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Norway’s Hammerfest LNG Plant Delays Reopening to Next Week

Norway LNG plant set to reopen 20 months after fire
Equinor's Hammerfest LNG plant (Ole Jørgen Bratland photo courtesy of Equinor)

Published May 16, 2022 4:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Norway’s Hammerfest LNG facility is nearly ready to resume operations nearly 20 months after the plant was shut down due to a fire and subsequent safety concerns. The return of the facility, which can process more than four million tons of gas per year, will provide relief for Europe’s strained LNG market which has been scrambling to replace Russian sources.

"Hammerfest LNG has been prepared for production, but we are taking the extra time necessary to safely resume operations," says Grete Haaland, Equinor's senior vice president for onshore facilities. The company had originally targeted October 2021 to resume operations but later citing COVID-19 restrictions and the extensive nature of the work said in April 2021 that the reopening was still a year away. In January, Equinor, which operates the plant for a partnership with Petoro AS, TotalEnergies, Neptune Energy Norway, and Wintershall Dea, targeted May 17 for the restart of export operations.

“During the weekend, a minor fault was discovered on a compressor that needs to be rectified prior to start-up. The component is now being replaced, and the stepwise process towards operations continues through the week,” Equinor said in its latest update issued today. The company said operations will restart in a week, with May 23 now being the official date to reopen.

An emergency shutdown happened at the end of September 2020 due to a fire in a turbine. It came just days after the plant had resumed operations after a prior 17-day suspension. That restart had also been further delayed by a gas leak at the facility. After the fire, Equinor reported that its initial survey found that in addition to damage caused by the fire on the air intake on one of the plant's five power turbines, large amounts of seawater used to extinguish the fire damaged other auxiliary systems such as electrical equipment and cables in the plant.

After an extensive repair and improvement work period, the plant has been prepared for ramp-up. Equinor previously said that more than 22,000 components had undergone checks since the fire and that 112 miles of electrical cables had been replaced.

As Europe's only large-scale LNG plant, the facility can process 18 million cubic meters of gas per day when fully operational. Gas is piped in from the offshore Snoehvit field located in the Barents Sea approximately 100 miles away. The field was also forced to suspend operations after the facility near Hammerfest was closed in 2020.