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Equinor restarts Hammerfest LNG plant after 20-month shutdown

© Supplied by Equinor / Ole Jorgen BratlandLNG carrier at the Hammerfest terminal. Melkoya, Hammerfest.
LNG carrier at the Hammerfest terminal. Melkoya, Hammerfest.

Equinor has announced the restart of production at its Hammerfest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, after a 2020 fire forced the site offline.

The Norwegian NOC said Thursday that the LNG plant in Melkøya, Norway, is now back in production following more than 18 months of “extensive repairs and improvement work”.

A fire on an air intake at one of the plant’s five power turbines forced its shutdown in September 2020. Large amounts of seawater were also used to quench the fire, damaging other auxiliary systems such as electrical equipment and cables.

Equinor initially said it hoped to have the site back online by October 2021, however it blamed further delays on Covid-19 restrictions, pushing the restart date to March 2022, and later to May.

During that time, it says more than 1,000 people have been working daily to carry out safety checks and repairs on equipment and compressors, alongside scheduled turnaround activity and maintenance.

More than 22 000 components have been checked, and 180 kilometres of electric cables have been replaced.

The plant receives gas through a 143-kilometre pipeline from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea, and output from the site accounts for more than 5% of Norway’s gas exports.

During normal production Hammerfest delivers around 6.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year.

“With the start-up of Hammerfest LNG, we add further volume to the already substantial gas deliveries from Norway. This is of great significance in a period when predictable and reliable supplies are highly important to many countries and customers,” Equinor’s executive vice president, for marketing, midstream and processing, Irene Rummelhoff, said in a statement.

LNG tankers Arctic Voyager, Arctic Lady and Arctic Princess are now reportedly anchored up outside Melkøya, ready to receive new cargoes from Hammerfest LNG.  In full production, a ship will leave the terminal approximately every five days.

Equinor operates the plant with a 36.79% equity share, alongside partners Petoro (30%), TotalEnergies (18.4%), Neptune Energy (12%) and Wintershall Dea (2.81%).

Neptune Energy’s managing director in Norway, Odin Estensen, welcomed the news commenting: “Safely restarting LNG production from the Snøhvit field is a great achievement by Equinor and the key contractors on the Hammerfest plant.

“Snøhvit is an incredibly important field and we have worked closely with the operator and our licence partners to safely bring it back onstream after the fire in September 2020. This will boost production of much-needed energy to Europe and enhance security of supply.”

It follows clearance from the Norwegian energy ministry for Equinor to produce an additional 2.4bcm from key gas fields, as it looks to maintain higher exports to Europe through the summer.

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