At least five oil producers offshore Brazil, including international oil majors and state oil firm Petrobras, have seen COVID-19 infections among offshore workers spike in recent weeks, industry and government sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Brazil’s Petrobras and Enauta Participacoes, as well as Shell, Equinor, and Perenco have registered cases of coronavirus infections among workers or contractors who are sharing confined areas on offshore oil rigs.
At the same time, Brazil surpassed Russia last week to become the country with the second-largest number of COVID-19 infections behind the United States. The U.S. moved to ban as of Tuesday the travel of foreign nationals from Brazil into the United States in a temporary move to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from Brazil.
According to sources and data from regulators compiled by Reuters, Norwegian major Equinor had around 60 coronavirus cases as of last week, most of which at the Peregrino oilfield, Perenco had 40 cases, while Petrobras had more than 300 workers among staff and contractors with COVID-19.
Shell and Enauta had one coronavirus case each, the two companies told Reuters.
Petrobras says that it is taking every person’s temperature upon boarding offshore units and has adopted work-from-home as much as possible.
Days before the production cuts at the OPEC+ group formally began on May 1, Petrobras of Brazil - which is not part of that group - said that it had reversed the cuts it had announced in early April, opting for “the gradual return to an average oil production level of 2.26 MMbpd in April alongside an increase in the utilization factor of our refineries,” due to better than expected demand for its products.
Yet, the coronavirus pandemic spiraling out of control in Brazil could crush its oil industry, analysts say. Apart from the health of the offshore oil workers, Brazil’s oil sector is threatened by the low oil prices and the economic downturn in the country and in the world. Being state-held, Petrobras’s ratings are closely related to the credit rating of Brazil.