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North Sea firms reduce offshore crews in bid to prevent coronavirus spread

Taqa profits
Taqa operates several North Sea installations, including Tern Alpha

Several North Sea operators are reducing offshore crews on their UK platforms in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Repsol Sinopec Resources UK (RSRUK), CNOOC, Taqa and Equinor have announced plans to help stop the virus from reaching their offshore operations.

CNOOC has announced plans for a “phased reduction in non-essential activity and personnel offshore” on Buzzard – the UK’s largest-producing oilfield – as well as its Golden Eagle and Scott assets.

RSRUK, which operates 11 assets across the UK, said it is “significantly reducing the number of visitors, vendors and project-related activities” to proactively prevent the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Taqa, who operates five platforms in the sector, said it is reducing non-essential operations and reviewing manning levels in order to ensure the wellbeing of its workers.

Norwegian firm Equinor, who last week said it was responding to a suspected case of coronavirus on its Mariner platform, said it is generally “reducing manning on non-critical tasks and operations”.

It is understood this includes Mariner, the firm’s only UK operated asset, however production remains as normal across its installations.

Equinor did not comment specifically on the suspected Mariner case but said it currently has “no new confirmed cases” of the virus – known as Covid-19 – in its global operations.

Last week the operator did confirm one worker on its Martin Linge asset in Norway had contracted the disease.

It is also understood that Chrysaor, the UK’s largest oil and gas producer, is reassessing non-essential offshore activities, postponing some where possible.

The measures come as flights have today been suspended to Total’s Culzean field in the UK after a suspected coronavirus case on Maersk Highlander drilling rig, connected to the main platform.

Fellow operator Chrysaor yesterday confirmed it is responding to a suspected coronavirus case on board its North Everest platform.

Other operators are understood to have put similar policies and have been contacted for comment.

Energy giant Shell does not currently plan to reduce offshore workers but said it will respond as the situation develops. Fellow operator CNOOC also said it is not reducing offshore crews.

A spokeswoman for RSRUK said ensuring workers’ health, safety and wellbeing is the company’s “top priority” with the reduction of offshore activities aimed to “proactively reduce the risk of coronavirus”.

Meanwhile a Taqa spokeswoman said: “The priority is to ensure the wellbeing of the people working on our assets, and this decision is in line with our business continuity plans to manage the safe and sustainable continuation of our operations.”

Last month Taqa quarantined a worker on its Tern Alpha platform who was suspected of having contracted the virus, but tested negative.

A spokesman for Equinor said: “In general we are reducing the manning on non-critical tasks and operations that can wait as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of contamination in our operations.”

Last week industry body Oil and Gas UK confirmed offshore travel restrictions would be tightened in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading across the North Sea.

A spokesman for CNOOC said: “Our first priority is the health and safety of our people. We continue to implement measures that will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 offshore and onshore, and allow for business continuity of safe operations.

“To support this approach, a phased reduction in non-essential activity and personnel offshore on our three assets – Buzzard, Golden Eagle and Scott – will commence this week. Routine production operations and maintenance will continue on all three assets.”

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