Headquartered in Houston, USA, and currently operating in over 90 countries, Baker Hughes is one of the world’s largest oilfield services companies. It provides oil operators all over the world with technical expertise and specialised equipment for a wide range of onshore and offshore projects. In the three months ending June 29, 2012, the company reported global revenue of US$ 5.32 billion and gross profits of US$ 1.07 billion.
The company was formed in 1987 by the merger of Baker International and Hughes Tool Company. Since then, it has incorporated multiple firms that have each developed and introduced new technologies to the petroleum service industry.
Baker Hughes has been operating in Africa for 45 years and moved into Uganda in 2006 in support of Heritage Oil and Gas’ exploration drilling programme. Permanent offices were established in Kampala in 2010.
The oil well life cycle
Oil operators buy in support from oilfield service providers for the entire life cycle of an oil well—from exploration, through development, completion and production phases. (Uganda’s oil industry remains in the exploration and development phase. ‘Completion’ refers to the final siting, over an identified reservoir, of the well that will finally extract the oil. Completion and production will only begin in Uganda when plans are finally agreed between government and oil companies for the infrastructure needed to take the oil to markets.)
Services and equipment that Baker Hughes provides to oil companies operating in Uganda include:
Drilling and Evaluation The company supplies durable drill bits, drilling motors, rotary steerable systems, and ‘electric logging’ and ‘logging while drilling’ services. These logging services are needed to assess what sub-surface soil and rock structures, and so to evaluate the commercial viability of potential reserves.
Completions and Production Products and services include lifts to move oil from the well to the surface, well completions technologies, intelligent production systems and wellbore intervention. All of these services are used to construct an oil well with optimal production and to minimize any mechanical failures during the life of the well.
Pressure Pumping These services include cementing, sand control, coil tubing, fracturing and acidizing. In Uganda, the main pressure pumping service is cementing. Cementing is required to secure the well casing and to provide hydraulic isolation between downhole formations.
Fluids and Chemicals Drilling fluids are used to improve the drilling operation. These fluids have multiple functions which include lubricating the drill bit, removing rock cuttings from the well, sealing permeable formations and maintaining well control. Drilling fluids are engineered for the specific well environment and to comply with environmental requirements. Chemicals are also used to in the refining or pipeline activities to improve the properties of the produced oil and make it easier to handle.
Baker Hughes is becoming a significant employer in Uganda, with 50 staff at present. Some of these are in administrative and support roles but the majority are technical staff who deliver the products and services mentioned above.
Some positions such as tool operators, fluid technicians, electrical and mechanical technicians, require vocational training or previous experience. Most of these jobs are field-based and require that the worker be away from home on a rotational basis.
Engineering jobs require a university degree in engineering or earth science. To date, 10 Ugandan engineers have been recruited to fill these engineering positions. Initial training can last up to 14 months depending on the specialty. Once trained, these engineers take leadership positions within the company.
Another aspect of the training is an 18 month overseas placement to give the engineer foreign experience early in their career. This helps broaden their knowledge and accelerate advancement upon their return to their home country. Currently, Baker Hughes has Ugandans on assignment in Abu Dhabi, Canada, USA, Venezuela, Norway, Ecuador and Colombia.
For more, see the company website. Report by Chantal Sirisena