Brunei Shell Petroleum has rolled out measures in an attempt to ward off disruptions to oil and gas production in Brunei following a significant number of Covid-19 infections detected at offshore platforms in the Champion field, the country’s biggest source of hydrocarbons.
The latest surge in Covid-19 cases is particularly concerning as it marks the first major outbreak in Brunei since the report of its first active case in March 2020. Moreover, “the number of cases being reported from the Champion field cluster is particularly negative for Brunei, given the field accounts for virtually all of its crude oil production and in turn, its crude oil exports,” analysts at Fitch Solutions said in a report.
Still “it is still too early to ascertain the impacts of restrictive measures on the (upstream) operations, but hopefully it will only be minimal,” said Brunei’s Minister of Finance and Economy Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Admin Liew during a press briefing, reported the Borneo Bulletin on Tuesday. However, Energy Voice understands that the minister was responding to a question from a reporter and that his “response was shaky and not convincing.”
Worryingly, a significant number of new infections are being reported from locales directly or indirectly linked to oil and gas operations in Brunei, including the headquarters of major oil companies, such as TotalEnergies and Shell, Fitch Solutions said on 31 August.
“Lab results to determine whether the latest outbreak is due to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus are pending. While leading oil and gas producer Shell have indicated that activities at the Champion field have not been affected, further escalation in the domestic situation would leave the IOC little choice but to reduce operations and implement social distancing rules to limit the spread of the virus,” added Fitch.
A spokesperson for Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) told Energy Voice that necessary changes to operations have been made to adhere to the restrictive health measures. “BSP endeavours to ensure the impact to production from the Champion 7 field or from any other of the BSP production facilities is minimal,” added the spokesperson.
“The manning of our offshore and onshore operations have commenced with the skeletal crew. The changeover of crew has taken place safely and the safety bubbles are put in place. This is to ensure that all incoming alternate crews are isolated from each other, so that the risks of exposure to the Covid-19 virus is minimised. This includes staging of the crew with self-isolation and testing prior to going into the field, as well as changes to the shift patterns to ensure the safety of our staff and contractors and to ensure minimum disruption to operations,” said BSP.
Brunei continues to be heavily dependent on output from the Champion field – the field provides about 88% of total annual crude oil production in the Southeast Asian nation. In 2020, Brunei produced 110,000 barrels per day of oil and 12.6 billion cubic metres of gas, according to data from BP’s statistical review of world energy.