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Large oil companies in the United States have asked their office employees to work from home and instituted health checks for those who cannot work from home, Reuters reports.
Exxon, BP, Kinder Morgan, and Shell were among the companies that asked their office staff to star working from home as of today and introduced health checks for workers at production sites.
The industry pressured federal regulators to ease some regulations pertaining to pipeline maintenance and operation in light of the spreading Covid-19 virus, which has so far infected close to 3,000 people in the United States and more than 150,000 globally.
Health checks will be particularly important on offshore sites, which are closed communities living in even closer quarters and the chance of the infection spreading once a worker becomes ill is much greater than elsewhere.
So far, there has been one Covid-19 case diagnosed on an Equinor offshore platform in the North Sea, Reuters notes, which prompted the Norwegian company to stop work there, and one case at a Marathon Petroleum refinery in California. In both cases, the companies removed staff from the site.
The Covid-19 outbreak has caused the sharpest oil price drop in years, with Brent crude hovering around $33 a barrel at the time of writing, and West Texas Intermediate at a little over $30 a barrel.
The outlook is not particularly good, either. With travel restrictions and people self-isolating, demand for crude oil in the United States alone could fall by as much as 2.5 million bpd, with demand for car fuel alone shedding some 300,000 to 400,000 bpd through the end of the year.
Shale producers, which are the most vulnerable to such oil price shocks, have started tightening their belts again. Some are idling rigs and many are cutting their spending plans in the face of lower oil prices, aggravated by the oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which some believe is actually an attack on U.S. shale.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.