2020 brought many challenges including securing the production of oil and gas offshore to maintain a stable energy supply in the Netherlands in unusual circumstances. In these unprecedented times, the Dutch offshore E&P sector has demonstrated its strength in collaboration and adaptability to assure safe and healthy working practices and environments.
Oil and gas production were already indicated as vital processes, but this became even more relevant during the Corona crisis; bringing with it the responsibility to find ways to ensure the continuity of these processes while meeting the additional health and safety requirements in the COVID-19 period. NOGEPA (Netherlands Oil and Gas Exploration & Production Association) played a leading role in creating and organising the procedures that would allow for this. However, the intensive collaboration between operators and contractors was quickly identified as key in keeping the number of offshore infections low.
The E&P industry was able to set-up extensive procedures within a very a short timeframe in March 2020 with an overall aim of minimising the number of infections offshore. There was a broad understanding that the procedures would not be perfect from the get-go, but that it was more important to create a framework and adapt this over time. These procedures are still regularly evaluated and updated based on new insights and lessons. The NOGEPA medical advisor maintains contact with the Municipal Health Services (GGD) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) to stay on top of developing requirements as well.
Specifically, the procedures were set up to minimise the risk of offshore workers, their colleagues and helicopter pilots of contracting COVID-19. Additionally, it was important to ensure the safe transport of workers either by regular flight operations, or, in the case of a (possibly) infected passenger, by means of a dedicated helicopter. This includes pre-screening procedures before passengers arrive at Den Helder Airport, as well as screening procedures at the airport itself. Operators were indicated as responsible for checking that contractors travelling offshore also complied with these procedures. Workers arriving by walk-to-work vessels also adopted these same procedures.
Open and transparent communication within our own industry, as well as with other offshore industries such as the wind sector has proven beneficial and crucial. There has been a stable atmosphere of co-operation and transparency over the past several months. In order to maintain this NOGEPA has set-up a Business Continuity network to discuss upcoming issues and the way forward. NOGEPA also maintains regular contact with the Inspector-General of State Supervision of Mines about the challenges we face as an industry and whether we are continuing to operate in a socially responsible manner.
The seriousness with which the operators and contractors approached these circumstances has allowed us to keep the number of offshore COVID-19 infections extremely low. We have demonstrated that the E&P industry have been flexible and resilient enough to ensure security of supply. We could not have done this without the cooperation of the contractors and sub-contractors.