Chevron on Wednesday afternoon confirmed two cases of Covid-19 on one of its offshore platforms in the US Gulf of Mexico.

That news came after the US Coast Guard said on Wednesday that a total of 14 US Gulf offshore workers on five different offshore facilities have tested positive for Covid-19.

That followed confirmation from BP on Tuesday that four workers who had been on one of its offshore facilities tested positive for the virus.

"Chevron notified the appropriate regulatory agencies and is following our plans and procedures to help ensure the health and well-being of our workforce," a spokeswoman said.

"Production remains at normal levels, we have temporarily suspended drilling operations and non-essential personnel have been moved off the platform." Production has not been impacted, she added.

Chevron said that anybody exhibiting symptoms while offshore was "immediately isolated and evaluated by medical personnel" and then tested for the virus at an appropriate medical facility.

Social distancing

Workers are also screened for symptoms and their temperatures taken before going offshore, and once offshore they are tested daily. Workers are occupying single rooms and practicing social distancing.

Non-essential workers have been moved off platforms where the cases were identified, and the company has moved from a 14 days on-14 days off schedule to a 21-21 rotation.

Chevron is also carrying out "enhanced cleaning" at all its facilities "with an additional focus on common spaces, door handles and handrails," as well as deep-cleaning areas where the workers who tested positive slept and worked.

The Coast Guard said it was not able to divulge what other companies or installations were affected, or whether the workers have been evacuated or were still on board.

"The (Centers for Disease Control) is the lead federal agency with respect to coordinating the response to persons displaying symptoms of or testing positive for Covid-19," the Coast Guard said in a statement to Upstream.

CDC response

"The Coast Guard is using our statutory authorities to direct vessel movement in support of CDC operations. However, offshore facilities do not fall under the same umbrella as those vessels and the Coast Guard doesn’t restrict the movement of those personnel."

A press inquiry to the CDC on Wednesday afternoon regarding the offshore cases was not returned.

A spokesman for the US Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement said the statutes governing the regulator do not contain any provisions for a pandemic or a requirement for operators to report any cases to the regulator. Accordingly, it referred comment to individual operators.

Upstream sought comment from all operators listed as operating permanent deep-water structures in the US Gulf region, as well as all major rig contractors listed as currently operating deep-water mobile offshore drilling units.

Helicopter player Bristow Group told Upstream that it has flown more than 30 flights in the Gulf of Mexico supporting the COVID-19 response, providing services including medevac and supply delivery. The first such flight was 26 January.

BP on Tuesday revealed the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 to be made public in the US Gulf offshore region, saying four workers who tested positive for the virus had been on one of its offshore platforms.

Deep cleaning was reportedly planned for those offshore facilities. BP operates the Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika assets.

Tests still pending

Shell, one of the largest players in the region, told Upstream that it has "yet to encounter a positive Covid-19 case in the Gulf of Mexico" but that a total of four employees had been identified as "persons under investigation" after experiencing symptoms.

The Anglo-Dutch supermajor said two employees who work on a drillship contracted by Shell were still awaiting results.

"Earlier, two Shell employees working on two separate Shell-operated platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were also identified as Persons Under Investigation. Results for one PUI came back negative, while the results for the second PUI are still pending."

"We have been and will continue to take steps to protect all employees following guidance from the CDC and local public health officials while maintaining data privacy and individual health confidentiality," a spokeswoman said.

In response to the virus, the company has undertaken a range of measures, including screening all people headed offshore for symptoms and fever before leaving from a heliport or port, the spokeswoman said.

Anybody suspected of having the virus is put in isolation and then transported off the facility. After that, the facility is put in isolation for 14 days or until the person in question returns a negative test.

The company has also lengthened offshore facility hitches to 21 days from 14, and rig hitches to 28 days, to minimise exposure.

Other operators weigh in

Hess told Upstream that the company has had "no reported cases of Covid-19 among US employees to date."

"We have defined procedures for a variety of scenarios to protect health and safety and minimise potential impact to our operations," the company said.

"Most of our office-based staff are working remotely and we have reduced the number of personnel on offshore platforms and onshore work sites wherever this can be done safely."

BHP said it was not aware of any suspected or confirmed cases on its Shenzi or Neptune platforms. W&T Offshore also told Upstream that none of its employees were affected.

No staff on Llog Exploration's facilities or rigs on hire have contracted Covid-19, chief operating officer Rick Fowler said. Equinor said it had no confirmed cases on its operated facilities.

"The company has implemented measures in line with recommendations from national and international health authorities," a spokesman for the Norwegian major said.

"In general we are reducing the manning on non-essential tasks and operations that can wait as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of contamination in our operations."

Occidental, which operates a wide range of facilities after its acquisition of Anadarko, said its offshore facilities "at this time, remain free of any confirmed cases."

"We are conducting health checks at all our ports of entry to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as reconfiguring our crew flights and shifts, as appropriate.

"Additionally, we always adhere to federal and local guidance, updating the regulatory authorities and coordinating with other Gulf operators and our service providers."

A spokesperson for Murphy Oil declined to comment.