Equinor will shift executive vice president Pål Eitrheim, who so far has headed the Norwegian oil & gas company’s new energy business area, to lead a temporary corporate project to handle its response to the Coronavirus and oil price collapse.

“We are facing uncertainty, many are afraid for their and their loved one’s health, others of losing their jobs and concerned for their future,” chief executive Eldar Sætre said.

“Our response must be to do our utmost to limit the spread of the virus and to take care of safety and health. At the same time, we must make every effort to keep operations and business going and to produce and deliver the energy the world needs."

Equinor said the project will be established and structured over the coming days, and incorporate an already working internal project focusing on immediate response and short-term business continuity issues.

Eitrheim will report directly to Sætre. Senior vice president Jens Økland will be acting head of New Energy Solutions while Eitrheim is heading the Coronavirus project.

While Equinor still derives great part of its revenue from its oil and gas activities, the company last month said it targets to have up to 16GW of renewable capacity installed by 2035, and become a global offshore wind champion. Its current portfolio includes the 3.6GW Dogger Bank project off the UK, the world’s largest for wind at sea, and the up-to-1.5GW Empire Wind project off New York.

The CEO acknowledged that the double impact of the Coronavirus and fall in commodity prices will impact Equinor for a long time.

“We are a robust company with a strong balance sheet, and we are now really benefitting from the strong improvements in recent years,” Sætre said.

“But it will be necessary to take forceful action to reduce risk, protect our business and operations and to ensure the long-term robustness of our company. I have therefore asked Pål Eitrheim to lead our work on this and it will be on top of the agenda for our Corporate Executive Committee and Board of Directors.”

To limit the spread of the Corona virus, Equinor said it has reduced and delayed non-critical tasks at fields and plants, and implemented procedures for working from home and taken strict travel restrictions and quarantine measures.

One person at the Martin Linge field in the North Sea had tested positive for the Coronavirus, Equinor had said last week, and was placed in isolation in his cabin since March 9.

The company said keeping production going and ensuring that it can deliver oil and gas to its customers has high priority.