Oral-History:C.A. Hutchinson

About the Interview

C.A. Chuck Hutchinson: An interview conducted for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, March, 1976.

Interview SPEOH000140 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.

This interview was donated to SPE and is of unknown provenance. The interview was recorded during the 1976 Offshore Technical Conference in March of 1976 on ARCO's Eugene Island Platform 175.


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Interview

INTERVIEWEE: C.A. Chuck Hutchinson
INTERVIEWER: Unknown
DATE: March, 1976
PLACE: Arco's Eugene Island Platform 175, Gulf of Mexico

INTERVIEWER:

We’re here on Atlantic Richfield Company’s Eugene Island platform 175 visiting with Mr. C.A. Hutchinson who is manager of ARCO’s South Texas District which encompasses the offshore area from about the Mississippi River down to the Rio Grande and onshore in some 40 Texas counties. Chuck, what are your operations here on Eugene-island 175?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, we have a four-platform sitting out here; it’s primarily an oil production operations. We’re producing at the moment, well, somewhere over 7,000 barrels a day and, of course, associated gas. This is an oil field though, not a gas field. About what you can see here behind us is the B platform; that’s a quarter’s platform and it also has our subsea pump down equipment. This is one of the few places here in the gulf we have subsea wells; these were drilled, oh, back about mid-1960s. I have several of them – yeah, seven of them still operating. They’re getting pretty old now though and the subsea wells are pretty tough to work on, so that we’re doing some replacement work with all the old original pump down equipment sitting over on B. This platform right here is actually the production platform and all the operations go on here. Behind here is the [B]; we have 18 wells all duals operating under that platform. All its production comes over here though for handling then transportation ashore.

INTERVIEWER:

How long? We’re here on Atlantic Richfield Company’s Eugene Island platform on 175, visiting with C.A. Hutchinson who is manager of ARCO’s [00:02:00] South Texas District which encompasses most of the gulf coast area from the Mississippi down to the Rio Grande and onshore in some 40 Texas counties. Chuck, what are your operations here on Eugene Island?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, right now we’re standing on the causeway between the B and C platform. B over here behind us is the quarters and C is primarily a production platform. This is an oil field; we’re producing somewhat next to 7,000 barrels a day at the moment right here and, of course, the associated gas. Over on B, we have some of our old subsea completions, used to have eight of them, right now we have seven that are spread all over this basic area. We’re on the east flank of a major Salt Dome. Over behind here you can see our D platform have some 18 wells over there, 36 completions. All the productions comes from there on over to here. This handles the area in the C platform. See a little [rust] over there? That’s a -- we just drilled that well and made a new platform; we call it the E platform. It sort of looks – well, it’s hardly a major gulf platform.

INTERVIEWER:

How long have you had the subsea systems in and out here?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, I think the first subsea wells were drilled about ‘64 or ‘65.

INTERVIEWER:

Have they been much trouble to maintain?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, they’ve required an awful lot of ingenuity because every bit of work that you want to do down the hole, you have to do with equipment that you pump down from the surface and then pump it back out. So they are difficult, and if anything very serious occurs, we have to move in rig and essentially start over. So as we’re getting in to serious problems as the wells get older [00:04:00], we’re eliminating them and drilling off something like the D platform over there.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. How big is ARCO’s operation here on the Gulf of Mexico?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, actually you may recognize Atlantic is one of the four partners in the CAGC operation. Now that’s operated almost entirely by Continental. But since we’re one-fourth of that, it makes us pretty big. As far as our own operations are concerned, well, right here is a fairly good size oil field, we’ve got gas operations off highland Texas, we’re drilling here, well, all the way from the Mississippi down to Corpus Christi at the moment so that we cover a lot of area, we have an awful lot acreage exploration. As far as production is concerned, this area and that off highland is that which we operate, but as part of the CAGC we got a bunch.

INTERVIEWER:

You have a bunch. Where does your production go from this platform?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, the oil production is piped in to the Northwest Gibson, the gas goes over in to -- or right out in this area, meets the Michigan-Wisconsin Line and it goes almost directly to shore towards Patterson about 80 miles to shore.

INTERVIEWER:

So we’re about 80 miles out in to the gulf from Patterson, Louisiana?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Right.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, let’s move on over here and take a look around some more. This is kind of an interesting platform and maybe we can see some more things. [00:06:00] We’re here on Atlantic Richfield Company’s Eugene Island platform 175, a production platform on the Gulf of Mexico, visiting with C.A Hutchinson, manager of Atlantic’s offshore district from about the Mississippi Island, or the Mississippi River rather, down to the…

[DISTANT VOICES]

We’re here on Atlantic Richfield Company’s Eugene Island 175 production platform in the Gulf of Mexico visiting with Mr. C.A. Hutchinson, manager of Atlantic’s South Texas District. It’s an area that encompasses most of the offshore from the Mississippi River down to the Rio Grande and onshore in some 88 Texas counties. Chuck, tell us a little bit about your operations here on Eugene Island?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, we’re sitting on top of an oil field and you’re on a causeway between the B and C platforms. The B platform behind us is the quarters, and that’s of course where we landed on the chopper. Also on the B platform, we have our subsea pump down equipment for some seven subsea wells that we have spread all over this general area. B platform itself is a -- or the C platform here is a production platform. There are no wells that come directly in to this. The wells are primarily over at B which is behind you, and E here over to my right. We have 18 wells, all duals, they’re on D, and dual here on E. We’re producing somewhere in the order of – well, a little over 7,000 barrels a day. East flank of a fairly major Salt Dome, its production has been on [00:08:00] stream for some time. The first wells were drilled here in about 1957.

INTERVIEWER:

How old are your subsea completions?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

I think the first subsea went in about 1964. We had eight of them; at this moment we have seven.

INTERVIEWER:

Okay, we’re here on the -- this is the E platform, isn’t it, Chuck?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

That’s right.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, it’s a pretty impressive piece of hardware you have behind you. What’s the total cost on this platform configuration out here?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Of course this was put in about three years ago. The C platform which we’re looking at right here behind us, without all of the production equipment on it, is about a $6,000,000 platform. You got about $2,000,000 worth of equipment sitting up on top. We’re sitting at about 100 feet of water, actually 85. Rule of thumb for a platform that is in the 100 feet of water or a specific production platform of this nature, it’s going to be somewhere between six and 12 million dollars. Now if you want to go up to 1,000 feet, well, you can multiply that by at least a factor of 10.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. Well, how many platforms, total platforms, are there in the Gulf of Mexico today?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

You throw me a loop on that; I don’t carry those numbers exactly around, but at the moment I believe it’s about 675 active platforms. But there have been about 150 that used to be out here that aren’t here anymore. I think it’s like 17 of those have gone down with hurricanes.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. You just told me that you had one go down right off this platform.

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

It’s right over here. The A platform was stationed a long time ago, it’s on the south flank of this dome, and it went down a hurricane, oh, I can’t remember how long ago, but it’s well over a decade ago.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. So we’ve been on the Gulf of Mexico [00:10:00] for a long time now, haven’t we?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Oh, I think the Gulf of Mexico basically started right after the World War II. Of course at that time the leases first opened up and the drilling started and it just blossomed since then.

INTERVIEWER:

Chuck, it may not seem like it today what with all this wind and pretty heavy tide, but the Gulf of Mexico is probably one of the simplest areas or the least hazardous or hostile environments for man to produce oil and gas out of. Obviously that has a cause factor involved with it also. Comparatively speaking how does the Gulf of Mexico compare with, say, the North Sea or even the Gulf of Alaska in terms of cost?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, we have some basic cost indexes that we use, or indices. Comparing to the North Sea is a factor of two, the Gulf of Alaska is factor of three, take offshore California and I think about one and a quarter to one and a half. But you have to recognize you’re not going to see a platform like this in the North Sea. They use an entirely different technology because of the hostile environment. But to accomplish the same purposes, you can use about twice the cost that it cost us here in the Gulf.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, with the converse all true, would we be seeing any such as the concrete structures in the Gulf of Mexico in years to come?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, I somewhat doubt that we’d see the concrete structures. We’re going to see new things, particularly as we get deeper and deeper. Wells are now being drilled in 12 - 1300 feet of water and the technology we can see used here in 100 feet of water is not applicable there. We’ll see the tension leg, the articulated column, guide columns, [cosmicism] quite a bit more Subsea equipment as we get into the deeper water.

INTERVIEWER:

Okay, let’s walk over here for a few minutes and look at your Christmas tree. That’s kind of a neat looking instrument over there [00:12:00].

[DISTANT VOICES]

Well, let’s see. You’ve got about 11 men, permanent crew, on here but I understand that in the event of a major hurricane or something, the platform operation is so fully automated that it will more or less operate by itself.

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Oh, yes, we can actually control this from our shore base and we can continue operation as long as the pipeline is operating. Once that pipeline has to shut down, then we have to shut down because we just can’t pile up the oil and gas. But it is completely automated.

INTERVIEWER:

You mentioned a few moments ago about the different types of structures going on being put up in the Gulf of Mexico, being tested out here. Can you comment on some of those?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, actually the one that intrigues me the most is being tested in California. It’s a tension leg platform. With the type of platform we are standing on, the deeper the water, the more it costs. You start at 100 feet and it costs you $10 million, and you get to 1,000 feet and it costs you $100 million. The cost is not particularly a function of water depth, so this is going to allow us to go into much deeper water. Exxon has a test going on here in the Gulf with the guide platform. It has some real potential for use. Of course you’re going to see many more of these subsea completions come in as we get into deeper water, as soon as we find out how we can connect those [subseas]. Well, you just can’t get down deep enough to do the welding, all the pipe work that needs to be done. I don’t know whether I hold much hope for the basic articulated structure or not [00:14:00]. It’s possible but I think you’ll see it preventing columns that sort of thing. But right now the ones that look good in my mind, well, there’s the tension leg and the guide platform.

INTERVIEWER:

You know, one thing that has impressed me about the Gulf of Mexico operations, and I understand now they are beginning to do it out in the North Sea, we used to send off a lot of flared gas and now of course we don’t flare gas out on the Gulf of Mexico and I understand that they are beginning to re-inject that gas now in the North Sea. Is that correct?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, that’s my understanding because I have been in the North Sea recently. But it’s my understanding the whole world is becoming conservation-conscious following our steps. In fact I guess we just read a few days ago about one of the United Arab Emirates taking over all the gas. He obviously is planning on conserving that for his kingdom.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. We’ve been talking with Chuck Hutchinson, manager of Atlantic Rich Fields South Texas District. We are going to be moving from here over to the drill ship, the Java Sea, so stay with us please.

[HELICOPTER]

We are here on the deck of the Global Marine drill ship, Java Sea, talking with Chuck Hutchinson who is manager of ARCO’s South Texas District. [00:16:00] Chuck, we are drilling an exploratory well here. How deep do you plan to go with this well?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, we are programmed to 14,000 feet. If it’s possible to drill deeper without encountering difficulty, we may but we have to...

INTERVIEWER:

Right buzz that. Sorry, was about to almost fall over. Are you getting camera motion in there? We are here on the deck of Global Marine’s drillship, the Java Sea, which is being leased to Atlantic Richfield Company. We’re talking with Mr. C. Hutchinson who is manager of Atlantic’s South Texas District. Chuck, you’re drilling an exploratory well here. How deep are you planning to go with this well?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, our present program is to go to 14,000 feet. When you’re in pretty well much unknown territory, you don’t know how deep you’re going to go. Hopefully we’ll make it at least to 14,000.

INTERVIEWER:

It is a pretty expensive rig, I imagine, to operate per day. What’s the relative cost of the Java Sea?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, when you say relative, relative to what? But let’s just put it in terms of dollars per day. It costs about $52,000 a day when you consider only ancillary equipment, the choppers, all drilling equipment, and so on. Needless to say, we don’t want to slip and miss 15 minutes any time because it costs a lot of money.

INTERVIEWER:

We are in about how deep of water right here?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

About 400 feet.

INTERVIEWER:

And you were telling me a few minutes ago that these platforms we see are off in the distance there in a lot shallower water.

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

That’s right. We are approaching a spot where the continental shelf has a rather abrupt change from a few hundred feet to 600 feet and then it drops off very rapidly. Just out here behind us is where [00:18:00] you could almost throw a stone to where the continental shelf just breaks off.

INTERVIEWER:

I see. We are out about how far from the coastal line of Louisiana?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, we are [close], we are just off the mouth of the Mississippi and the delta comes out quite a ways to a point where you could actually sit down and – well, let’s take a place like home or Louisiana, well, we are probably about 50 miles off.

INTERVIEWER:

If you are fortunate enough to find something at the bottom of this hole, what size of a reservoir are you looking for to make this whole operation pay off?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, you have to determine that in terms of where you start from. Right now we already have some sun cost. We paid a considerable amount of money to the federal government for the lease here. We are now drilling the first exploratory well; we may drill several more. Once we have a discovery, we then have to look at costs that need to be invested thereafter. In this step the water we have to look at something that approaches 75-80 million barrels to make future investments worthwhile.

INTERVIEWER:

That’s a pretty substantial reservoir but what about comparable area along the -- well not a comparable area but a comparable situation along the Atlantic east coast to the United States?

CHUCK HUTCHINSON:

Well, you’re operating there in a little more hostile environment, hostile from the standpoint of nature. You’re also in a spot where you don’t have the logistical setup that we have here. So in the early stages of development if there is any development off the Atlantic Ocean, you got to find a bigger reservoir. You may be talking in terms of 100 million barrels as being a minimum economic size.

INTERVIEWER:

Okay. Well, thank you very much. We’ve been visiting here for a few moments with Chuck Hutchinson on the deck of Global Marine’s [00:20:00] Java Sea. Please stay with us.