Oil major Shell has airlifted nine workers from one of its rigs in the Gulf of Mexico following a coronavirus outbreak.
After being taken to an unnamed hospital, the workers were tested for the virus. Shell said two tested negative, five tested positive, and two were still waiting on results. Most were discharged without further treatment, although one was kept for a further 24 hours of observation, and another two had to remain until their results became available. The company said the platform involved was now being reduced to minimum staffing levels.
The coronavirus pandemic has also created new challenges for the oil and gas industry in the North Sea. Website Energy Voice reported in early May that 200 workers had been medevacked with suspected COVID-19 symptoms over a period of six weeks, with a further 182 also being airlifted as a precaution after people they had contact with onshore developed symptoms.
Evacuations have since reduced, a development that Trevor Stapleton, the HSE director at industry body Oil and Gas UK, welcomed. He also said:
“OGUK continues to work on a cross-industry basis through our Pandemic Steering Group, where our focus remains on increasing testing capacity for our key workers and improving our understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting our sector.”
Many North Sea operators, including lubricant makers Total and Shell, have made an agreement with a helicopter firm to ensure that workers who are potentially infected can be quickly evacuated from platforms by what has been informally called the “corona copter”.