Offshore Sector Begins to See Effects of Coronavirus Pandemic
The maritime industry's attention has been squarely focused on the impact of the novel coronavirus on the cruise industry, but the offshore sector may well be next. Brent crude trading at levels last seen at the bottom of the 2014-16 oil market collapse, and some analysts are forecasting prices below $20 per barrel - well below breakeven for the offshore sector. Offshore rig leader Transocean has seen its stock price fall by 80 percent since the start of this year, reflecting investor expectations of a challenging outlook.
In addition, platform operations in the UK and Norwegian North Sea have been affected by concerns over the possibility of viral infection among the workforce. CNOOC recently announced that it will end "non-essential activity" at the UKCS Buzzard, Golden Eagle and Scott offshore fields in order to reduce the risk of transferring infection onto a platform.
Norwegian state-owned oil major Equinor has also scaled back, reducing or delaying non-critical tasks and interrupting helicopter service to multiple fields. Equinor has appointed an EVP-level leader to head up a coronavirus-response task force, which will "take forceful action to reduce risk, protect our business and operations and to ensure the long-term robustness of our company," CEO Eldar Sætre said in a statement Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, at least three North Sea fields have suspected or known cases of COVID-19 on board.
One worker on Chrysaor Holdings' North Everest platform on the UK continental shelf has been placed in isolation after showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“The individual has been quarantine offshore, their family has been informed and Chrysaor is liaising with Health Protection Scotland to ensure the continued safety of our personnel on board the installation," Chrysaor said in a statement. “The health and safety of everyone who plays a part in Chrysaor’s operations is our number one priority.”
Four workers are quarantined aboard the jackup rig Maersk Highlander at Total's Culzean field due to a suspected case of coronavirus on board. Flights to and from the field have been temporarily suspended but production at the UK North Sea field has not been affected, Total said Tuesday.
Maersk Drilling told Scottish outlet The National that it is currently waiting for a test kit to be delivered to the rig.
One individual at Equinor's newly-developed Martin Linge field off Norway has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The individual is not seriously ill and has been in isolation in his cabin since March 9, according to Equinor. No one else on board is symptomatic, though two other people are being tested as a precautionary measure.
"Measures to prevent further contamination for offshore installations have been introduced. It has not been decided when the person will be brought ashore," Equinor said in a statement.
Equinor said that activity at Martin Linge has been reduced and personnel will remain where they are currently stationed. There are three facilities at the site with a total of 776 people.