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In another blow to the only LNG export facility in Europe’s top gas producer, Norway, energy major Equinor on Wednesday shut down the Hammerfest LNG plant due to a gas leak.
The Hammerfest plant was evacuated, and no injuries of personnel have been reported, a spokesperson for Equinor told Reuters, confirming a police report on the incident earlier in the day.
“The leak has been identified and work is ongoing to establish the extent of it,” local police said early on Wednesday.
The local fire department also responded to the incident, the police added.
It was not immediately clear when the plant could resume operations.
Hammerfest, which at full capacity accounts for 5% of Norway’s natural gas exports, 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.
In December 2022, Equinor submitted a plan for development and operation (PDO) of Snøhvit Future on behalf of the Snøhvit partnership to the Minister of Petroleum and Energy. The Snøhvit partners will invest NOK 13.2 billion ($1.17 billion) in upgrading the Hammerfest LNG plant, HLNG, at Melkøya.
Snøhvit Future is expected to strengthen Norway’s position as a reliable and long-term supplier of LNG to Europe. The project will secure long-term operations and gas exports from Melkøya towards 2050, Equinor says.
Norway’s Equinor 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.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com