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How the oil industry could combat COVID-19

Like most industries, oil and gas have been hit hard by COVID-19, but there are plenty of examples of the sector playing an important role in fighting the pandemic.

For a start, several of the industry’s big names have donated to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency fund. Titled the ‘Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund’, the money will go towards vital supplies like protective equipment for medics and providing public guidance, as well as research towards analysing the spread of the virus and developing a vaccine. The fund requires “at least $675m” (roughly £550m) for April alone, with this figure likely to rise.

Within the sector itself, newly introduced protocols from oil companies are ensuring workers keep safe. The need for social distancing has seen significant cuts to staff levels in the North Sea’s offshore installations, with several maintenance projects here and elsewhere on hold until safer times.

One of the most notable examples of this is BP, which has withdrawn thousands of employees from its Indonesia-based Tangguh LNG site. Despite taking this hit, the company continues to positively contribute towards the COVID-19 fight, having made a $2m (£1.62m) donation to the WHO’s fund and provided free fuel to UK emergency vehicles, with supportive efforts also in place in Spain, Germany, Poland, Turkey and Australia. Plus, in Brazil, a BP joint venture is distributing disinfectant to health services, made from ethanol intended to be used in fuel.

A similar effort is being made by Total, with the French firm donating €50m (£43.5m) to the country’s hospitals, and ExxonMobil is playing its part too. The American oil giant is involved in the design and manufacture of a protective mask that can be reused. Currently being tested by the US Food and Drug Administration, ExxonMobil has pledged to make the manufacture and delivery of the apparatus a priority.

Other names in the oil industry are helping out financially. Valero has put $1.8m (£1.45m) into tackling the virus within its cities of operation in an effort to make sure frontline workers are supported at this difficult time. The refining company’s CEO and Chairman, Joe Gorder, has said Valero is “blessed” to be in a position where it can support its partners in the community.

Chevron, meanwhile, has donated $7m (£5.67m) to education, health services and food banks, also pledging that for any employee who donates, the US firm will itself put forward double the amount.

Back in Europe, Austria-based OMV is looking after the nation’s most urgent needs with donation of €1m (£0.87m) in fuel cards to shelter and food charity Caritas Austria, as well as the country’s Red Cross. Austria put an end to large gatherings in mid-March, at roughly the same time as the UK.

These efforts show the oil sector to be a conscientious and compassionate industry, with its major firms aware of their corporate responsibility. Whether financially or through their unique fields of expertise, there are all kinds of ways they are able to play a pivotal role in these unprecedented times.

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