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LNG Production Resumes at Hammerfest 20 Months After Fire

Hammerfest LNG resumes operations
Equinor reports three LNG carriers are already waiting to load at Hammerfest, which resumed operations today (Equinor file photo)

Published Jun 2, 2022 7:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

After extensive repairs and improvements, as well as some last-minute delays, Hammerfest LNG is back in production after the fire in September 2020. The first liquified natural gas (LNG) is entered the tanks and operator Equinor expects that plant will resume shipments in the next four to five days. The resumption of the operation comes at a critical time as Europe works to expand its LNG sources to meet its commitment to end its imports of Russian oil and gas.

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

Norway is an important gas supplier to Europe, and the volumes from Hammerfest LNG account for more than five percent of Norwegian gas exports. During normal production, Hammerfest LNG delivers around 6.5 billion cubic meters per year, equivalent to the annual gas demand of 6.5 million European households.

An emergency shutdown happened at Hammerfest in 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.

Hammerfest LNG was Norway’s and Europe’s first large-scale LNG plant went it entered service in 2007. Gas comes to the plant in a pipeline from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea and is then processed and cooled down to a liquid state. It is then loaded on LNG carriers for transport to receiving terminals in various markets.

Repairs after the fire included more than 22 000 components that have to be checked and more than 100 miles of electric cables have been replaced. In addition to checking all of the equipment and compressors, they also performed scheduled turnaround and ordinary maintenance. Upgrades were also completed at the facility.

Equinor had previously announced the plant would reopen by mid-May. A minor fault in a compressor and a need for additional testing however delayed the restart till June 2.

The LNG tankers Arctic Voyager, Arctic Lady, and Arctic Princess are already anchored outside the terminal ready to receive LNG cargoes from Hammerfest. According to Equinor which operates the plant in a partnership it normally, it takes four to five days to fill the storage tanks at the plant, before the ships are loaded. In full production, a ship will leave the LNG terminal approximately every five days. Each ship contains about 1 TW of energy.