Freeport LNG says to resume partial operations in 90 days

Freeport LNG is expecting to resume partial operation at its liquefaction and export plant in Texas in about 90 days after an incident at the facility last week.

Last week, Freeport LNG said that the LNG plant would remain closed for at least three weeks.

The shutdown will reduce US LNG exports by some 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), or 17 percent of the total US LNG export capacity.

“Given the relatively contained area of the facility physically impacted by the incident, a resumption of partial operations is targeted to be achieved in approximately 90 days, once the safety and security of doing so can be assured, and all regulatory clearances are obtained,” Freeport LNG said in a update.

At this time, the LNG terminal operator said it does not expect completion of all necessary repairs and a return to full plant operations until late 2022.

This comes at a time when US terminals, including Freeport LNG, ship the majority of its volumes to Europe.

“Freeport LNG is mindful of the impact this incident and our suspension of operations has on our personnel, our surrounding community, and the domestic and international gas and LNG markets,” it said.

Freeport LNG, led by billionaire Michael Smith, launched commercial operations in May 2020 for the third train at its Quintana Island facility.

This event also marked the full commercial operation of Freeport LNG’s $13.5 billion, three-train facility. It has a capacity of more than 15 mtpa.

BP, Jera, Osaka Gas, SK E&S, and TotalEnergies have long-term contracts with Freeport LNG.

Freeport LNG is also planning to add another production unit with a capacity of 5 mtpa but it has not yet taken a final investment decision.

The firm recently asked US FERC for more time to build the fourth train.

No treat to the surrounding community

Freeport LNG said in the update that the incident on June 8 had resulted in the release of LNG, leading to the formation and ignition of a natural gas vapor cloud, and subsequent fire at the facility.

As reported previously, there were no injuries, and “at no time did the incident pose a threat to the surrounding community,” the LNG terminal operator said.

In accordance with Freeport LNG’s safety design parameters, the LNG vapor cloud dispersion and ignition thereof were at all times contained within the fence line of the liquefaction facility, lasting approximately 10 seconds, it said.

The fire and associated smoke visible thereafter were from the burning of materials in and around the location where the incident occurred, such as piping insulation and cabling, according to Freeport LNG.

With the assistance of local area emergency response personnel, Freeport LNG said it had extinguished the resultant fire some 40 minutes after the initial incident.

While the burning of those materials resulted in carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compound emissions, these were of “limited quantity” due to the short duration of the fire and not at levels that posed any immediate risk to Freeport LNG personnel or the surrounding community, it said.

There was no release of any other chemicals or substances from the plant during the event.

Rupture of LNG transfer line

Freeport LNG said the incident had occurred in pipe racks that support the transfer of LNG from the facility’s LNG storage tank area to the terminal’s dock facilities located on the intracoastal (i.e., north) side of Freeport LNG’s dock basin.

Freeport LNG said the incident did not affect any of the liquefaction trains, LNG storage tanks, dock facilities, or LNG process areas.

In coordination with local, state and federal officials, Freeport LNG’s investigation into the cause of the incident, and what steps are necessary to safely resume liquefaction operations, is underway, according to the firm.

Preliminary observations suggest that the incident resulted from the overpressure and rupture of a segment of an LNG transfer line, leading to the rapid flashing of LNG and the release and ignition of the natural gas vapor cloud, Freeport LNG said.

The company added that additional investigation is underway to determine the underlying precipitating events that enabled the overpressure conditions in the LNG piping.

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