Norway’s Equinor ASA and Anglo-French firm Perenco are among at least five oil producers that have registered coronavirus cases among employees or contractors at facilities off the coast of Brazil, industry and regulatory sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Brazil’s Enauta Participacoes have registered one case each, and hundreds of cases have been recorded at oilfields operated by state-run Petrobras.
The infections illustrate the threat the virus poses to workers toiling in cramped quarters miles offshore and have raised questions about the effectiveness of extensive testing efforts to contain the pandemic’s spread on platforms.
Alongside industries like mining and meatpacking, oil production has come under intense scrutiny during the pandemic as employees are forced to work, sleep and eat in confined areas.
That is particularly true on offshore oil rigs, service vessels and so-called “floatels,” where a single infection can multiply quickly, Reuters said in its report.
In most other nations, outbreaks have been contained to a handful of rigs. U.S. industry group National Ocean Industries Association said it had registered just 99 cases of coronavirus among offshore workers in the United States, according to data shared with Reuters last week.
In Brazil, which last week became the country with the second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States, that number is significantly higher.
Reuters said oil regulator ANP had registered 544 active coronavirus cases as of Thursday among workers who had accessed offshore facilities. That figure does not include workers who have recovered, and the total number of infections remains a mystery.
In Guyana, ExxonMobil has said it continues to take all precautions to ensure the health and safety of offshore workers.
“ExxonMobil continues to monitor the Coronavirus outbreak closely in keeping with guidance from relevant authorities. We have well-established processes in place to manage impacts related to infectious disease outbreaks,” Janelle Persaud, ExxonMobil Guyana Public and Government Affairs Advisor has told OilNOW.
SBM Offshore, builder and operator of the 120,000 barrels per day Liza Destiny FPSO which is currently producing oil offshore Guyana, said it is taking all precautions to ensure the safety of its personnel.
“SBM offshore remains mobilized and is taking all necessary precautions to ensure safe operations and safeguard the health of our personnel onshore and offshore as part of efforts to limit the impact of the Coronavirus at all our working sites in Guyana,” Herve Laurioux, Guyana Country Manager has said.