Norway's Equinor ASA and Anglo-French firm Perenco are among at least five oil producers that have registered coronavirus cases among employees or contractors at facilities off the coast of Brazil, according to industry and regulatory sources.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Brazil's Enauta Participacoes SA have registered one case each, and hundreds of cases have been recorded at oilfields operated by state-run Petrobras .
The infections illustrate the threat the virus poses to workers toiling in cramped quarters miles offshore and have raised questions about the effectiveness of extensive testing efforts to contain the pandemic's spread on platforms.
Alongside industries like mining and meatpacking, oil production has come under intense scrutiny during the pandemic as employees are forced to work, sleep and eat in confined areas.
That is particularly true on offshore oil rigs, service vessels and so-called floatels, where a single infection can multiply quickly.
In most other nations, outbreaks have been contained to a handful of rigs. U.S. industry group National Ocean Industries Association said it had registered just 99 cases of coronavirus among offshore workers in the United States.
In Brazil, which last week became the country with the second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States, that number is significantly higher.
Oil regulator ANP had registered 544 active coronavirus cases as of Thursday among workers who had accessed offshore facilities. That figure does not include workers who have recovered and the total number of infections remains a mystery.
Equinor has registered approximately 60 cases as of last week, largely at its Peregrino field, according to data collected by regulators. Perenco has registered approximately 40 at its Pargo field, according to the government source.
In a statement provided, Equinor acknowledged that it had registered cases but did not provide details of how many. Perenco declined to confirm or deny that any employee had been infected by the virus. All four companies emphasized their commitment to protecting workers.
Meantime Petrobras has registered well over 300 cases among offshore workers, including contractors, the government source said. The company has acknowledged infections, and said that as of Saturday it had 181 active cases among all of its 46,416 total employees, but that number does not include contractors or employees who have recovered.
The company said it has adopted several safety measures such as large-scale testing, and that the number of cases has stabilized in recent days.