Norway's government has approved a project by energy major Equinor and its partners for the future operation of Snøhvit and Hammerfest LNG, including electrification of the plant from 2030.
The government approval entails onshore compression from 2028 and electrification of the plant from 2030, Equinor said in a statement on Tuesday.
Compared to the operator's application, the Norwegian authorities have postponed the start of electrification by two years, from 2028 to 2030. The plant will continue to run on gas turbines during this period.
"The Snøhvit owners are pleased that the government has now approved Snøhvit Future, a project that will strengthen Norway's position as a reliable, long-term supplier of gas produced with very low greenhouse gas emissions," said Geir Tungesvik, Equinor's executive vice president for Projects, Drilling & Procurement.
"The project ensures long-term operation and export from Melkøya towards 2050," Tungesvik added.
Electrification of Hammerfest LNG will replace gas turbines with electricity from the grid.
During normal production levels, the Hammerfest LNG project accounts for 5% of all Norwegian gas exports, equivalent to the energy demands of around 6.5 million European households, Equinor says.
Norway is now the single biggest provider of natural gas to Europe after Russia's Gazprom cut off most of its supply to the EU after the Russian invasion of Ukraine early last year.
Hammerfest LNG, however, has been plagued by incidents and operational issues in recent years.
Hammerfest LNG, which receives gas from the Snøhvit field operated by Equinor, was offline for a year and a half after a fire at the facility in September 2020. The plant, Europe's only large-scale LNG export facility, resumed operations in March 2022.
The plant was again taken offline in early May 2023 due to a compressor failure, and was offline until May 19. It was also shut down for a previous leak in March.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com