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Bovo-Tighe Helps Shell Stones Deepwater Project Break New Ground

Bovo-Tighe is honored to have been chosen to play a key role in the highly successful Shell Stones Ultra Deepwater oil and gas drilling project. Approved by Shell in 2013, the project involved hundreds of workers around the globe, with project management in Houston, a shipbuilding company in Singapore, and multiple outside contractors, many of whom worked offshore during key implementation phases.

All these diverse teams of people had to work together seamlessly to maintain Shell’s high standards for safety while still hitting production deadlines, overcoming technical challenges, and staying on budget. The Stones Project Manager for Shell, Curtis Lohr, knew that a high level of collaboration and high performance leadership approaches were a core success factor for Stones.

It was a huge engineering challenge:

  • The depth of the oil field was close to 10,000 ft. from sea level to seafloor, so more traditional offshore drilling platform technology would not work
  • The seafloor had a diverse terrain of crevasses and slopes that challenged the placement of subsea infrastructure and hardware
  • Shifting Gulf of Mexico eddy currents could hinder and threaten offshore construction work
  • Weather conditions could shift from dead calm to category 5 hurricanes, both during construction and over the life of the project.

To meet these unique challenges, Bovo-Tighe was selected to help the team build the high-performance behaviors and give them the tools necessary to extend the needed collaborative approaches out through the Shell teams to all the contractors. Everyone worked hard to stay on the same page, adhere consistently to HSSE (Health, Safety, Security, Environment) standards, and incorporate new people quickly into these productive mindsets to keep the project running smoothly and on schedule.

The results were spectacular.

“Team building was important,” Lohr said. “Bovo-Tighe worked closely with the project leaders to help the project team build intentional focus on safety and collaborative leadership. Bovo-Tighe also trained the project leaders to fully leverage each person’s unique ability and overcome obstacles to quality decisions and actions.”


“We worked together as a single, cohesive unit within Shell, rather than a bunch of individual technical silos,” added Lohr. “That made all the difference in terms of cost reduction and safety. We had over 13 million man-hours in two yards without a single recordable safety incident. That is really something special.”

The Stones project demanded a highly integrated and collaborative team in part because it was breaking so much new ground in oil and gas extraction. Stones is the first ultra-deepwater production system to use a turret and disconnectable buoy paired with lazy-wave risers, which Lohr labeled a “groundbreaking project in the Gulf of Mexico.” The Turritella weathervanes freely around the buoy as winds change, but uniquely, the buoy itself is part of the ship. That is a major safety feature that eliminates the possibility of the Turritella or support vessels colliding with the buoy and risers.

Carl Webb, Shell’s Turret and Installation Lead for Stones, noted another advantage that grew out of Lohr’s dedication to building a strong team culture. “The remarkable thing is that about 90 percent of (our) re-engineering was done while we were offshore. In my opinion, that ability to respond quickly to each new challenge is typical of the entire project.”

Meeting HSSE goals was paramount. “We had a clear and common HSSE charter from the start of the project,” explained Babu George, Project Director for the Turritella project. “All the project participants, including subcontractors and vendors, understood that we were building something special. The Stones project (overall) achieved 22 million man-hours with only 1 Lost Time Incident. That’s an incredible record for a project of this scale.”

“The challenge of building teams to work more productively and collaboratively together is not unique to large oil and gas projects,” said Dave Tighe, co-founder of Bovo-Tighe. “Our leadership and collaborative methods work just as well in city governments, biotech firms and software companies. But the opportunity to help our long-time client Shell complete such an important project in a highly safe manner and on budget was truly a rewarding experience for us. It provided a great demonstration of the impact thoughtful focus has on unleashing the full contribution of any dedicated group of people.”

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