Melkøya, Hammerfest LNG with the Barents Sea. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

For safety reasons, Norway's Arctic LNG plant could be closed for a year

Damages caused by the fire in September at Equinor's Barents Sea LNG plant are severe and an estimated restart of production may be October 2021.
October 26, 2020


“Safety is the first priority and we will not start the plant until we are sure that it can be done in a safe way. Therefore, we have worked systematically and thoroughly to survey the damage after the fire, and assess the technical condition of the plant,” says plant director Andreas Sandvik.

It was on September 28 a serious fire broke out at one of the plant’s five power turbines. The fire was later described as “very close to a worst case scenario.”

Equinor on Monday said surveys of the damage after the fire indicates that the liquid natural gas (LNG) production will be closed for up to 12 months.

The fire damaged the power turbine, but in addition, large amounts of salty seawater from the extinguishing have damaged other auxiliary systems such as electrical cables and equipment in the plant.

Large amount of seawater was pumped at the plant from ships to cool down the nearby structures next to the fire itself at the plant.

A police investigation is currently underway, additional to the investigation by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and Equinor itself.

Duration of the shutdown will depend on the delivery time of necessary equipment.


“Although a lot of inspection work still remains and there is still significant uncertainty, our best estimate now is that that it may take up until 1 October 2021 to get Hammerfest LNG back into production,” Sandvik says.

Equinor will use the shutdown period to carry out other maintenance and repair for planned for 2021. A senior company offical adds Equinor will learn from the incident: “The fire at Hammerfest LNG was a serious incident. The various investigations into the incident will be important in order to identify measures that will prevent similar incidents from happening again,” says Grete B. Haaland, senior vice president for Equinor’s onshore facilities.

The annual export capacity from the plant outside Hammerfest is 5,75 billion cubic meters, equivalent to 4,2 million tonnes.


LNG-tanker at Melkøya outside Hammerfest. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


The facility on the small Arctic island (Melkøya) outside Hammerfest receives and processes natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea. The gas is conveyed in a 160 km gas pipeline to the facility, which became operational in the autumn of 2007. Equinor was the operator during the development phase and now has operational responsibility for the facility. Partners to the plant are Petoro, Total, Neptune Energy and Wintershall Dea.




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