Equinor ASA reported the first case of coronavirus among employees on oil and gas installations offshore Norway and is testing more workers on several platforms.
The positive test at the Martin Linge field, due to start output at the end of the year, appears to be the first confirmed instance of an infected worker on offshore platforms globally. Equinor has suspended helicopter flights to Linge and three other installations offshore Norway, but it wasn’t clear what impact the virus might have on current or future production, if any.
Two additional workers were being tested at Linge, spokesman Morten Eek said on Wednesday. Several others are undergoing tests at the Oseberg field center and two mobile drilling rigs operating on the Oseberg and Gullfaks fields, he said. The infected worker at Linge isn’t seriously ill.
“We’ve been preparing for a possible confirmed case for some time,” he said by phone. “We’re prepared for different scenarios and that the situation can evolve. I don’t wish to speculate on what that might lead to.”
There are 776 people working at Linge currently, Equinor said in a statement. The oil project, which Equinor took over from Total SA in 2018, has already suffered several delays and cost increases to the latest estimate of 56 billion kroner ($5.9 billion). State-controlled Equinor is Norway’s biggest producer by far.
For Equinor and the rest of the oil industry, the spread of the virus to offshore installations comes on top of a severe drop in crude prices brought on by the disintegration of the OPEC+ alliance last week. While containing contagious diseases is challenging on isolated installations offshore with a high density of people, oil companies have experience in dealing with epidemics, Eek said.
“We have good routines for situations like these, with isolation, deep clean and health services on board,” he said.
The infected worker arrived at the Linge field on March 4 after having been to Austria. The employee was later placed in isolation in his cabin on March 9, after that country was subsequently listed as a high-risk destination by Norwegian authorities.
Norway has confirmed 277 coronavirus infections so far, of which at least 76 are people who have traveled to Austria, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
By Stephen Treloar and Mikael Holter (Bloomberg)