized as one of the safest marine terminals in the nation. One reason is that the facility uses a closed-loop pipe cleaning system, so that all waste products are fully contained. Also, thread cleaning systems use high-pressure hot water, which is contained, filtered and disposed.

Major operators at the C-Ports are Shell, Texaco, and BP. Conoco, Anadarko and Rowen Offshore are at C-Port II. Costs for the development of the two C-Port facilities totaled about $100 million.

EnviroCenter

The EnviroCenter also shares a position at Port Fourchon. The facility provides waste management services in association with M-I, ECI Louisiana L.L.C., and Trinity Field Services. The center has vessel offloading, cleaning and fluid replacement, and a site for cleaning boats, barges, tanks, cuttings boxes, and rigs.

Wastes are transferred to a barge, and later to an approved onshore site. The waste is then sent to Trinity services for proper handling. The process involves disposal in brine-filled salt caverns. Drilling wastes are pumped to the bottom of the cavern.

US Customs has an office at Port Fourchon to clear and inspect cargo when vessels arrive. Foreign and domestic vessels are cleared with the aid of the USDA, APHIS, Quality Control-FDA, and immigration.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), at which larger tankers unload crude, is located 19 miles southeast of the port. Oil from LOOP is piped north to the Galliano Salt Dome in Lafourche Parish and sent through pipelines to refineries.

Chouest has developed C-Logistics, an even more efficient way to assist customers in the future. C-Logistics is a corridor concept in the Gulf of Mexico to make deepwater re-supply an even faster operation.

More in Rigs/Vessels