28 ExxonMobil workers test COVID positive offshore, 20 recover

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The Noble Tom Madden drillship

…company believes greater than 12 day incubation period may have led to the first case offshore

By Lisa Hamilton

ExxonMobil Guyana has had 28 positive cases of COVID-19 onboard the Noble Tom Madden drillship offshore Guyana and believes that a greater than catered to incubation period for the virus may have allowed for the initial transfer of the virus offshore.

On April 23, ExxonMobil Guyana first confirmed that 14 rotational workers supporting operations offshore had tested positive for the virus and were all either asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.

As of May 7, 2021, Public and Government Affairs Advisor at Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Janelle Persaud confirmed that the cases since rose to 28 with 20 persons already recovered. The other eight remain in isolation with mild or no symptoms.

Public and Government Affairs Advisor at Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Janelle Persaud

“We received confirmation, after testing the entire crew onboard the drillship, that there were no additional cases…we have closely monitored their condition and ensured proper medical care,” Persaud told this newspaper on Friday. She assured that operations on the six drillships and the Liza Destiny FPSO remain unaffected.

Meanwhile, questions were also posed about what the company believes may have led to the virus making its way offshore despite Exxon’s strict adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines. Persaud said: “The medical community suggests there is a one in five thousand chance of a greater than 12 day incubation period for COVID-19 which, considering we have moved 10,000 persons, causes us to believe this may have led to the first case being undetected.”

ExxonMobil Guyana’s protocols, before then, had led to the transfer of thousands of persons without a positive case. Additional protocols, including vigorous testing, contact tracing and isolation, were activated to prevent spread of the virus on the drillship. Persaud added that there have been no cases on other drillships.

The Company continues to implement and improve its protocols as it learns of more ways to keep its workforce safe and to limit the spread of the virus in the community.

There are medical personnel onboard ExxonMobil Guyana’s offshore facilities taking the necessary precautions to monitor the health of the workers and to provide appropriate treatment and care.

Since the confirmation of the first cases of the virus offshore, the Village Voice News has been in contact with one of the individuals in semi-isolation. While the individual — who asked to remain anonymous — commended ExxonMobil for its strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, the individual also recommended that the Ministry of Health work in closer collaboration with ExxonMobil Guyana for greater transparency.

“Why is our Health authority playing such a low key role in this oil sector, if indeed they are playing any role at all? Exxon needs the support of the Ministry of Health…people are afraid to lose their jobs …so they don’t ask questions, just go with the flow,” the individual said.

The person also recommended a different approach to flaring giving his opinion that there aren’t enough monitoring mechanisms in the interest of Guyanese. “Flaring onboard the FPSO needs a different approach because the present and the past administration has not one single person with maritime experience amongst them,” he alleged, adding: “Where are the monitoring mechanisms to look over interests in our oilfields?”

Even as ExxonMobil Guyana deals with the remaining cases of COVID-19 offshore, it works to repair the discharge silencer aboard the Liza Destiny which will take some three months. It is also working to install the recently repaired third stage flash gas compression system which will not be completed until the end of the year.

Until then, flaring at above-startup levels will continue with flare levels last reported at or below 15 million standard cubic feet per day (mscfd).

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