Corona infection halts drilling project

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An employee on board an oil drilling rig in the Norwegian Sea has tested positive to the Corona virus and been admitted to hospital in Molde. The infection case has halted all work on the West Phoenix rig, which has 126 people on board.

Seadrill’s West Phoenix drilling rig has often been used on oil fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Now one of the workers on board has fallen ill with the Corona virus, Covid-19, and all operations have been halted as colleagues are put into isolation 120 kilometers off the coast of Kristiansund. PHOTO: Equinor

The rig, owned by Seadrill, had been chartered by oil company Neptune Energy and was working on the offshore Fenja oil field in the Norwegian Sea. It’s located around 120 kilomoters off the coast north of Kristiansund.

Liv Jannie Omdal, communications director for Neptune Energy, said the company was alerted to the Corona case Saturday evening and that the employee had been airlifted for treatment at the hospital in Molde.

It remained unclear how the worker had become infected, but now everyone he worked with has been put in isolation in their cabins on board the rig.

“We quickly got medical personnel out to the rig who started charting everyone else on it,” Omdal told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She said that 13 people were in isolation so far but none exhibited any symptoms of the virus.

No one could be taken for testing because all helicopter transport to and from the rig was halted until officials gained control over the situation. “We are now investigating the possibility of testing as many as possible offshore, first and foremost those who had the most contact with the person who’s infected.”

The West Phoenix had been hired in to drill for oil on a field believed to contain 97 million barrels of oil equivalents. Omdal said it was unclear when drilling operations could resume.

“There’s no production out there now,” she said, adding that it was too early to assess economic consequences.

Officials in Kristiansund, meanwhile, confirmed to local newspaper Tidens Krav that the man infected with the Corona virus had been in Kristiansund before being flown out to the rig for his shift. “He reportedly stayed at a hotel in Kristiansund and we’re working to trace possible infection,” Tore Lyngvær, communications chief for the municipality, told NRK. “Those who have been in contact with him will be put in quarantine. We’re trying to chart how many people that may be.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund