Norway’s Equinor pushes back Hammerfest LNG restart

Norwegian energy group Equinor has again delayed the restart of its Hammerfest LNG export plant, following a fire that broke out at the facility in September 2020.

“Due to continuing consequences from Covid-19 and operational restrictions the time of start-up of the plant is pushed from March 31, 2022 to May 17, 2022,” Equinor said in a statement on Monday.

This comes just a week after an Equinor spokeswoman told LNG Prime that there were no changes in the announced timeline.

To remind, Equinor closed the 4.3 mtpa Hammerfest LNG plant on September 28, 2020. The fire occurred in turbine 4.

In April last year, the firm said the plant on Melkoya island would remain closed until March 2022 due to the scope of the repairs needed to restore the facility to safe production.

“The previous estimate for the start-up date was given with uncertainty particularly related to the development of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Equinor said in the new update.

“Extensive” work

Equinor said it has carried out “extensive” work after the fire at the plant in 2020.

The company’s staff has checked more than 22,000 components, and replaced more than 180 kilometers of electrical cables.

According to Equinor, daily around 1,000 people have been working to get the plant back into operation.

The works included repairs of advanced equipment and compressors in addition to a planned turnaround and ordinary maintenance.

Equinor said that the project work was “nearing completion” but the latest wave of Covid-19 infections, combined with restrictions and narrow working areas, had impacted the progress.

More time needed to prepare the plant

“We work systematically to deliver on the plan we established, but challenges related to Covid-19 restrictions require that we need more time to prepare the plant for safe and stable start-up and operations,” Grete B. Haaland, senior vice president for Equinor’s onshore plants, said.

Equinor completed its internal investigation into the fire incident in May last year, saying that the cause of the fire was “spontaneous ignition in the filters in the turbine’s air inlets, caused by excessively high temperature over a long period of time.”

Hammerfest LNG liquefies natural gas coming from the Snohvit field in the Barents Sea.

Gas reaches Hammerfest LNG via a 160-kilometer gas pipeline which became operational in the autumn of 2007.

Equinor is the operator of both the Snohvit field and Hammerfest LNG with a 36.8 percent stake.

Prior to the incident, the facility supplied LNG mainly to terminals in Europe but also in Asia.

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