Norwegian state-owned energy company Equinor’s LNG plant in Hammerfest has reportedly faced a further delay to restart production. The production had stopped after a fire broke out at the plant in September 2020, raising concerns over safety practices.
According to reports, initially operations were scheduled to restart on March 31st. However, with the fresh delay, they are now expected to resume from May 17th, a delay of six weeks from the previous date.
Grete Haaland, Senior VP at Equinor, stated that the firm had been working systematically to ensure delivery of the established plan, but requires more time as per the challenges created by Covid-19 restrictions to prepare for a stable and safe start-up as well as operations.
The delay comes as a major setback for Europe, which was seeking additional sources of gas to curb the surge in prices due to a shortage in imports from Russia and prevent further supply shock in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the data from Gas Infrastructure Europe, as of January 29th, European gas storages were holding only 39 percent of their total capacity.
The Hammerfest LNG plant, located on the Melkøya island, Norway, is the only large-scale LNG plant in Europe. It is capable of processing over 18 million cubic meters of gas daily when fully operational, and can usually deliver up to 6 LNG cargos monthly.
Tom Marzec-Manser, Head of Gas Analytics, ICIS, stated that the market was most likely expecting much of this gas volume coming into Europe from April onwards and help in filling up the storage sites during the summer.
The Snøhvit natural gas field, from where gas is piped to Melkøya, was also forced to shut following the closure of the Hammerfest plant.
Equinor stated that extensive work has been carried out at the plant since the fire, such as checking over 22,000 components and replacement of 180 km of electric cables.
Thor Johan Haave, manager of the Hammerfest LNG plant, stated that during the latest wave of COVID-19 infections, over a half of the staff was working in quarantine or isolation at the site a majority of the time.