Norway LNG Plant Resumes Output, Boosting Gas Exports

(Reuters) — Norway's Hammerfest liquefied natural gas plant has restarted LNG production following a fire almost two years ago, boosting the country's gas exports, operator Equinor said on Thursday.

The company last week told Reuters the plant had completed repairs and was preparing to restart output. 

The plant had been offline since late September of 2020, and a restart was postponed several times while repairs were carried out. 

"This is of great significance in a period when predictable and reliable supplies are highly important to many countries and customers," Equinor executive Irene Rummelhoff said in a statement.

A restart is welcome news for the gas market, which is scrambling to find alternatives to Russian supplies in the wake of the war in Ukraine, and as Norway seeks to cement its position as a reliable energy supplier. 

Europe's only large-scale LNG plant, at Melkoeya island just outside the Arctic town of Hammerfest, can process 18.4 million cubic meters of gas per day when fully operational, just over 5% of Norway's gas export capacity.

LNG is made by cooling gas to temperatures that liquefy it, thus allowing large quantities to be transported by ship. It normally takes four to five days to fill the plant's storage tanks before vessels are loaded.

"In full production, a ship will leave Melkoeya approximately every five days," Equinor said.

There are currently three LNG tankers — the Arctic Voyager, Arctic Lady and Arctic Princess — anchored outside Melkoeya, ready to receive new cargoes from Hammerfest LNG, it added.

A fourth one, the Arctic Aurora, is approaching Hammerfest, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

At Melkoeya, gas is piped in from the offshore Snoehvit field, 160 km (100 miles) away in the Barents Sea. The field was forced to shut as a result of the plant's closure.

Equinor said more than 22,000 components had undergone checks since the fire, and that 180 km (112 miles) of electrical cables had been replaced.

The partnership includes Equinor, Petoro, TotalEnergies, Neptune Energy and Wintershall Dea.

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