With operations on almost every continent, bp has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020. Unsurprisingly, that response has grown as the virus has spread, but from the start it centred on three key principles: protecting its people, protecting communities and protecting its finances.
That has meant almost every employee having to adapt the way they work in some capacity. For many, it meant a rapid switch to homeworking as countries around the world implemented quarantine conditions. However, thousands of bp workers are still on the frontline, working on oil and gas platforms and in refineries, petrochemical and lubricants plants and in our retail stations.
bp has taken stringent measures to protect its offshore teams, both before, during and after they are transported to their facility. In Angola, for example, workers on the Greater Plutonio floating production, storage and offloading vessel must first go into quarantine in a Luanda hotel for two weeks prior to heading offshore for their four-week rotation.
Watch this minute-long film made by site engineer Arlette Giron Paiva to find out more.
In the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), Houma heliport in Louisiana, which supports 10 GoM assets, transporting between 175 and 200 offshore workers a day, has made a number of changes to the way the team executes its procedures in order to reduce the risk of the virus spreading offshore.
They are no strangers to working in a crisis, however, and their training in hurricane evacuation has helped them to cope with the current situation.
Measures include adjusting flight schedules to enhance social distancing at the heliport, medical checks for all staff and passengers, and regular disinfecting of both the building and helicopters.
Find out more in this one-minute film.
Inside the specially adapted Sikorsky S92 helicopter
Once offshore, the crew is subject to equally tight controls, particularly at bp’s Thunder Horse platform, where early in the pandemic some workers contracted the virus. “We decided right at the start that we would medically evacuate anyone presenting symptoms, however mild,” says Miranda Jones, GoM HSE manager.
The platform has since changed the way it operates, with fewer people onboard, extended rotation times and the ubiquitous social distancing measures. Incoming crews also arrive for work several days early to test and self-isolate and measures are in place to remove contact between incoming and outgoing crews.
Similar measures are in place in the North Sea, where one worker at bp’s Clair Ridge project tested positive for the virus. The individual was immediately evacuated from the platform, with those who had been in contact isolated in cabins. Meanwhile, the business has set up a ‘safe passage’ project to introduce bespoke travel, accommodation and pre-mobilization medical screening.
For example, staff and contractors are using dedicated ‘safe haven’ hotels and bp-approved car services to help reassure workers of their safety and wellbeing. Like the GoM, these measures mean that staff and contractors have to mobilize earlier than normal. “This means more time away from families,” says Alison Shaw, a member of the safe passage team. “But knowing that bp is doing everything it can to protect them is going down extremely well.”
What’s more, bp and Chrysaor have jointly commissioned a specially modified Sikorsky S92 helicopter to safely repatriate North Sea oil and gas workers suspected of having coronavirus.
The helicopter is available to other oil and gas operators in the region and includes a host of special features, including waterproof seats and floors to help post-flight deep cleaning and a medic onboard every flight.
Meanwhile, bp’s refineries are taking steps to keep all workers safe. As Klaas Steur, the shift manager at Rotterdam refinery in the Netherlands, puts it: “The essential parts of the job haven’t changed. We need to operate the plant as safely, efficiently and reliably as possible, within all the normal bp rules, but the way in which we do that has changed.”
Those changes have included the introduction of social distancing, the supply and use of hand sanitizer dispensers on site, regular disinfection of high-use equipment, door handles and fuel pumps and, in many instances, different shift patterns in order to minimize interaction of people.
At Cherry Point refinery on the US West Coast, for example, shifts are now split into distinct groups with no interaction between them. The idea is that if someone shows symptoms of COVID-19, then the entire shift goes into quarantine without compromising their colleagues.
“Our team is now working two 12-hour shifts instead of the usual three eight-hour stints,” says Carlos Garcia Sanchez, shift superintendent at Castellón refinery in Spain. “We also work seven days on followed by a long period off, like a natural quarantine, in order to further reduce risk of transmission.”
Shift handovers have had to change too. At Rotterdam, for example, around 15 people usually gather to discuss any safety issues or important management communications at shift crossovers, but these are now done one-to-one.
Carlos Sanchez, shift superintendent, Castellón refinery in Spain
Carlos Sanchez, shift superintendent, Castellón refinery
While the safety and wellbeing of people is the priority, keeping operations going also helps to protect bp’s finances. Here, too, changes, such as those to shift patterns, have been made to make that possible.
Like its refineries, bp’s petrochemicals business has put in place a series of measures, such as cleaning and disinfection routines, isolation between shift operations teams and the provision of face masks when face-to-face interactions are needed. Crucially, any sign of respiratory symptoms results in self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days.
bp’s Saltend petrochemicals plant in Hull, UK
Many of the measures in place to protect bp people are also helping protect bp customers. At bp-owned retail sites, staff have been equipped with personal protective equipment and regularly disinfect pumps, door handles and PIN terminals.
“In order to be safe, we need to be vigilant and careful, particularly when it comes to hygiene,” says Iwona Struzik, site manager for a station in Krakow, Poland.
bp has also provided disposable gloves and hand sanitizer for customers and asked that they pay by card or via the bpme app wherever possible.
In the UK, teams have been trying to keep themselves and customers positive, says site manager Rachael Barlow: “My team has dressed up, shown up and given me a sense of pride in being able to run an operation that is helping the UK to keep moving and be safe.”
Watch this short film for more on what’s being done at bp’s retail sites to ensure the safety of staff and customers alike.