When the entire country is reeling under COVID-19, nearly 176 km away from Mumbai west coast, in India’s largest oil field, Mumbai High, the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), too, is in a spot.
About 75-80 people, out of the total 230 or around 35 percent of the workforce, have been infected by COVID-19 in Heera, one of ONGC’s largest producing platforms. Out of this, 28 are ONGC employees. The rest are contract workers.
The company claims production is unaffected and maintains that it is continuing to produce 50,000 barrels of oil per day from the platform. An ONGC spokesperson declined to comment on the development.
A source, who is working offshore, told Moneycontrol that only two rigs out of the six in the area are currently operational.
“In a rig called Sagar Uday, almost 60-70 people were tested positive, and, hence, the rig got blacked out. Similarly, work was stopped in Sagar Ratna, Sagar Kiran and Sagar Shakthi, too. In Heera too, it seems production is affected,” the source said.
However, another source indicated that production is not affected at Heera. Regarding the stoppage of operations in rigs, the source added that it may not affect production as a majority of them are used for exploratory purposes.
A rig is used for mainly exploration purpose. Platforms are permanent structures on seabed for production.
What is making life difficult for ONGC is how to contain the spread of the virus in a small area.
The company managed to maintain its production status owing to a set of health protocols being maintained in offshore operations. Those affected and those who came in close contact with those affected are being transported immediately to the base in helicopters.
The company has maintained a strict standard operating procedure ever since the pandemic broke out. Any person, whether employee or contract worker, has to go through a mandatory five-day quarantine and also an RT-PCR test before being shifted offshore.
The company has also posted a team of doctors on all its platforms, and, hence, temperature and other health parameters of the employees are checked on a routine basis.
“If somebody is found having some symptoms, the person is immediately sent back to the base. All those coming into contact with that person are also isolated. If the person turns out to be negative, then people who are in isolation are allowed to work. Otherwise, we sent a team of doctors and paramedics to collect the blood samples of those quarantined, too,” the source added.
At present, those working offshore are managing the production intact. The company is of the view that no immediate replacement is required as shifts keep changing.
Prior to COVID, shifts in offshore operations were for 14 days. This has increased to 28 days now. “Right now, the production is not affected by COVID in Heera, but there is a huge maintenance job going on and that is why one of the platforms is shut there. That is a planned shutdown,” he added.