Energy Industry Preparedness & Response to COVID-19
Posted March 20, 2020
As the world copes with a mounting health and economic crisis, America’s natural gas and oil industry remains focused on preserving the health and safety of its workers and delivering critical energy supplies to communities across the country. As an industry, we are committed to operating safely and reliably despite the unpredictable circumstances, implementing contingency plans that ensure the continuity of fuels to market.
These were points of emphasis by emergency preparedness experts at leading energy trade associations during a joint press conference this week that detailed industry readiness and response during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (listen here). Suzanne Lemieux, who manages operations security and emergency response policy for API, explained:
“The natural gas and oil industry’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of its employees and communities in which it does business. Our members have been going through phased approaches as we’ve seen the virus start overseas and now, domestically, as guidance for response and mitigation continue to evolve…These are sophisticated companies that have been through this before.”
Lara Swett, who oversees technical and safety programs for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), furthered:
“Our facilities are well positioned to navigate the challenge of COVID-19…U.S. refineries are critical infrastructure and national security assets and are prepared for a range of disruptive events, including situations of natural disasters and medical emergencies. Our plants have pandemic plans in place to ensure continued operations, and in order to supply American’s energy needs.”
For now, U.S. refineries and pipeline operators are focused on sustaining existing supply chains and providing affordable energy to consumers. The industry has a record of resilience and adaptability when confronted with regional, national and global events. Having dealt with previous health threats from Ebola, SARS, MERS and H1N1, energy companies are prepared for a wide variety of public health scenarios. Emergency planning is ingrained in the daily operations of natural gas and oil facilities – and across the energy value chain – and companies are updating policies and sharing best practices as new information becomes available.
API and allied trade associations are working with federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to address the ongoing delivery of essential energy supplies. Over the years, the natural gas and oil industry has established public sector partnerships at the state and federal levels to improve communications in the event of natural disasters and other emergencies.
Additionally, API has developed pandemic planning resources and shared them broadly among industry stakeholders, understanding that a virulent strain of influenza directly impacts the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Americans and affects millions more in economic losses and uncertainties. These resources – including those specific to industry segments, like the tactics for mitigating risk at offshore facilities below – can inform the planning and decision-making necessary to protect employees and maintain a well-supplied energy marketplace.
As with other segments of the economy, the natural gas and oil industry is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) by limiting travel, expanding telework opportunities, implementing enhanced cleaning protocols and testing communications equipment.
America’s natural gas and oil industry operates according to state-of-the-art standards for performance and safety, and companies frequently update procedures and guidelines, particularly in response to widespread public health concerns. API recognizes the importance of providing affordable energy and ensuring the safety and integrity of our facilities and operations, and as these challenges continue to unfold, the industry will remain resilient and adaptable to the ever-changing needs of the U.S. and the world.
About The Author
Sam Winstel is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. He comes to API from Edelman, where he supported communications marketing strategies for clients across the firm’s energy and federal government practices. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sam graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, and he currently resides in Washington, D.C.