Coronavirus disrupts petchems companies policies for travel, work

Author: Morgan Condon

2020/02/19

LONDON (ICIS)--Energy and petrochemicals companies have been forced to adjust their work and travel policies due to coronavirus as concerns over the outbreak continue to weigh down on global economic sentiment.

New cases continue to be recorded each day, and the World Health Organization (WHO)’s risk assessment of the situation remains 'high' on a global scale, and 'very high' in China.

In response to this, key players in the petrochemicals industry are assessing how its operations in China should react and assessing what should happen with its international travel.

CHINA DISRUPTION
On 10 February, BASF reopened operations in line with government policies on delayed work resumption. The German major added that Chinese "colleagues who can work remotely are encouraged to work from home" at some sites.

LANXESS also reopened offices and some production sites in Greater China, including Shanghai; all employees that are not essentially required at the office, however, were requested to work from home until further notice.

Total stopped some production sites during the public holiday at the request of the government, and restart "depends on further instructions" from Beijing and the situation in different regions.

The French energy and petrochemicals major's added that its service stations are also operating "as per official” instructions.

Evonik has also advised its 2,500 employees working across 10 sites and four offices in China to work from home, when possible.

Austria's polymers and fertilizers major Borealis said "safety is a top priority" for the company, adding that it is complying with WHO guidelines.

Bayer’s production facilities in China have resumed operations following the extended break under "increased hygiene precautions, provided that official government restrictions" do not supersede those measures.

TRAVEL POLICIES
The impact of the outbreak has extended beyond activities in China, forcing global petrochemicals companies to adjust to the situation, with travel to China in some cases suspended.

While there is concern about how global supply chains will be influenced by the disruptions caused by the virus, employees' movements have also been affected.

The CFO at Clariant confirmed in an interview with ICIS earlier in February that the Switzerland-headquartered producer has halted all business travel to China.

Evonik has suspended all trips to the province of Hubei, its capital and site of the outbreak Wuhan, and the city of Wenzhou. Travel to other regions in China has been limited to absolutely necessary business trips.

While LANXESS has not prohibited travel to China, employees are required to check whether the trip is necessary.

Arkema confirmed that it is closely monitoring the situation, adding it would give more details on 27 February, when the French chemicals major is due to publish its fourth-quarter financial results.

Industry-wide events are also being impacted, with lower-than-usual turnout as the outbreak has restricted travel for some delegates.

London’s International Petroleum Week (IP Week) on 25-27 February is expected to record a lower turnout than usual.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) trade group said its International Petrochemical Conference annual meeting at the end of March is still going ahead as planned.

The IPC annual meeting will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 29-31 March.

AFPM said no cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the US state, which borders the country's petrochemicals hub of Texas.

Focus article by Morgan Condon

To visit the ICIS coronavirus topic page click here

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