Update: Oil and Gas Listed as Important Social Function in Norway

March 20, 2020

Offshore workers in Norway, Image by Arild - AdobeStock
Offshore workers in Norway, Image by Arild - AdobeStock

This article, originally titled "Norway: Oil Workers Not Critical for Society," has been amended as the Norwegian government has added some parts of the oil and gas industry to the "Critical Social Functions" list.

OEDigital on Friday morning reported, based on information from the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, that oil and gas industry employees in Norway did not fall under the "critical social functions" category.

The offshore regulator said at the time was responding to an increasing amount of queries, given that the government has earlier this week imposed quarantine and isolation rules, closed kindergartens, schools, and universities, banned public events, but said those with critical social functions may be exempted from some of the rules.

"We are receiving many queries about taking care of critical social functions and whether personnel in the petroleum sector are defined as members of this category. At the moment, the answer to that question is no," the offshore safety regulator originally said.

Defining these functions is the responsibility of the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, it said.

In the UK, the RMT union representing offshore workers on Thursday asked the government for a ‘key worker’ status for its members, "to recognize their critical role in keeping the lights on during the current public health crisis and for the long term to stabilize future energy, investment and revenue streams from North Sea operations." It also warned that tens of thousands of jobs might be lost due to the oil price rout and coronavirus impact.

Oil and gas now listed as important

Commenting further on the "critical social function" the Petroleum Safety Authority said: "We are aware that the industry associations are now discussing this issue with the Authorities in connection with the coronavirus response, but do not know so far what the outcome of these talks will be and whether they will mean changes for the petroleum industry," PSA Norway said.

According to an update on Friday, the Norwegian government has eventually included activities related to oil and gas production on the list of “important social functions," as it, according to the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, believes that maintaining operations and employment on Norway’s continental shelf (NCS) will be significant for society."

The Norwegian oil and gas safety body said that the questions on the "critical social function" or “important social functions," category often linked to challenges related to the new quarantine regulations and to the offer of nursery and school places for the children of people with socially-critical functions.

"These rules have been established pursuant to Norwegian legislation on public health and therefore do not fall within our area of responsibility," the PSA Norway said, advising those interested to follow information from the health authorities.

In a statement earlier this week, the Norwegian Government said: "People who are essential to the proper operation of services related to life and health are exempt from the duty of quarantine when at work or traveling to and from work by means other than public transport. ‘Services related to life and health’ refers, among other things, to duties performed in the health and care services, security work (police, fire, and rescue preparedness) and the senior management of critical public services. 

"Use of the exemption must be clarified with the entity’s management. Persons covered by the exemption should, to the degree possible, avoid close contact with other persons, and the exemption applies only to work situations in controlled surroundings, not leisure time"

According to the Norwegian Directorate of Health - the list released before the inclusion of oil and gas activities - the emergency response committee considers that the following 15 functions to be critical to society in Norway:

  • Government and crisis management
  • Defense
  • Law and order
  • Health and care services
  • Rescue services
  • IT security in the civilian sector
  • Nature and environment
  • Security of supply
  • Water and wastewater
  • Financial services
  • Power supply
  • Electronic communication services
  • Transport
  • Satellite-based services
  • Pharmacies

This list, as of Friday, March 20, includes activities related to oil and gas production.

Here's what's included 

According to the government, as shared by the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, the following key positions and personnel categories within the oil and gas industry are included in the “socially-important” list:

  • control-room staff related to the gas value chain
  • critical operations personnel related to the gas value chain
  • critical personnel offshore required to maintain oil and gas production.

Where the shipping industry is concerned, the following key positions and personnel categories are defined as a socially critical function:

  • crew on vessels and rigs related to transport and to oil and gas production
  • shipping company and other maritime industry personnel with significant duties related to maintaining operational logistics chains and energy production.

Personnel whose roles are critical for maintaining prudent operation in these sectors can be offered nursery/school places, subject to certain criteria, the industry organization said.

In an updated statement on Friday, the PSA Norway said that "activities related to oil and gas production are not on the list of critical social functions," without elaborating further on what those activities were.

Rystad: Only 5% of cases reported

Norwegian Institute of Public Health on Thursday said that Norway had a total of 1552 infected by the COVID-19 disease, an increase of 127 compared to the day before, with 6 deaths reported overall. A total of 34583 were reported tested for Coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) at 19.03.2020 at. 09:00.

Energy intelligence firm Rystad Energy has crunched the numbers and in a report this week said that less than 5% of cases are actually reported and that that millions of people in Europe are likely already infected.

While the official number of those infected in Norway is 1552, based on Rystad's simulation, some 14,000 people are currently infected.

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