March 18, 2020 / 10:05 AM / 17 days ago

Russia to keep oil flowing by extending Arctic shifts

MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Russian oil and gas workers in the Arctic Yamal peninsula could see their shifts extended by months to shield the energy industry and its employees from the spread of coronavirus.

The region’s governor recommended in an order published on Tuesday that the shifts of those currently working in the region be extended, while those not working have their time off lengthened to reduce the chances of infection.

Some of Russia’s largest companies operate in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region, located in western Siberia, including gas giant Gazprom and its oil subsidiary Gazprom Neft, as well as private gas producer Novatek .

Russia has reported 114 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 26 different regions of the country, but none in Yamal-Nenets, although those suspected of having come into contact with the virus who visit plants and factories there are tested, the region’s governor Dmitry Artyukhov said.

“This is an effective measure which will allow everyone to take the necessary time to analyse the situation and prevent the influx of potentially sick employees,” Artyukhov said.

Artyukhov said a number of companies on the peninsula had already switched to three-month long shifts.

“I know that such decisions have not yet been taken everywhere. I hope that this will be considered promptly.”

Shift work in Russia does not usually last longer than one month and extensions have to be agreed with employees.

Novatek, which controls the vast Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, said it complies with all recommendations by local authorities and Russia’s chief state medical doctor.

Gazprom Neft, which is developing the Novoportovskoye field in the south of the peninsula, said it is strengthening medical controls for incoming workers and intends to increase shifts by one to two months for those working on the ground there.

“The terms and conditions will be discussed personally with each employee, taking into account the requirements of Russia’s current labour legislation,” the company said.

Gazprom said it may increase shifts for its workers in the Yamal-Nenets region, in particular at Gazprom Dobycha Yamburg to three months and at Gazprom Dobycha Noyabrsk to two months. (Reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Alexander Smith)

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