“The coronavirus pandemic is delaying vital maintenance across the oil and natural gas industries” reports Bloomberg (London).
This is based around a few factors, including restricted numbers of contractors on production sites. Companies are being forced to delay work that’s been planned for years. In refineries, last-minute changes are being made to scale back their turnarounds, allowing the most urgent work to proceed while other projects are put back.
The backlog is fast becoming evident across the industry. For example, Norway’s Equinor ASA has delayed maintenance at five offshore oil and gas platforms; the shutdown of the Forties Pipeline running from the North Sea, has been put back; and Canadian oil sands producers have deferred their major plans.
“It would be very hard to conduct a turnaround exercising social distancing,” said an Oil and Gas consultant, having worked on refinery maintenance projects.
World Oil reports, “Oil and Gas installations are subject to routine inspections because of the wide range of risks to workers and the environment.” In the past 10 years, there have been several accidents and the increasing danger is a difficult balance for the industry.
Companies are now having to prioritise their works as emergency and essential maintenance must continue. Norway’s gas network operator said, “It’s only reducing non-critical work.” Major work scheduled at Marathon Petroleum’s giant Galveston Bay refinery in Texas City, has been postponed. Finland’s Neste Oyj has also scaled back a turnaround that’s long been planned for its main refinery.