The burden of the COVID-19 pandemic weighs heavily on us all.
It’s forced us to re-think how we do our jobs, how we shop (if the shelves aren’t empty) and how we live and plan our every day lives.
Some of the most basic, mundane, everyday things that we typically take for granted can feel almost unattainable under the current circumstances.
Who’d have thought we’d pine for the simple banter at the coffee machine, the smiling faces in the canteen or the quick catch-ups outside the lift with a colleague?
At times it can feel like you’re just waiting for the next appearance of “Breaking News” to flash across the TV screen, bringing with it fresh things to consider, and more change to your daily routine.
Yes, working from home has become the new normal for many of us, but not for all.
While millions of people across the UK are staying clear of their workplaces, those in our health and social care sector remain on the frontline and still need to get to work and work there safely every day.
They’re doing an impossible job and doing it fantastically well, in challenging circumstances.And so too are our colleagues in the oil and gas industry.
They are still going to work, offshore or in the refineries and terminals around the country to keep the lights on, the hospitals operating and the world moving and to make sure the increasing energy demand is met and homes remain heated while we work at our kitchen counters, dining room tables and “home offices”.
As an industry, our purpose is to make a positive contribution to society and its energy needs and we’re doing that against a backdrop of unprecedented challenge: presenting for the oil and gas industry logistical, supply and economic constraints simultaneously.
The Coronavirus and global oil and gas price slumps have become something of a perfect storm.
I can’t speak highly enough of the teams working away from their homes and their families for weeks at a time, during one of the toughest times in living memory, juggling the circumstances imposed by the need to contain the spread of the virus, with the need to go to work as usual.
This includes the team on our own Neptune operated Cygnus production facility in the Southern North Sea, which alone meets around 6% of the UK’s natural gas demand.
We have of course, along with our partners and wider industry network under the auspices of OGUK, put in place stringent screening and mitigation procedures to manage potential on and offshore cases and ensure our workers are kept safe.
With that in mind, I very much welcome comments this week from both the Oil and Gas Authority and from OGUK, championing the offshore gas industry in particular and recognising the role it plays at such a critical time today, as well as in meeting the UK’s future net zero targets .
The important part that lower-cost, lower-carbon and domestic natural gas plays in achieving those ambitions cannot be overstated.
The OGA has responded to the economic challenges by focusing on financial and operational resilience, support for supply chain and strong, clear communication.
The Authority has become synonymous with flexibility and collaboration and these are especially crucial today.
This week, OGUK’s chief executive, Deirdre Michie, further underlined this when she welcomed the addition of oil and gas employees to the list of the UK Government’s “key workers” who would receive extra help to support their children’s education; an explicit recognition that offshore personnel can’t be at home for their youngsters whilst they’re providing the UK with, secure and affordable energy, safely.
So while the majority of us are grappling with working from home, let’s please spare a thought to acknowledge the many thousands of oil and gas workers the industry is home to, and the vital difference they make. A heartfelt thank you from myself and the rest of my home-bound Neptune colleagues too.