Whilst in New Zealand we have returned to a relatively normal way of life following the COVID-19 lockdown, there are still ongoing effects of the pandemic. In April we invited Mercury to give us insight as to how the lockdown was affecting them. Three months later, we have caught up with them to see what protocols remain as a result of the pandemic, and to examine what the lasting effects of the lockdown look to be.
Lara Owens, Geochemistry Manager and Matthew Kelley, Well Engineering Manager
Have there been any “silver linings” to the situation that has been created as a result of Covid-19 lockdown?
Health and Safety culture, along with well-being, is something everyone takes very seriously, but proliferating this culture takes practice. During the COVID situation, we witnessed an entire workforce re-focus on the “Do the right thing” attitude in a tough situation. It was great to watch our teams actively exercise critical thinking, and put their learnings into practice.
Another great silver lining that came out of the COVID-19 lockdown was learning how capable and resilient our teams are in conducting so much of our business remotely. In addition was the ability to quickly mobilize into a “lockdown mode” and remobilize back out to resume and quickly work through the backlog of important but non-essential work. A great example was resuming the drilling of well RK37 at Rotokawa. Prior to entering Level 4 lockdown and suspension of drilling work, the well was placed in a safe condition by setting and cementing the next casing string and installing a temporary wellhead valve. The drilling crew were back onsite within a week coming out of Level 4 and completed drilling activities on target with an all-New Zealand based crew.
What Covid-19 process are you most happy to see the back of?
Mercury’s geothermal teams and fields made it through the COVID-19 lockdown with minimal impact. We are grateful that the duration was comparatively short, and having strong protocols in place for anticipating long-lead maintenance and repairs helped focus the activities that required attention during Level 3 and 4.
Like many organizations, Mercury adopted strict measures to maintain the health and safety of the staff handling critical power station operations during lockdown. This meant rigorous precautions for COVID PPE and 2m distancing for essential workers who were needed on site, but for many of us limited or no access to power stations prior to Level 1.
Everyone is definitely happy to be back to site! It’s great to be able to get back to regular maintenance and monitoring activities and work we all love so much, particularly with the support of other resilient service companies that we rely on.
Has the international travel situation had a material effect in terms of both personnel and supply chains?
Typically drilling campaigns lean heavily on globally sourced staff and supplies. Fortunately, the Mercury drilling team had all required materials, equipment and supplies, including backups and spares, already in the country to complete the drilling of RK37. Mercury makes it standard practice to be in this state of readiness before drilling starts on any well. Our rig contractor, MB Century, had to change the site leadership of Big Ben to local New Zealand-based personnel and Mercury had one international drilling supervisor whose time needed to be covered by locals. Fortunately, these Kiwi replacements had many years of geothermal rig management and knew the details of our operation, resulting in a smooth transition.