The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) said a fire last year at Equinor ASA’s 4.3 million metric tons/year Hammerfest liquefied natural gas terminal resulted from “serious breaches” of regulations.
The facility in northern Norway, where a fire broke out last September, receives and liquefies natural gas from the Snohvit field in the Barents Sea. It is Europe’s largest liquefaction terminal. The outage was one of several across the world that led to tighter supplies earlier this year, when natural gas prices in Europe and Asia soared amid a historic cold snap.
The fire in the air intake of one of the plant’s five power turbines caused extensive damage and forced the company to shut down the export plant for a year. It isn’t expected to return to service until October.
The PSA completed its investigation and said Thursday the blaze damaged electrical, instrumentation and mechanical equipment. Three vessels aided in extinguishing the fire. Regulators said without their help, the fire could have burned for longer given that the plant’s fire suppression system doesn’t cover the turbine air intake.
Regulators said tests and simulation of the turbine’s filter housing determined that a blaze started because pre-filters in the air intake likely caught fire after a buildup of insects lowered the system’s ignition temperature. When the fire started, the plant was being brought back online after a shutdown to address an issue with an oil filter.
The PSA said its investigation uncovered regulatory transgressions related to filter maintenance, emergency response resources, manning problems, and management and control issues. Local police are still conducting an investigation to see if security at the terminal was breached.
Regulators instructed the company to identify and implement measures to ensure the facility can be more safely operated. Equinor is also required to submit short- and long-term plans to demonstrate that Hammerfest has adequate “manning and competence to deal with all operating conditions,” among other things. The company has until the plant is restarted to comply with the PSA’s order.
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