Blow-by-blow accounts of the how and the why questions agitating minds of millions on virus outbreaks in oil facilities located as far as over 1000 km offshore Nigeria
More facts have emerged on reasons the offshore and remote oil facilities in the Africa’s biggest crude exporter is rocked by the novel COVID-19.
Some of the affected oil platforms where some personnel have been confirmed to have tested positive for the dreaded virus, according to checks by Platforms Africa, are located as far as over 1000 kilometers offshore Nigeria and it becomes a source of worry for many how remote installations like that with claims of top-notch safety and security protocols could be infiltrated by the virus.
The Nigeria’s oil industry operator, Department of Petroleum Resources DPR) gave a hint suggesting answers to these questions.
In a circular issued to all oil and gas industry operators obtained by Platforms Africa, the agency noted “that some personnel of government authorities do not subject themselves to the controlled isolation period, which forms part of the protocol for the management of COVID-19 by operators prior to embarking to these locations.”
Many offshore workers have, according to government, sadly tested positive for COVID-19 “in some offshore and remote locations, many of which are linked to non-adherence to established protocols.”
The DPR also read a riot act to international oil companies (IOCs) and their local counterparts over violation of COVID-19 protocols, vowing to deny waivers to any violators.
The circular entitled: “RE: MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19 OUTBREAK – UPDATE 4,” reads: “In spite of these efforts, the industry has sadly recorded COVID- 19 cases in some offshore and remote locations, many of which are linked to nonadherence to established protocols.”
It is worrisome, according to DPR, to “note that some personnel of government authorities do not subject themselves to the controlled isolation period, which forms part of the protocol for the management of COVID-19 by operators prior to embarking to these locations.
“This act of non-compliance can severely disrupt activities in the industry, which is a critical sector of the Nigerian economy.
Additionally, non-adherence to protocols puts everyone at risk as COVID-19 does not recognise profession, level or cadre.
“Consequently, and pursuant to Regulation 45 of the Petroleum (Drilling & Production) Regulations, 1969, no personnel (including government authorities) shall be permitted to embark to offshore/remote locations in the oil and gas industry without being fully subjected to established protocols.”
Furthermore, all operators, the DPR said, are “to ensure that evidence of compliance with the protocols by personnel travelling to offshore/remote locations are duly documented.
“For the avoidance of doubt, no personnel shall be granted waiver of any sort. This is for your immediate and strict implementation.”
Meanwhile, the routine maintenance of 225,000 barrels per day capacity Bonga Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) oil export terminal deep offshore Nigeria operated by Shell has suffered a setback as an official on the installation tested positive for COVID-19.
Nigeria’s Lagos-based New Telegraph newspaper reported that the incident, which led to evacuation of other staff, who had close contact with their affected colleague from the offshore facility, has created panic among the rest.
The Bonga FPSO has the capacity to produce 225,000 barrels of oil and 150 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.
The newspaper learnt that while the affected officer has been moved to the COVID-19 treatment centre, his colleagues, who had close contacts with him, have also been evacuated and quarantined.
“Some of them were performing roles critical to the routine turn around maintenance of the FPSO. They have been replaced after the disinfection of the installation, but there was a little delay with the pace of work,” he said.
A Shell spokesman stated, however, that there was no mass evacuation of staff or shutdown of the FPSO. He declined comment on a colleague who tested positive for the dreaded infection.
The Bonga crude oil export terminal was shut for routine maintenance and was expected to be done in a record time.
A major focus is the Bonga floating, production, storage, offloading (FPSO) vessel, which is at the heart of Bonga operations.