LNG plant in Arctic Norway pushes restart date to March 2022

Hammerfest LNG on Norway’s Barents Sea coast. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Only days after the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) said “serious breached of the regulations have been identified”, operator Equinor announced that repair of the plant will last at least half a year longer than previously communicated.

The serious fire in September last year caused substantial damage to the plant. To pull out the fire, huge amounts of seawater was used causing additional trouble for the components and machinery in the processing plant.

More than 70,000 unique pieces of equipment were potentially exposed to seawater during the firefighting, Equinor said on Monday, adding that more than 180 kilometers of cable must be replaced.

The pandemic doesn’t help speed up the repair work, Equinor argued.

“We have worked systematically on getting an overview of the damages and scope of work to bring the plant’s technical condition back to the required standard. There is still some uncertainty related to the scope of work, however our best start-up estimate is 31 March 2022, based on current knowledge. Safety is our top priority, and we will not start the plant before it can be done safely,” said Grete B. Haaland, Equinor’s senior vice president for onshore plants.

Breaches of regulations identified
Liquid natural gas is shipped from Melkøya to markets in Europe and the Middle East. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Previously, Equinor estimated a one-year shutdown period, a scheduled repeated to the Barents Observer only two weeks ago, when a ship-load of Russian LNG arrived to Melkøya with 172,600 cubic meters of natural gas needed for the maintenance of the plant’s storage tanks.

Last week, though, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) published results of its investigation of the fire, concluding “serious breaches of the regulations have been identified.”

The PSA said it is likely the fire broke out because pre-filters in the air intake at one turbine auto-ignited, due to biomass buildups, mainly insects, which have lowered the filters auto-ignition temperature. The agency said this could have been avoided if filters were replaced earlier.

The agency has issued a formal order to Equinor on implementing a list of measures, both in regards to technical follow-ups and to knowledge and manning of the plant.

Hammerfest LNG plant is located on Melkøya, an island on the the Barents Sea coast in northernmost Norway. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Mining companies in Nunavut, Canada defend environmental management despite stiff criticism, CBC News

Norway: Norway’s Equinor is buying LNG from Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic in spotlight as Moscow pushes for global lead in LNG, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Green hydrogen plant doing steel production to be built in northern Sweden, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. court halts drilling at ConocoPhillips project in Alaska, The Associated Press

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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